In Depth

Hamilton takes F1 title race lead as Rosberg feud simmers

British driver claws his way back from a 43-point deficit to go ahead in Hungary, but could still have problems

Lewis Hamilton took the lead in the F1 drivers' championship with a routine victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, but says he still feels like the challenger in the title race.

The Mercedes driver has battled back from a 43-point deficit to overtake team-mate Nico Rosberg after three straight wins and five in the past six races. His victory at Budapest, from second on the grid, leaves him six points clear of the German.

However, the Brit's poor form and bad luck in the early races of the season could come back to haunt him, as he will end up being punished over mechanical problems.

"The engine failures mean he will use more than the permitted number of certain engine parts, which will mean a start from the back, most likely at either the Belgian or Italian Grands Prix after the August break following next weekend's race in Germany," says the BBC.

Hamilton put his change in fortunes down to the collision between him and Rosberg at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

"Spain has definitely ended up being a turning point," he said. "It didn't feel like it was; it was rock bottom: 'Basically, where do we go from here?' The only way was up... I managed to get my head together and get on with it."

"Right now, I am still with the same mentality of still chasing."

But Hungary could turn out to be decisive. "The shift in momentum has been staggering and Rosberg has been powerless to resist it," says Joe Downes of the Daily Mail. "Suddenly the Briton is an overwhelming favourite to take a fourth world title.

"But why were we surprised? He is making a habit of this, giving Rosberg a glimmer of hope before ruthlessly extinguishing it. It happened in 2014. Hamilton trailed by 29 points with seven races to go before winning six of them on his way to the title.

"We saw it again here in Budapest. Hamilton was ‒ as he always is when they go wheel-to-wheel ‒ bolder than the German from the off, taking the lead at the very first corner."

The bad blood between the two drivers was in evidence once again, says James Gheerbrant of The Times.

"Victory had apparently done little to quell the Briton's anger over the manner in which Rosberg achieved pole position on Saturday - setting the fastest lap time despite double yellow flags being waved to indicate that drivers should slow significantly.

"Rosberg put a brave face on the loss of his championship lead, but must be beginning to fear that the drivers’ title is destined to elude him again."

Rosberg signs deal to fight Hamilton at Mercedes until 2018

22 July

The F1 rivalry between Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg looks set to continue for another two seasons after the German driver signed a contract until the end of the 2018 season.

The pair have been team-mates since 2013 but have rarely seen eye to eye in the battle for the Formula 1 driver's title.

Despite 19 grand prix victories for Mercedes, Rosberg has yet to win a title, having finished second to Hamilton in each of the past two seasons. He appeared on course to finally get one over on his British rival this season after opening up a 43-point lead, but Hamilton has roared back into contention and is now only one point behind ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix.

The pair have given no quarter on the track this season, twice colliding in races. But the bad blood dates back to 2014, when their relationship began to unravel as they battled for supremacy in the title race.

Since then, the gloves have been off and there have been several incidents between the two, prompting Mercedes boss Toto Wolff to warn that if they could not work together, one of them would be jettisoned.

However, the new deal means both drivers are contracted to the stable until the end of 2018.

"Despite Wolff issuing a warning at the end of last season that the team would consider dropping one of the drivers if they could not work harmoniously together, and Hamilton and Rosberg twice crashing on track in the first half of this season, Mercedes never appeared likely to break up a partnership which has delivered consecutive world championship doubles," says Sky Sports.

With Rosberg leading the championship a deal was inevitable, says Andrew Benson of the BBC.

"Mercedes could not afford to let a man who might win it leave at the end of the season," he says. "[Rosberg] has had a sometimes difficult relationship with Briton Hamilton, but it is a relationship Mercedes feel they can control.

"The driver line-up is perfect for them. In Hamilton, they have arguably the fastest driver in F1. In Rosberg, they have a man who can win when Hamilton hits trouble and who is good enough to beat him on merit from time to time."

How long Rosberg remains championship leader remains to be seen, as Hamilton dominated the first practice session ahead of Hungary before crashing in the second run.

Hamilton and Rosberg collide at the Austrian Grand Prix

04 July

Questions are being asked of Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg after he and team-mate Lewis Hamilton clashed again at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The collision paved the way for a Hamilton victory and relegating championship leader Rosberg to fourth place.

Heading into the final lap of the race, Rosberg led his Mercedes partner by just under one second, but his poor getaway from turn one opened the door for the British driver to pounce. Heading into turn two, Hamilton drew level and placed his car on the outside.  

The German left it far too late to turn in, causing a charging Hamilton to scrape along the side of his team-mate's car and briefly venture off the circuit.

It was a huge error of judgement by Rosberg and his refusal to concede backfired miserably. He lost his front wing and with it the race – Hamilton rejoined the track and scampered down the road towards victory. 

Rosberg, meanwhile, had to bring his stricken Mercedes home behind Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen, costing him valuable points in what is now a heated championship struggle between the two Mercedes drivers.

Daniel Johnson, writing in the Daily Telegraph, says the "desperate manoeuvre" could leave a stain on the championship leader's reputation. "His credibility is damaged, his standing is diminished, and his championship chances have taken a blow too," he writes. Rosberg's championship lead was cut from 24 to 11 points.

Sky's pundits poured over footage, with Antony Davidson delivering a damning: "He doesn't really even attempt to make the corner."

The race stewards agreed and handed Rosberg a ten-second time penalty – which were inconsequential, as he finished 14 seconds up the road from fifth-placed Daniel Ricciardo - as well as two penalty points on his licence for causing a collision and a reprimand for continuing with a damaged car.

However, the crowd disagreed. Hamilton was greeted by boos as he took his place on the podium while Rosberg pleaded his innocence, saying receiving the blame "sucks".

The incident is the second time the two men have collided this season, after a big clash at the Spanish Grand Prix took both of them out of the running just four corners in. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says this weekend's collision could easily have had the same consequences.

While not apportioning blame to either driver, he added that what had happened on track was "brainless" and an insult to the 1,500 people responsible for preparing the two cars.

The team also boss raised the prospect of introducing team orders, something which would doubtless go down poorly with fans ahead of Hamilton's home British Grand Prix next weekend.

After a one-two finish went begging for the second time in five races, Wolff must once again find a way to balance the interests of F1 with the interests of his racing outfit, says the BBC's Andrew Benson.

Hamilton and Rosberg truce at Monaco GP could be fragile

26 May

Peace has broken out at Mercedes ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, although the truce could be temporary as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg prepare to take to the track for the first time since their collision at Barcelona earlier this month.

Speaking ahead of the most glamorous weekend in the F1 calendar, Rosberg admitted he was at fault for the incident in Spain, but refused to reveal whether he and his British team-mate had held talks in the aftermath.

Hamilton was "rather more succinct", says Mail Online. "We arrived very cool and chilled. And we spoke. All you need to know is that the respect is still there. We're going to keep racing and everything is cool. We didn't talk through the incident. We don't need to. We know what happened," he said.

The crash divided opinion in the paddock, although the German driver appeared to accept he was at least partly to blame after blocking Hamilton's attempt to overtake him.

"It was in the wrong position, and it was my job to put it in the right position – it's pretty simple. There is not much more to say," he said.

"Rosberg fell short of admitting blame for the actual crash at the Circuit de Catalunya this month," says The Guardian. "But he did concede that he made an error in not putting his engine in the right mode at the start of the race, a mistake which slowed him down so visibly coming out of Turn 3 that Hamilton felt he could overtake him on the inside."

But he does not intend to change his style as he goes for a fourth straight win at Monaco, promising to race "flat out and do what's necessary to try to win" - and that is the key message that Hamilton should absorb.

"It's is not the handshake that should worry Hamilton... but the elbows," says Kevin Eason of The Times. "For Rosberg shows no sign of curbing the new-found aggression that contributed to their collision in Barcelona and he appears to be prepared to take the hardest line to keep his Mercedes team-mate at bay on the streets of Monte Carlo."

Hamilton and Rosberg 'war' could mean fireworks at Monaco

16 May

Max Verstappen became the youngest driver to ever win a F1 race as he triumphed at the Spanish Grand Prix, but his fine achievement was overshadowed by an astonishing crash that took out both Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg on the first lap of the race.

The race stewards were unable to decide who was at fault after the coming together, and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff sat firmly on the fence. But Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda made it clear that he felt Hamilton was at fault for being "too aggressive".

Other observers claimed it was Rosberg's fault and the two drivers "will disagree to their graves on who was to blame for Sunday's spectacular, race-ending crash", says Daniel Johnson of the Daily Telegraph.

The pair collided at turn four on the first lap as Hamilton attempted to reclaim first place from Rosberg.

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The English driver had started on pole but was overtaken by Rosberg at turn one. He responded, however, and was closing fast as the pair approached turn four. But as he attempted to dive up the inside Rosberg shut the door and Hamilton left the track, lost control of his car and collided with Rosberg, sending both cars into the gravel.

"Hamilton seethed and Rosberg fumed," says Kevin Eason of The Times, who notes the two men ignored each other after the crash and marched back to the team HQ still wearing their helmets.

After the debrief the drivers spoke to the waiting media. "The public faces were straight but the inner turmoil was all too evident to those who watched Hamilton and Rosberg explain the circumstances of the incendiary accident that blew the Spanish Grand Prix wide open and detonated what was left of the pair's shattered relationship as Mercedes team-mates," says Eason.

It is "outright war" at Mercedes says The Sun, which claims the drivers have been "separated by their team pending further investigations".

The crash "raises serious questions once again about whether the duo can be kept as team-mates", adds the paper. "Wolff has already said that he would be willing to change his driver line-up if their turbulent relationship harmed the team's on-track performance." 

The pair also crashed in 2014, but the fall-out this time could be greater, says Pete Gill of Sky Sports.

"Mercedes's headache now is that neither driver believes he did anything wrong on Sunday – and both appear to believe they were hard done-by. The upshot is that resentment is likely to fester on both sides.

"The prospect of a repeat incident this season, therefore, must be considered high. Even those mean streets of Monaco in just two weeks' time may not be wide enough for the pair of them."

And with the pair now at daggers drawn there is every chance of more drama at Monaco, agrees the Sun, noting that it is the race that has historically seen the "most aggression" between them.

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