Over the last 24 hours Mercedes AMG F1 has moved from choppy waters to a hurricane, through the fault of their two drivers and their inability to control themselves on the track, and in the case of Lewis Hamilton, in the Press.
Hamilton has been very vocal all season about Rosberg, claiming he (Hamilton) ‘Never wanted it easy’ and that the year will be difficult every so often. However, since Hungary, a competitive rivalry has descended into a personal one. There were instances of argument in previous races never anything as heated as what we saw in the aftermath, with a possible exception of Monaco. But it has never descended into the chaos that it has now. And the fault of that lies mostly at the feet of Lewis.
The reason for this is simple. Whilst it was Nico’s fault that Lewis ended up with the puncture, what he said afterwards was extremely poor. To say that Nico Rosberg admitted to deliberately caused that, especially when it was shown to be false, shows an extreme lack of professionalism. And I’m putting that nicely.
The press appear to have only taken Lewis’ side on the matter and Nico was roundly hammered by most in the Formula One community and indeed the press. But why, when Lewis has history for misleading and throwing toys out of the pram? Nico doesn’t have such history, so why is it then that Lewis is perceived to be the most credible and why is it that nobody appears to have either noticed the development after Lewis’ interview or to not take it into account?
The simple answer is that we should take everything Hamilton says with a pinch of salt. Here’s why.
Hamilton has a history of lying or petulance. Exhibit A comes from the 2009 Australian Grand Prix, when after Jarno Trulli went off behind the Safety Car, Hamilton slowed down and Trulli re-passed. Hamilton told the media that this was intentional, however he then told the race stewards that he had not intentionally let Trulli pass. What followed was an initial time penalty relegating Trulli to 12th from 3rd, with it taking almost two weeks to uncover that Hamilton had orders to allow Trulli to pass, something he had denied. Hamilton was eventually disqualified for misleading the stewards.
The second instance comes from the 2011 Monaco Grand Prix. Hamilton claimed that his frequent visits to the stewards offic was ‘an absolute joke’ before stating that ‘maybe it’s because I’m black’ after he had been given two penalties over the weekend. I understand he would have been annoyed, but surely it’s a bit far to accuse the FIA of racism no matter how much you mean it? It would hamper apparently the credibility of many a driver, but, seemingly not so with Lewis.
Then we get to the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix, where he openly criticised his team for the car set-up before tweeting a picture of telemetry showing where Button was faster. In Formula One terms, that is a huge deal. That provides so much help to other teams and once again shows a distinct lack of discipline. On that occasion, he apologised to the team and driver and went from there until 2014 with little in the way of a tantrum.
At Spa on Sunday, things came to a head. Now, whilst Nico was probably in the wrong at Spa it was just a racing accident. Proving a point and ‘basically admitting to deliberately causing that puncture’ are two completely different things. Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes operations, worked very hard to try and smooth things over but by then the damage was done. The press were having a field day and Rosberg’s reputation amongst a lot of the Formula One paddock was completely ruined. I would ordinarily feel fine about this if it wasn’t so soon after a race and the comments were found to have substance. Wolff’s comments about Lewis ‘Misconstruing Nico’s words’ suggest that there is little of that. What would Nico gain from certainly damaging his front wing, where it was not guaranteed Lewis would get the puncture?
But in an instant, Nico became the bad guy. For an accident akin to that of Romain Grosjean and Jules Bianchi, where Grosjean has not had his head ripped off. The only title fight that has seen a scapegoat such as this was Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, with that, according to the Frenchman, all starting from him being misquoted by a French journalist. Hamilton was never misquoted.
Those comments therefore smack of a need to be loved, of a need to have a cult following and of a desperation to put a target on Rosberg’s back.
And they also have a waft of deceit behind them.