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A response to the conspiracy theories on Nico Rosberg's "mistake" in Monza

A response to the conspiracy theories on Nico Rosberg's "mistake" in Monza
Sep 8, 2014, 11:39 AM

The internet does some wonderful things for the communication between people around the globe.

The internet does some wonderful things for the communication between people around the globe. But it can also give credence to rumour and to conspiracy theories and make them seem more real.

One such example is the theory doing the rounds that Nico Rosberg deliberately made a mistake under braking for Turn 1 at Monza on lap 29 of yesterday's Italian Grand Prix, to hand the win to his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton as a redress for the collision he triggered in Spa two weeks earlier. The theory runs that this was part of the punishment Mercedes bosses Toto Wolff, Paddy Lowe and Niki Lauda dished out to the German.

Rosberg himself has debunked any such theory saying, "What would be the reason for me to do something like that deliberately? There is no possible reason. If you're ordered by the team to do it then you would do it, but there is no reason why the team would ask me to change position, or something like that.

"The only thing in people's minds could be Spa, but Spa was a mistake which I've apologised for. There were the necessary talks and everything, but that's it, it's forgotten. It's not something where I have to give back something. Mistakes, errors happen, and that's the way it is."

Let us address this topic in detail.

Rosberg and Hamilton

Could there have been a "deal" for Rosberg not to win in Monza?

It is conceivable that as the team sought to redress the balance after the turbulent month in which Hamilton declined to collaborate on a strategy call which arguably cost Rosberg a win in Hungary and then a collision in Spa which cost the team a 1-2 finish and Hamilton dropped 18 points to Rosberg.

What would such a deal be?

Perhaps it would be agreed once Hamilton had taken the pole on Saturday that Rosberg would not challenge him for this race. If that were the case then it went wrong immediately because Hamilton's launch system failed and he dropped to fourth, with Rosberg leading.

So in that scenario, once Hamilton had climbed back to second and Rosberg had wanted to let him past, would he do it by making a mistake under braking, which made him look like he cracked under pressure, undermined his status as a driver and risked flat spotting a tyre or colliding with barriers?

Rosberg and Hamilton

No, he would do what Red Bull appear to have done in Brazil in 2011, where a mysterious gearbox "glitch" on Vettel's car handed victory to his team mate Mark Webber, in the final race of the season. Rosberg would have a slow sector, commentators would be alerted, as would the world feed director, a coded radio message would be played out on TV, talking of "fail settings" or "mode switch 5" or some such - and the whole thing would appear as clean as a whistle. No racing driver in Rosberg's position would throw a win in the manner in which it happened on Lap 29, it does not make any sense.

So was there such a plan?

The one thing that is sure is that whatever punishment Mercedes served on Rosberg after Spa, it would never be something which hurt his qualifying or race effort to the point that it jeopardised the team's prospects of a 1-2 finish and/or gave another car a chance to get ahead. That is certain. The 1-2 finish and the images of team glory are paramount at the moment and will be until the historic Constructors' title is won in a few races time.

We will never know if there was an agreement on Sunday for Hamilton to have an zero risk "unchallenged" run to victory, to steady the Mercedes ship and move onwards. But Hamilton would argue that the seven points he recouped from Rosberg in Monza is not fair redress for the 18 Rosberg cost him at Spa. Rosberg would counter-argue that Hamilton cost him 13 points in Hungary. But Hamilton would suggest that Rosberg's "moment" in qualifying at Monaco cost him a further 7 points.

You can do the maths.

Deals have been done in the past, but in this case I think it was a mistake by Rosberg under pressure and that it really is what it looks like. A psychological turning point for Hamilton.


Rosberg not immune to mistakes

Like Hamilton, who has made some errors under pressure this year for example in qualifying in Canada and Austria, Rosberg has had some scrappy moments. Post the collision in Spa, he had a very messy race, for example.

Braking for Turn 1 at Monza the car is travelling at 225mph and slowing to 50mph in just 139 metres, over 2.6 seconds. At that speed it covers 100m in one second. So if you misjudge your braking point by a tenth of a second you run 10 metres too long, which is enough to have a moment like Rosberg.

Why did he go straight on rather than lock up? Because he had just made his only stop of the day five laps earlier and he would have flat spotted his tyres with 24 laps to run. It would have required another pit stop and that would have cost him positions. Bear in mind he had painful recent experience of this in Spa, where he flat spotted his tyre and compromised his strategy, which cost him the win to Ricciardo.

This is another reason why if he had wanted to hand Hamilton the win, he would have done anything else before doing it via a braking moment at Turn 1, the biggest stop of the year.

On Saturday I had a fascinating conversation in the Mercedes motorhome with 1996 world champion Damon Hill -a deep thinker about the sport - and one of the Mercedes team, in which Hill argued that teams can try to "control" things as much as they like between their drivers, but that at the end of the day the drivers will think first of their careers. The chance to win a world championship overrides everything else in a driver's mind and although he may pay lip service to the notion of "serving the team" and prioritising its interests, the competitive urge is overpowering in crunch moments.

So is it conceivable that there was a plan for Rosberg not to challenge Hamilton? Yes, it's conceivable.

Is it likely that there was such a plan and that it had to be carried through despite what happened at the start? No, it's not likely.

Nico Rosberg is six races away from being world champion and he had a 29 point lead over Hamilton which is now down to 22 points. Anyone who thinks a driver in his position would deliberately mess up the hardest braking point of the season in order to throw a race in favour of his main rival and hand him a huge psychological advantage, doesn't understand racing drivers.

The internet echoes will continue. Conspiracies abound. The truth lies buried.

But if you understand the racer's mentality and follow your instincts, you won't be far wrong.

What do you think? Leave your comments in the section below
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