“Thoughts on Rosberg, Hamilton and Spa-Francorchamps”
Unnecessary. That is one of the only words that can describe the incident between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton early during Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.
But it was not unexpected.
Such is the growing intensity of this championship battle between the former junior category rivals, it was always likely that something of this nature would eventually feed onto the circuit.
After all, these are two young men at the height of the competitive powers and energies and there is a world championship at stake. Those who hold back only serve to get left behind.
Unlike the unsubtle ribbing the pair exchanged at the Grand Prix in Bahrain in April, the heat has been turned up and pointed barbs and accusations now host the language of choice.
Rosberg’s on track actions – and his unwillingness to back out of an uncertain passing move – cast additional light upon his “mistake” during qualifying at Monaco, as well as his missing of the final chicane while under pressure from Hamilton in Canada.
On the other hand, Hamilton’s unwillingness to allow Rosberg through in Hungary while on fresh signposted stages of this burgeoning aggression. Neither Rosberg nor Hamilton are under any illusions the title fight is on.
Where a clearly quicker Rosberg clipped the left rear of Hamilton on the 2nd lap at Spa-Francorchamps, the German was determined to not back down.
In Bahrain, Rosberg was beaten on track by his teammate – he was keen to not let that happen again; however in doing so, he merely punctured Hamilton’s tyre, while also damaging his front wing, conceivable costing Mercedes a race win.
There are those who believe the collision was an entirely deliberate one and that Rosberg was attempting to forcefully remove his main challenger from competition, but that is nonsense – Rosberg had too much to lose to be so clinical.
One, however, must be take some care as to how this is being played out though. Hamilton, conveniently, informing the British press of comments by Rosberg from the post-race debrief was a nicely played tactic.
Although his shock at Rosberg’s revelation that he had ‘prove a point’ was genuine, there was no doubt the Briton knew exactly what he was doing when he let such details slip.
Rosberg and the team have distanced themselves from those comments, but Lewis is not an idiot, he knows the score and he is playing his game. If Hamilton’s tale about Rosberg’s comments in the debrief are true, then the German may already be losing the psychological battle.
Alas, after forty-four laps, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo emerged as the victor of the Ardennes and while some will point to Ricciardo as a potential title contender, it unlikely that it will come his way when considering just how strong the Mercedes package is.
A Ricciardo victory in the title battle would be nice, but Daniel can wait – his time will come, eventually.
For now, this title fight is a Mercedes driver versus Mercedes driver and that seriously complicates matters for the German marque, who would – behind closed doors – have been hoping for a clear an easy victory in the Constructor’s Championship, while their pairing collected 1-2 finishes.
But that is not how competitive animals operate. There is precious little chance of either driver dutifully accepting team orders and risk dropping out of the title fight as a result and it is here a catastrophic explosion in the driver tensions may occur.
In the end, Rosberg may have taken the advantage in points scored, the chance of victory was lost and his relationship with the Mercedes management may have taken considerable damage. Those bonds, once strained, can be difficult, if not impossible to repair.
The first of the two Mercedes drivers who believes they have nothing left to lose will either take this title with fists flying or just collapse altogether.