Will Gray

Gray Matter: No more ‘Mr Nice Guy,’ Rosberg proved he can play dirty

Will Gray

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Rosberg is happy to play dirty

The collision between the Mercedes cars in Spa is a defining moment in the career of Nico Rosberg – with his apparent decision to deliberately hit his team-mate proving he’s happy to play dirty.

When Rosberg attacked and hit Hamilton on lap two in Spa it ruined the Briton’s race and after a team debrief he claimed Rosberg “basically said he did it on purpose...to prove a point.”

Rosberg publicly claimed the clash was a “racing incident” and has since tried to gloss over Hamilton’s claims, but he has not yet denied them, cagily preferring to “keep things internal”.

Although it has often been said that Mercedes’ policy of letting their drivers race meant a collision was destined to happen, the fact they have competed so closely wheel-to-wheel all season suggests something was different on Sunday.

Rosberg was still fuming over the incident in Hungary, where Hamilton was asked to let him past but refused because he felt he was faster, and it seems that perhaps, with a title at stake, his character has changed.

It is the second time Rosberg has been accused of foul play this year - in Monaco, he benefitted from crashing on his final run in qualifying.

After that incident, which was reviewed as not deliberate, many felt it was impossible for F1’s ‘Mr Nice Guy’ to do such a thing. But this time the response from the team is altogether different.

Whether deliberate or not, however, the fact that Rosberg did cause the incident is undeniable and significant.

Fundamentally, Rosberg was so determined he refused to back out, even though there was a safe way to do so. It was only lap two. There were plenty more opportunities, but he continued to attack.

Some would argue it was immature, that it was a silly hot-headed mistake; others would say it entirely undermines the integrity of Rosberg’s F1 credentials.

Although it was not a ‘Suzuka’ (Senna on Prost in 1989) or even an ‘Adelaide’ (Schumacher on Hill in 1996), it can be seen to have been the F1 equivalent of a professional foul.

And fundamentally, it’s that kind of ruthless streak that is found in all world champions – tainted or otherwise.

Ricciardo could become a contender

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Two wins in two races and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is now 64 points behind championship leader Nico Rosberg – having reduced the deficit by 18 points in the last four races.

Spa was not supposed to be a Red Bull circuit and Adrian Newey admitted on Thursday that “unless weather plays a part in the race...or we are plain lucky...it seems very unlikely we will be battling for the win.”

But by stripping off downforce and applying clever use of electrical energy strategy the team put Ricciardo in a position to capitalise on the collision between the Mercedes pair and claim another win.

The next track, Monza, is again not supposed to be good for Red Bull – but having proved in Spa that they can be fast on the straights when they need to be, with Ricciardo was second fastest in the speed trap just 2km/h behind Rosberg, they could still get lucky.

And if they can keep the momentum going at Monza, then the subsequent tracks are more suitable to their car.

So, yes, right now, there is every reason to believe Ricciardo can become a title contender.

F1 is not broken – but drivers want it tougher

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Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (L) leads the race ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg of Germany (Reuters)

Formula One needs to become more of a challenge despite showing once again in Spa that it is far from broken.

Several drivers – including Rosberg, Ricciardo and Felipe Massa – admitted in Spa that they struggle to break into a sweat driving the current cars and would like life to be a little tougher.

Newey also claimed fans should have the impression that ‘wow, those guys are superheroes, I couldn't do that’ and that the lack of speed with the current cars fails to deliver that.

However, in Spa the fast jinking moves displayed in battles between Valterri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen – five drivers in four different cars – showed again that F1 still has the edge-of-the-seat entertainment the fans demand.

Rosberg races with dirty undies

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One of the more amusing comments of the year came in the Thursday press conference, where drivers were asked to reveal their superstitions.

Most admitted stepping into the car from one side or the other, putting their race suits on in a certain way. But Nico Rosberg revealed something altogether more personal, explaining: “I keep my underwear from qualifying if I'm on pole for the race - and they're not allowed to be washed either.”

Felipe Massa goes even further - he keeps the same pair on all weekend if things are going well!

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