MAY 25, 2014
Hamilton declares Senna-style war on Rosberg
Lewis Hamilton has declared Senna-like war, as his relationship with teammate Nico Rosberg breaks down spectacularly in Monaco.
The race stewards, including former F1 driver Derek Warwick, looked into whether German Rosberg's mistake in the dying moments of qualifying was in fact deliberate.
They declared there was "no evidence" Rosberg committed "any offence".
But while the stewards deliberated for hours, the controversy filled the air in the otherwise festive Principality, on the eve of the 2014 Monaco grand prix.
Hamilton stopped short of stating clearly that he believes Rosberg made the move on purpose to keep pole. But he came close.
"I was on target," said the Briton. "I should have known that was going to happen."
As for Rosberg saying sorry, Hamilton added: "Why would be apologise? He is on pole."
Beyond their fracturing relationship, the incident on Saturday split the F1 paddock. And as ever at the pinnacle of motor sport, conspiracy theories are rarely in short supply.
"I have to disappoint," said Rosberg. "The data is clear, as the stewards have also confirmed."
He argues it was a simple brake lock-up that caused him to go into the run-off zone and then reverse out.
But many believe the incident was, at best, odd. Gerhard Berger is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport: "If it was intentional, then he did a very good job."
Another ex F1 driver in Monaco, Jean Alesi, added: "Nico is a correct driver. He would do no such thing."
Predictably, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff agrees with that assessment.
"I can guarantee you 120,000 per cent that this was not done on purpose," he is quoted by BFMTV.
But even some of Rosberg's track rivals are suspicious.
"It was weird," said Felipe Massa, who in 2006 was Michael Schumacher's teammate when the seven time world champion was caught out pretending to make a mistake in Monaco qualifying.
"My sense is that it was strange," Massa, now at Williams, admitted to Brazil's Totalrace. "I feel like I've seen this movie before."
But Niki Lauda, the Mercedes team chairman, said Hamilton should have more faith in his childhood rival, friend and teammate.
"If Lewis says that it was intentional, that would be very unfair -- but I don't think he will (say that)," the F1 legend told Sport Bild.
However, in the duel for motor racing's biggest prize, others believe foul play cannot be ruled out, even though a major German newspaper last week questioned if Rosberg has the 'killer instinct'.
"Lewis started the mind games," said former driver Alex Wurz. "This was Nico's answer."
How the next chapter plays out is now eagerly anticipated. Many are drawing parallels with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost's bitter battles more than two decades ago.
Hamilton, an unashamed fan of the late Brazilian, is one of them.
"I quite like the way Senna dealt with it," he said on Saturday. Twice, in 1989 and again in 1990, the Senna-Prost rivalry resulted in on-track collisions, and Senna eventually admitted that at least one of them deliberate.
"I think I'll take a page out of Senna's book," Hamilton added.
"Yes, it's a bit like Senna and Prost," he explained, referring to the inter-team battle at McLaren that ultimately broke down completely. "No, I won't talk to him (Rosberg)."
Fernando Alonso lived through a similarly ill-fated, inter-team freeze with Hamilton in 2007.
When asked about Saturday's events, the Spaniard said: "I didn't see it, but I was told about it. Probably they will have an eventful evening," he smiled, according to Italy's La Repubblica.
In a few hours, Rosberg and Hamilton will take the battle down to the first corner at Ste Devote, but Wolff insists "There will be no crash".
But pole aside, it may be concluded that Rosberg won an even more important battle on Saturday -- shattering the often-emotional Hamilton's recent run of calm.
"I spent my whole life as a professional racing driver trying to take emotion out of it," Sir Jackie Stewart told the Daily Mail in Monaco.
"You cannot afford to be happy or angry. The moment you do, you lose control. You have to be clear headed, cold and focused.
"I am surprised Lewis reacted the way he did," added Stewart.