APR 13th 2015

Henry Hope‑Frost ‑ Rosberg Throws His Toys Out In China

The body language was toe-curling, the distinctly moody tone of voice, the long-pause frustration, the huffing, sighing and frowning awkward to watch.

Nico Rosberg had just been soundly beaten by his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in another dominant one-two for the Silver Arrows in the Chinese Grand Prix and he was clearly unamused about it.

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His demeanour as he faced the BBC’s roving reporter Lee McKenzie in the post-race interview pen, smacked of a man beaten, a subordinate number-two looking for excuses after finishing second again.

Rosberg’s gripe centred on what he believed had been deliberate dawdling by Hamilton to allow the third-placed Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel to close up on Rosberg and cause him some bother.

‘I just was focusing on myself. If Nico wanted to get by he could have tried but he didn’t.’

Sadly Nico, who came into 2015 determined to convert last year’s superior intra-team qualifying pace into more wins this time round, aired his frustration just after we’d enjoyed a friendly, articulate and apparently honest appraisal of an epic weekend’s work from Hamilton.

The world champion came across very well, I thought, as BBC anchors Suzi Perry and David Coulthard downloaded the winner in the Merc garage. His genuine bemusement at Rosberg’s suggestion immediately caused a mighty shift on the psychological mind-game swingometer.

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And that’s something Rosberg can’t afford at this early stage in the campaign. Three races in and, as far as race results go, it’s Lewis: first-second-first and Nico: second-third-second, with the Briton three-nil ahead in the Saturday-afternoon fight. Not only that, but Vettel has muscled his way in between the Merc duo in the points race, thanks to his third-first-third tally.

The tension spilled over into the press conference, with Rosberg having a pop at the man sitting in the middle.

Hamilton calmly batted the accusations away: ‘It’s not my job to look after Nico’s race,’ he said. ‘My job’s to manage the car and bring the car home as healthy and as fast as possible – and that’s what I did. I didn’t do anything intentionally to slow any of the cars up. I just was focusing on myself. If Nico wanted to get by he could have tried but he didn’t.’

And to further fuel Hamilton’s psychological advantage, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff backed him up, saying he didn’t believe that anything underhand had been done, only that Lewis was looking after that set of option (softer) tyres.

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Team-mate ructions, from the mild to the malodorous, have permeated the sport for years so, despite a Mercedes team debrief taking place away from prying cameras and microphones, in which, we’re told, the air was cleared and the problem put to bed, I’m not convinced and thus not expecting any matey banter between the Brackley boys any time soon.

Bahrain’s less than a week away, so it could all still be a bit raw…

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