Personally, I actually saw the Rosberg-Hamilton skirmish as a racing incident. I would disagree with Nico saying that Lewis was at fault but neither do I blame Nico for driving aggressively. I think Lewis would have done the same thing if the situation was reversed. In fact, Lewis has been quite notorious with running Nico off the track, much like in Suzuka and Austin last year and most recently in Montreal a few weeks ago. Remembering these incidents, I’d say I fully understand Nico’s intentions. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as successful as he would have hoped it would be.
What I saw here was Nico trying to do the same thing that Lewis gets away with except that on this attempt, Nico couldn’t get away with it, and it all ends in tears for the championship leader. Perhaps Nico should have actually turned into the corner before running Lewis wide? Either way, he cost himself a potential win and a potential second place, which would’ve at least marginally helped him in the long run for the championship.
It is a fact that Nico had a brake-by-wire issue, so obviously he’d have problems braking into the corner. From the on-board footage, he sure took his time trying to steer towards the apex but just as he was trying to do so, Lewis had already started turning. That’s when Lewis’s side clattered onto Nico’s front wing. Lewis said that Nico was at his blind spot, so he could only judge where Nico was going to be in that corner and certainly after what happened, Lewis did not expect his teammate’s car to be parked up right at the turn-in point.
Turn Two is an uphill right-hand corner—quite a difficult corner to overtake from the outside. I’d give Hamilton the benefit of the doubt here, so let’s say he really had no idea where Rosberg was as he steered in. If that’s the case, then I couldn’t fully blame him for turning into Rosberg’s car, contrary to the opinion of those in attendance in Spielberg. As mentioned on post-race coverage by Sky Sports, apparently, the commentators on the track PA system had convinced the viewers that Hamilton was at fault for the incident thus the race winner emerged to a shower of boos during the podium ceremony. The more I watch replays of the incident though, I do somehow start to understand how some peg Hamilton as the guilty party because (depending on how one sees it) it really looked like Hamilton turned into his teammate but in all fairness, his excuse sounded honest.
Rosberg continues to be adamant that he was of no fault in this incident while talking to his social media followers in a live video. However, the stewards’ imaginary penalty imposed on him (a 10-second time penalty and a reprimand for carrying on despite a broken front wing) communicated that the officials lay the blame solely on the German.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was incensed by the accident, immediately calling it “brainless.” He went as far as to say that team orders might be a possible solution to contain his two drivers and avoid any more incidents down the season. One thing for sure is that double-DNFs similar to the Barcelona incident are absolutely unacceptable to the Mercedes squad. I don’t think any fan wishes team orders and looks like Hamilton himself discourages it.
One important point that Hamilton made there is that his team bosses should understand that in a gladiator battle between two championship contenders within the same team, things will never be smooth-sailing all throughout. Contact between two team cars can and will eventually happen. It sucks for the team mechanics, engineers, management personnel and whoever else within the Mercedes organization but Rosberg and Hamilton want to race out there on the track. It’s just unfortunate that sometimes there will be tangles—and rarely, crashes—between teammates competing for a world title.
Rosberg and Hamilton will continue to sort their problems out on the track and I just hope that team orders wouldn’t rear its ugly head in an intensifying title race between the two. Hamilton races aggressively and Rosberg chooses to match his teammate’s ruthlessness. The team has not discouraged them from racing each other but all is fair until one Silver Arrow tangles with another. I’d love to continue seeing an intense on-track fight between the two but if they cannot avoid crashing into each other, team orders or no team orders, we might see more bits of Mercedes W07 debris being spilled, all for the glory of being Formula One World Champion.
Credits: Sky Sports