The Formula One duel between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton returns to its roots this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. The Mercedes rivals developed their now incendiary rivalry when they raced karts in Italy more than a decade ago.
Rosberg enters with a 29-point lead over Hamilton in the drivers’ standings, the biggest it has been all season. A big part of that gap was built in the Belgian GP two weeks ago, when Rosberg finished second and Hamilton claimed the German driver acknowledged that he had deliberately crashed into him early in the incident-packed race. The two drivers attended a meeting at the team’s headquarters in England last week, where Mercedes said Rosberg was disciplined after accepting responsibility for the collision.
Still, it remains to be seen how Mercedes will handle the tensions at Monza, the fastest circuit in F1. With Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo claiming his third win of the season in Belgium, Mercedes might want to install team orders to safely secure the drivers’ championship.
Ricciardo was born in Australia to parents of Italian origin, so Monza is a special stop for him. “As a kid when we watched races on TV, dad always rooted for Ferrari, like all the Italians in Australia,” he said. “Although things have changed now that I’m with Red Bull.”
Ricciardo is third in the standings, a distant 64 points behind Rosberg, and doesn’t expect to close the gap too much this weekend considering how fast the Monza track is. “I don’t see who can give Mercedes any bother,” Ricciardo told the Gazzetta.
Far from over
Hamilton won the Italian GP from pole in 2012 but struggled to a ninth-place finish last year. “The Italian Grand Prix is always a special one for me in terms of the memories I have there, going right back to my early career,” the British driver said. “The karting championships used to race in Italy quite often and it’s also where I met Nico, so that’s where our rivalry really began. My aim for the weekend, of course, is to claw back the gap in the drivers’ championship,” Hamilton added.
“It’s as big as it’s been all season so I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me but anything can happen in this sport. I won’t give up until the flag drops in Abu Dhabi and there’s still plenty of points to be won before then, so it’s far from over yet.”
Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso is tired of reading about speculation that he’ll leave Ferrari. “I don’t like certain rumors. They create stress for me and the team,” Alonso told the Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’m honored that other teams have stated that they want me but I’ve been repeating for a year now that I want to stay on with Ferrari. I’ll stay through 2016 and if possible even longer.”
Alonso’s contract with Ferrari expires after the 2016 season, but he hasn’t he signed an extension yet. “We’re close,” Alonso said. “We’re working on it.”
Vettel backs Rosberg
Berlin: Reigning quadruple Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel has backed compatriot Nico Rosberg in his row with teammate Lewis Hamilton over their crash in Spa 10 days ago. Rosberg was disciplined by his Mercedes team after admitting he was responsible for crashing into the back of Hamilton on the second lap of the Belgian Grand Prix.
Although Rosberg has since apologised after initially suggesting he felt he was right to have a go at the overtaking manoeuvre, Vettel has given his backing to the son of F1 great Keke Rosberg. “I think it was just a normal race accident which did not deserve to provoke a discussion about intention,” Vettel said. Vettel added: “No-one tries to break a wing on purpose and no-one wants to be guilty of disloyal driving because most of the time that doesn’t work.”