Brought to you by Adam Macdonald (@adamac39), edited by Andrew Huntley-Jacobs
The Mercedes dominance of the weekend headlines has continued long past the chequered flag in Belgium – even without taking the race win they will dominate the sport headlines of the Monday newspapers.
The story line and sheer drama will reignite the fire of even the most passive fan, as well as the on-track contest drawing plaudits from those who thought the V8 Red Bull dominance had made the sport boring. The two-horse battle for the title this year will continue to intrigue us until the final race in Abu Dhabi, on 23rd November.
Underhand tactics and alleged misdemeanours have been utilised by both Mercedes drivers as they fight for the WDC crown. The quali-mode used and questionable movements by Hamilton in Bahrain to defend, the ‘illegal’ engine mode used by Rosberg in Spain, the yellow-flag incident which guaranteed Nico pole in Monaco and the ignored team-orders in Hungary, all make this a more gripping story than any others in recent memory. Even those with a mere passing interest in the sport are now compelled to return for each F1 weekend, to quench the thirst for more of the drama.
Following the race in Hungary, TJ13 commented that the disobedience of Hamilton to not affect Nico’s race strategy, would provoke a reaction from the German, which today became a reality. After a month of not speaking, the Mercedes drivers were summoned to a ‘clear the air’ talk on Thursday, which saw heated discussions and little achieved according to insiders.
So as the pair approached the chicane at the end of the Kemmel straight, Rosberg had managed to get his front wheels alongside Hamilton’s side pod, and was on the outside for the right hand turn. According to the rules prior to July 2012, Hamilton would have been well within his rights to take the racing line and in effect run Nico out of track.
Yet the rules for defensive driving were altered.
An advisory memo was issued by Charlie Whiting in 2012, which essentially changed the rules of combat for the driver in front. In the aftermath of the Belgium GP, these revised rules by which drivers must defend their positions have seemingly slipped under the radar of the mainstream media.
Following the driver’s meeting on the Friday of the Canadian Grand Prix 2012, the race director stated, “Any driver defending his position on a straight and before any braking area, may use the full width of the track during his first move provided no significant portion of the car attempting to pass is alongside his.” He continued by stating, “Whilst defending in this way the driver may not leave the track without justifiable reason.”
The ambiguity that surrounded ‘significant proportion’ was cleared up when Whiting asserted that this is defined by a car attempting to pass getting any part of its front wing alongside the rear wheels of the car in front.
TJ13 is aware the Stewards looked into the incident during today’s race, quickly concluding no further action was required. For their part, they felt that Hamilton had not fully complied with the rules, leaving it nigh on impossible to hand a punishment to Rosberg for causing a collision.
However, Hamilton’s potential punishment for failing to comply with the rules on defensive driving, was sufficiently dealt with by him having to drive two thirds of a lap back to the pits with only three functioning wheels. Hence no intervention was taken by Charlie Whiting or the stewards.
The focus has changed from a need to overtake fully in the braking zone, to the emphasis being on the lead driver to avoid a crash in a defensive manoeuvre.
The fact that Hamilton was on the racing line is no longer paramount in the debate, as Nico’s front wing was alongside Lewis’ rear tyre.
Covering your back
A member of Rosberg’s entourage checked with race control what the situation was regarding the incident and was informed that it had been briefly examined and deemed within the current regulations.
In the aftermath of the race, the response from Toto, Niki et al in hanging out Rosberg to dry to the television media was extraordinary.
However, Rosberg knew he had the backing of the stewards when entering the big pow wow 16:45 meeting, which now Hamilton appeared keen to attend.
Nico went on the offensive, and predictably Lewis emerged from the meeting in an attempt to gain media favour. Immediately social media was alight with Hamilton’s version of events. There were even journalists calling on the FIA to sanction Rosberg.
Hamilton claimed, “it looked quite clear to me but we just had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose” is not true. While saying that you did something “to prove a point” is assertive and ruthless, it is damning evidence to assign culpability in Rosberg’s camp. He followed the rules in the firmest of manners, with Lewis eventually paying the price for this.
Hamilton continued, “You know, and you can ask Fernando and you can ask all drivers, when a car is less than half a car length alongside you and you are on the inside, it’s your racing line. It’s not your job to go massively out of your way to leave extra, extra room.”
Like it or not, the days of Senna weaving relentlessly around the streets of Monaco to prevent a substantially quicker Mansell from passing him – are over.
A proper examination of the video from today’s incident will reveal Rosberg first corrected his car away from Lewis, but was not afforded the space around the outside – which was soon to become the inside.
Lewis’ incredulity at Rosberg coming into the meeting and saying it was Hamilton’s fault exposes the utter disarray within the management at Brackley – following their nigh on apoplectic opinions immediately after the race.
Rosberg has clearly decided the gloves are off and Hamilton’s much lauded aggressive driving style can easily be matched.
If anyone questioned Rosberg’s credentials for being a world champion before today – think again. He pulled off a ‘multi 21’ without disobeying team orders or breaking the sporting regulations and retained favour with the stewards. Further, the suspect management at Mercedes AMG looks even more incompetent, and Nico is 29 points ahead of Lewis with 7 races to go.
Lewis described the bosses of Mercedes AMG F1 today as, “like teachers at school who say stuff and can’t do anything“. Despite their protestations post race, they simply don’t have the respect of Ross Brawn.
This weekend saw Hamilton again attempt to play mind games with Rosberg. Before Monaco he claimed his poverty stricken background made him more hungry to win. Rosberg won.
Hamilton’s play before Belgium was he would beat Nico when his team mate was at his best… Because it would hurt all the more…
Pole position Nico, and 18 race points.
Which of the Mercedes drivers is sipping a vintage glass of red and feeling content after the 2014 Belgium GP I wonder?