Nico Rosberg’s Monaco Grand Prix pole position was not without controversy today as he went off and escape road at Mirabeau in the final flying lap. This caused a yellow flag that impacted teammate Lewis Hamilton’s flying lap.
Hamilton seems to be on a mission to amp up the rivalry between the two drivers having stated earlier this week that he is hungrier than his teammate due to his Spartan childhood compared to Rosberg’s Monaco-style upbringing. He then called the Monaco qualifying incident “ironic” during the post-race press conference.
For Rosberg, the incident was caused by trying to push too hard:
“I tried to make it, but turned out as I was going to hit the tyre wall,” said Rosberg.
“It was close but I managed to go into the escape road.
“I know that I had a really good banker in there, so I tried to push that little bit more and went over the edge.”
Mercedes team boss, Toto Wolff, has rubbished allegations that Rosberg deliberately ran off in order to prompt yellow flags and end the session as well as Hamiton’s bid for pole. This was equated to Michael Schumacher’s infamous Rascasse incident in which the German stopped his car on track to prevent Fernando Alonso, who was behind him on the final flying lap, from securing pole. Wolff told the press:
“I don’t think that anybody does that [deliberately crash] in modern day Formula 1.
“He missed his braking and he took the exit. There is no more to add.
“I know you guys want a spicy, controversial story, but it’s all bulls***.”
According to AUTOSPORT, Hamilton has implied that Rosberg “potentially” may have tried to spoil his pole run. When asked if he felt the two should talk about the situation, Hamilton offered an anecdotal tale of how he’d prefer to handle the situation:
“I don’t know if Senna and Prost talked about it but I quite liked the way Senna dealt with that so I’ll take a page out of his book,” Hamilton said.
In a season dominated by one team with five wins, six pole positions and a quest to have the perfect season, it seems that the Mercedes teammate battle is one of the few things that can create controversy and offer a dog and pony show to maintain fan interest.
I’ve seen the Senna and Prost battle, this is no Senna and Prost battle. If Lewis Hamilton did little to position himself as the good guy in the fight between teammates with his “I had it tough” speech, surely Lewis fans will accuse Rosberg with allegations of Schumacher-esque tactics in denying Hamilton pole and the controversy spirals from there. While Hamilton was feeling the pressure of his statement, now Roserbg is feeling the weight of accusations over tactical cynicism and we’re back to moral equivalency once again.
It seems that Rosberg locked up and ran too hard into Mirabeau but even if the telemetry were made public, fans will all have their own opinions about the incident. Perhaps Hamilton will tweet the telemetry again so we can see if Rosberg deliberately braked too late.
In the end, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen said it best:
“I saw he locked the wheel and ran wide but obviously I am not here to judge anybody and say what was true and what was not. He knows himself. Obviously it is hard to say was it a mistake or not. Everybody will have their own opinion about this.”
Indeed they will.
In the end, the Stewards investigated and said:
“The stewards examined video and telemetry data from the team and FIA and could find no evidence of any offense related to the turn 5 incident.”
Regardless, the other talking points from Monaco qualifying are these:
- Red Bull is, as we predicted, more competitive in Monaco and Daniel Ricciardo had a great run to third for Sunday’s race. Any bobble by the two grumpy Mercedes teammates and Ricciardo could be looking at his first win.
- Ferrari were slightly more competitive as well and so was Ricciardo’s teammate Sebastian Vettel who suffered and ERS issue during qualifying that prevented him from doing any better than 4th on the grid for Sunday’s race.
- Mercedes are still clearly dominant.
- The cars sound anemic in the streets of Monaco
- McLaren’s Jenson Button is really on the back foot this weekend while teammate Kevin Magnussen made the most of his qualifying effort to place 8th.
- Sergio Perez bested his teammate to make it to Q3 and place 10th.
- Toro Rosso looked much better at Monaco as well with a terrific drive from rookie Daniil Kvyat slotted 9th on the grid.
- Rosberg’s pole position represents his 6th which now eclipses that of his father, Keke, who had five during his career.
- Pirelli reckons the tires are about a second apart from the prime to the option and the quickest race strategy will be a one-stopper over the 78 laps of Monaco. The assumption is that the teams would start on the option and change on lap 30 but it remains to be seen if the option tire will last that many laps.