Max Verstappen won on debut with Red Bull at the Spanish Grand Prix. This in and of itself is an amazing story. However, it was completely overshadowed by yet another lap 1 incident. This time it was the World Championship leading Mercedes men who collided with each other.
Nico Rosberg took the lead in turn 1 from Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton. Coming out of turn 3, Lewis got a run on Nico. This was a direct result of Nico being in the wrong engine mode. Nico’s responded by blocking, attempting to defend his position. In the process he went well off of the racing line. Lewis was forced off the track and into the grass. F1 cars are amazing machines, but put them on grass and the result was predictable. Lewis spun out, now a passenger his car made contact with Nico, ending both their races. For what it’s worth the Stewards deemed the accident a “racing incident” and no action will be taken against either driver.
After the race both drivers had different takes on the incident. Lewis who is in the midst of a hugely frustrating season had just been overtaken by his teammate, again. This had to fire him up, so coming out of turn 3, clearly gaining on Nico, he made his move.
“Basically for me I got a good start. I just got slipstreamed into Turn 1 and then through Turn 3 I was a lot quicker than Nico. Nico just happened to be in the wrong engine mode and he derated, which I didn’t, and I was gaining at him at fairly decent pace. Where he positioned the car, I was a car width to the right of the racing line and at the speed I was catching him I had to decide whether to go left, which is a small gap, or right. The inside line is always the one you’d go for, there was a much bigger gap and I went for it. I got there and I had part of my wing and part of my wheel alongside within the white line and then that diminished pretty quickly. I did what I could to avoid an incident pretty fast by going on the grass. But it all happened pretty quickly.”
“I saw a gap and I went for it and that’s what racing drivers do.”
Nico saw the incident in a slightly different light. He felt he was simply defending his position. He felt Lewis was attempting to pass in a space that simply did not exist.
“Then coming out of Turn 3 I noticed I was down on engine power, which in hindsight was because I was in the incorrect mode, because I saw Lewis closing in. “As soon as I could, I closed the door. I went to the inside with a clear strong move to make sure that he understands that there is not going to be space there. I was very surprised that he went for it anyway. That is it. Then we were in the sand trap.”
I could maybe, MAYBE, see blocking like that on the last lap of a race. Fighting for victory giving no quarter, doing everything in your power to win. Even so, to pull something like that on your teammate is reckless at best. To do it on lap 1, when you’re down on power because you have the car in the wrong mode? In my eye, that is a completely indefensible move. You have to give your teammate space. Nico has been the class of F1 this season by a considerable margin. Even if Lewis had been able to complete the pass in the next corner, Nico would have had the whole race to try and retake the lead. At that stage of the race there was no good reason for Nico to pull that move.
Every team in every form of motorsport has 1 golden rule. Do not, under any circumstance, take out your teammate. Unfortunately, it would appear Nico Rosberg has not received this memo.