Ex-drivers Brundle, Hill & Herbert believe onus was on Rosberg to challenge Hamilton; "He’s been playing the nice guy in the first two races & we categorically know he’s been told to stop," adds Brundle
Monday 13 April 2015 08:13, UK
Sky F1’s pundits have absolved Lewis Hamilton of blame following Nico Rosberg’s accusation that the world champion "compromised" his Chinese Grand Prix.
Mercedes found themselves at the centre of a fresh intra-team row amid what would normally have been the jubilation of securing a one-two finish in Sunday’s race.
Having finished behind his team-mate, Rosberg claimed that Hamilton had put him into an “unnecessarily risky position” by not driving fast enough while in the lead approaching the second pit stops and, as a result, pushed him into the clutches of Sebastian Vettel.
Rosberg had already expressed his frustration with Hamilton over the team radio during the race when the German driver was first heard saying: “Lewis is driving very slowly to get him to speed up”, before adding: “If I go closer I destroy my tyres like in the first stint, that’s the problem”.
With a perplexed Hamilton defending his driving and tactics after the race, Sky Sports' F1’s pundits had their say on the matter and could not see what the Briton had done wrong.
“Lewis was leading the race so I think he was entitled to do whatever he wanted. If you want to change that, get in front of him," said Martin Brundle.
"I think it is perfectly legitimate to back your team-mate and your main championship rival [into a car behind]. He’s got the high ground, he’s got track position, and if Rosberg had done it he would have been entitled to do the same thing as well.”
Former world champion Damon Hill agreed that Hamilton had been fully within his rights to control the pace of the race at the front.
“Another Mercedes driver by the name of Juan Manuel Fangio said famously 'the goal is to win at the slowest possible speed',” Hill recalled.
“So I think he'd be proud of Lewis Hamilton today because he did exactly what he needed to do and he saved, he kept it in hand, he kept it under control and it was masterful. I think twice this weekend Nico has shown his frustrations and his irritation at finding someone else to blame and it is starting to look weak."
After missing out on pole position to Hamilton by less than a 10th of a second on Saturday, Rosberg blamed the Mercedes pitwall for putting him under “unnecessary pressure” ahead of his final Q3 lap by making him rush his out lap.
The German’s failure to overhaul Hamilton on Sunday means he has only once beaten his team-mate and title rival in a race since last July and Hill insists only Rosberg himself can change the narrative at Mercedes.
“Nico is just shooting himself in the foot by showing the world he’s upset as if the world can do something about it,” the ’96 title winner said. “We can’t do anything about it – Nico has to outqualify Lewis, he has to take the fight and the high ground.”
Fellow pundit Johnny Herbert agreed: “It’s the nature of sport. For him to fix this, he needs to beat Hamilton in qualifying. Then you lead it and start to control it. That’s all Lewis was doing, controlling it and looking after the tyres.”
However, while in agreement that Hamilton had done nothing wrong in Shanghai, Brundle admitted it was difficult to be too hard on Rosberg given he appears to have been told by Mercedes' hierachy to start providing his team-mate with stiffer competition again.
“If Nico had scuttled off and said nothing, we’d have said ‘that’s weak – why’s he not fighting back?’” Brundle suggested. “He’s been playing the nice guy in the first two races and we categorically know he’s been told to stop all that, it’s just feeding Lewis’s confidence.
“But he’s got to come out and make as much smell as he can.”
Mercedes' feuding drivers now prepare to return to the scene of the most intense battle in their three seasons as team-mates, Bahrain, for round four of a 2015 season which Hamilton currently controls from out front.