Nico Rosberg will enter next weekend’s race in Monza with a comfortable 29-point lead in the Formula One drivers’ championship, partly thanks his controversial attempted overtake against a teammate Lewis Hamiltom in last Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.
In the eyes of his critics, the alleged six-figure fine imposed by his Mercedes team in response to the avoidable collision is scant punishment. After all, Nico a Rosberg is a multi-millionaire for whom donating a microscopic fraction of his earnings to charity will be no more than a minuscule discomfort.
However, FIA former president Max Mosley believes Mercedes did Rosberg a disservice by divulging that they were disciplining him for a crash that ended Hamilton’s race while he went on to finish second.
‘In every respect but one I think Mercedes dealt with the incident in the right way,’ said Mosley.
‘If they decided to fine or punish Rosberg they should not have announced it. It’s as if the team are blaming him publicly. That’s not really right.’
Lewis Hamilton made a firsthand allegation that his German title rival had admitted he had instigated the collision with intent – to which many fans and observers felt the FIA should have responded to by opening an investigation.
The FIA quickly wrote the accident off as a racing incident.
It has been suggested that the Mosley-era of the FIA would have made a more active attempt at forming a credible conclusion. In contrast current regime of Jean Todt’s demonstrates a more passive approach, for which he has earned many plaudits for allowing and even encouraging more intense racing.
But Mosley, who was at the FIA’s helm from 1993 until 2009, disagrees. He said: ‘The way I see it — and I’m on the outside now — is that the very experienced race director [Charlie Whiting] and the stewards decided to act because it was a ‘racing incident’.
‘That was more or less that. It was a minor incident with serious consequences. What the drivers did or not say afterwards is not clear. On that basis the FIA could not get involved.
‘It’s then a matter for the team. A lot goes on behind closed doors. What is unusual is announcing it. Personally, I wouldn’t have done that.’
Following the Belgian Grand Prix, the Mercedes hierarchy called for a two-hour meeting between the drivers and their bosses; Toto Wolff, Niki Lauda and Paddy Lowe, at in Brackley on Friday. During the meeting, Rosberg acknowledged his apparent wrongdoing. The driver pairing later reconciled, in the loosest terms.
‘We have both made mistakes,’ said a philosophical Lewis Hamilton shortly after the heated conference.
With the Mercedes team being exposed to a period of prolonged competitiveness for the first time in their modern lives, their management has been criticised for perceived naivety this season. Their direct verbal assault on Rosberg immediately after the controversial race must be therefore be interpreted, at least in part, as an attempt to show the drivers, their boardroom and the public that they have reasserted their authority.
In addition to a rumoured financial penalty, it has been suggested that Rosberg could be forced to yield position, either in a future qualifying session or a grand prix, to compensate for Hamilton’s losses. Toto Wolff soon shot down the wild speculation, saying: ‘The team discussed at length what the consequences could be.
‘But there is one thing we stand for at Mercedes-Benz, and this is racing, straight and fair racing, and we remain committed to that. Both drivers are racing at the absolute limit against each other, and we are not going to interfere in the race result, or pre-agree any race result. This is not what we will ever do.
‘When the racing happens we need to react sometimes, but we will not pre-agree in favour of one or the other. This is not what we do.’
The effectiveness of Mercedes’ action will be seen at this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Mercedes-track-favourite Monza, and in the closing six races thereafter, as the two way title duel between their driver duo continues to intensify.