SEPTEMBER 7, 2014
All eyes on Monza chicane as Star Wars goes on
Millions of eyes will be analysing every millimetre movement on Sunday as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg dive into the first chicane at Monza.
The pair's clash at Spa two weeks ago has been so micro-analysed that even Fernando Alonso got tired about hearing about what the German media has dubbed 'Star Wars' -- a reference to the three-pointed star on the front of the dominant Mercedes car.
"I don't know why I need to answer so many questions on Spa," the Spaniard shrugged.
Ultimately, the reason Spa is still so front-and-centre two weeks after the clash is because it cuts to the very heart of the biggest issue of 2014 -- the fight for the world championship.
Mercedes, while criticised by some, is being commended by others for attempting to manage the increasingly bitter duel whilst resisting the urge to issue results-based 'team orders'.
"The closest I came was a minute and a half after the race ended," said boss Toto Wolff, "but that emotion subsided as the week went on.
"We decided to go for the philosophy we declared at the beginning of the year -- to let them race."
But that doesn't mean things are exactly as they were before the Spa clash.
'Let them race' has undoubtedly taken on a slightly different meaning post-Spa, and Hamilton and Rosberg will know exactly what is expected of them as they charge towards the first chicane on Sunday.
"I guess on Sunday morning we'll have the discussion like always, and one of the points will be what will happen on the first couple of laps," said Wolff.
"It is very clear where the line is, so it should be pretty obvious and pretty clear about what is going to happen tomorrow, and I have no doubt this is how the race is going to pan out."
The slight philosophy tweak comes at a particularly awkward time for Hamilton, as his lead blew out to 29 points in Belgium and yet now he is being urged to show more caution than usual.
Publicly, Hamilton remains flat out.
"Free to race," he told reporters after capturing pole at Monza, when asked whether Sunday's duel will be fettered.
But what about Wolff's reservations about the fight? "They won't be ringing in my ears at all," Hamilton insisted.
Rosberg, also on the front row at Monza, was asked a similar question on Saturday -- will he try another early-race move to pass Hamilton if the opportunity arises, or will he hold back?
"It's a question that I'm not able to answer," said the German. "Every situation is different."
But what about if the situation is not different to Spa -- the pair are heading for a clash and one of them is forced to back off.
Will it be Hamilton?
"I will do what I do all the time," the 2008 world champion answered. "I have been racing for many, many years and have not collided with too many people, so I'll continue to race the way I do.
"I want to win the right way," said Hamilton.
Team chairman Niki Lauda, meanwhile, knows what his advice to Rosberg would be.
"Nico does not need to win at all costs," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport. "If he is second here, nothing is lost."