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GP Week : Issue 208
22 GPWEEK.com // 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: mINOR CONTACT, mAjOR DRAmA OPINION Following the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean was given a one-race ban by the stewards for causing a first lap collision that the briefing document categorized as “an extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury to others.” so far, so uncontroversial. But, as is always the case in Formula One, there was controversy to follow. Further down the stewards’ explanation of both punishment and crime came a sentence that did cause upset: “It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race. The stewards note the team conceded the action of the driver was an extremely serious mistake and an error of judgment.” In the wake of that document’s publication there was much discussion surrounding the fact that the stewards appeared to have considered the championship positions of those involved in the incident while meting out their punishment, over and above the moral rights and wrongs of such a consideration. Since the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix, no stewards’ document has made mention of the championship standings with regard to any penalty or reprimand. While the second-lap contact between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton at this year’s Belgian Grand Prix caused a puncture and not a multi-car pile-up, it did have a potentially significant impact on the outcome of this year’s drivers’ championship, with Hamilton losing out on what should have been a handy clutch of points as the result of what was, to all intents and purposes, a minor racing incident. Given the precedent set at this very circuit two years ago, it seems strange that the stewards chose not to investigate the incident, nor to comment on its potential impact on the championship. While anything can happen over the course of a grand prix, at the moment that Rosberg’s front-wing was tearing its way through Hamilton’s left rear tyre it was the Briton who was leading the race, on course to reduce the gap to his teammate in the standings. More bizarre, however, has been the feedback from the Mercedes team in light of the incident, with both Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda disparaging Rosberg’s actions in a series of television interviews while their driver – who was unaware of his team’s displeasure – was in the post-race press conference, reflecting on what the Monegasque German felt was an excellent afternoon. It was only as Rosberg began to have his bosses’ quotes fed back to him by the media that the championship leader’s body language changed. While he had been booed on the podium, Rosberg had attributed that to the sizeable British contingent in the Spa audience, and it was only after the fact that it became clear his performance had also been booed from within his own team, with Wolff going so far as to call Rosberg’s driving “totally unacceptable.” “You don't try to overtake with the knife between your teeth on lap number two and damage both cars,” Wolff told the BBC while Rosberg was busy spraying champagne. “Lap number two of a long race, a crash between two teammates. It is absolutely unacceptable.” Lauda also weighed in with criticisms of Rosberg, but it will be Wolff’s comments that give the championship leader pause. After all, it is an open secret in the paddock that the Mercedes team has long since been divided into two camps, with Lauda firmly in Hamilton’s corner and the rest of the big cheeses all on team Nico. Rosberg’s confidence that the team was largely behind him in the championship battle has taken something of a beating since the chequered flag fell to mark the end of the Belgian Grand Prix, and rightly so. He has already had the advantage of a more reliable car than his teammate, and the lead in the championship standings. But it looks as though a minor racing incident on lap two will have caused Rosberg to squander a lot of the support the racer has long since thought was his by right. OPINION KATE WALKER