Hamilton wins in Italy: but was Rosberg mistake deliberate?
Lewis Hamilton lands blow at Italian Grand Prix, amid claims Mercedes arranged Nico Rosberg error
The latest chapter of Formula 1's greatest rivalry unfolded in Italy as Lewis Hamilton beat team mate Nico Rosberg in controversial fashion, prompting claims of fixing.
The British driver, who was forced out of the previous race after a collision with his team-mate, took the spoils thanks to a glaring Rosberg error on the 29th lap. The German, for the second time in the race, missed the chicane with Hamilton looming large in his mirrors, and as he took a detour along the escape road, Hamilton grabbed the lead.
The crass nature of the mistake, combined with TV footage soon afterwards of Mercedes team principle Toto Wolff grinning broadly, immediately prompted a conspiracy theory on Twitter.
Here's a crazy theory: what if Toto was smiling because Rosberg's "punishment" was giving up lead to Hamilton in an upcoming race? #F1
— Literal F1 (@LiteralF1) September 7, 2014
Even F1 legend Jackie Stewart was bewildered by Rosberg's actions. "I am a little confused," he said. "I thought it was a bit too easy. I thought he could have at least made an effort to get round the corner but he didn't." When asked if he thought Mercedes had rigged the race Stewart mused: "It has been suggested.
Mercedes were quick to deny any conspiracy. Wolff pointed out that the delay in TV pictures made his apparent reaction misleading. "Only a paranoid mind would have dreamed up such an idea," he said.
Others agree that the theory seems far-fetched. "Discarding the practicalities of such a plot – not to mention Rosberg's willingness – it appeared all the more outlandish given that there was a much more humble explanation: Hamilton put his sparring partner under intolerable pressure at 220mph, and he cracked," says Daniel Johnson of the Daily Telegraph.
This conspiracy is about as convincing as the faked Nasa moon landing claim, he adds, but he notes at F1 "does not exactly have a clean copybook" when it comes to such shenanigans.
"The theorising distracted from a resounding win for Hamilton, one which will have inflicted a significant blow on his team-mate," he writes. "After all the tumult of recent weeks, this was a classic Hamilton drive, always attacking and harrying Rosberg even when the team recommended a more conservative approach."
And he deserved his win, says Paul Weaver in The Guardian. "There was a rightness about Hamilton's victory," he writes. "A sense of appropriateness after all the mishaps that have showered down on his head this season, though he has made plenty of mistakes too."
Hamilton's take on his win was rather less sinister. He simply noted that Rosberg "doesn't seem to like" the pressure, adding: "So I'll try it a bit more."