Formula one burst into controversy on Saturday, at the very scene of Michael Schumacher’s ‘Rascasse-gate’ scandal eight years ago.
This time, it is Nico Rosberg feeling the heat of the paddock and the world, and a ‘Senna versus Prost’-style rivalry with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton now on the verge of utterly exploding beyond control.
A seething Hamilton was almost literally speechless after qualifying, with his final attempt at pole position thwarted in the dying moments by a highly-controversial ‘mistake’ by Rosberg.
On British television Sky, former driver Johnny Herbert said Rosberg’s steering wheel movements seemed “dodgy” before he ran into the runoff zone, triggering the yellow flags when he then reversed out.
“If it was a deliberate thing,” said 1996 world champion Damon Hill, “it was a very good deliberate thing. But Nico did not seem contrite at all.”
Indeed, Hamilton could barely contain his fury, describing it as “ironic” that a mistake by Rosberg actually earned him pole.
“I’ve never had that happen before.
“I was on the pole lap,” said the Briton, his incandescent body-language speaking much clearer than his words. “I was up a couple of tenths. It’s ok.”
Nonetheless delighted with his pole, when Rosberg apologised to Hamilton for ruining his lap, Hamilton replied when pressed: “I don’t have an answer to it.”
Told by reporters afterwards that Hamilton is furious, Rosberg hit back: “I can’t do anything other than apologise.
“It will be clear on the data. I just braked a little bit late and locked up and that’s it.”
Earlier, Hamilton answered “who knows?” when it was suggested Rosberg’s ‘mistake’ was suspicious, but when asked if he thinks it was clearly deliberate, the 2008 world champion said: “I’m not saying that. I’m not saying anything.”
The incident is being investigated by the stewards.