The rivalry between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton for the Formula One title is turning into a full-blown scrap – both on and off the track.
Rosberg won the Monaco Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday to take the championship lead back from Hamilton, who won the previous four races but was left infuriated by Rosberg’s sudden and late accident the day before in qualifying.
The win was a fifth straight 1-2 finish for Mercedes, which has swept all six races this season, but that’s the only type of harmony in the team. Tension is building, with Hamilton appearing unhappy before, during and after the race.
“It’s a fierce battle between me and Nico and will continue that way,” he said. “I’m going to keep my head up and keep pushing.”
Rosberg drew his teammate’s ire in qualifying when his late error led to a yellow flag and ended Hamilton’s chances of beating his time with a final flying lap.
Rosberg denied that he caused the incident intentionally and he was cleared of any wrongdoing by race stewards.
He went on to clinch his second victory of the season and fifth of his career, repeating his maiden GP win from pole here in Monaco last year. He leads Hamilton by four points in the drivers’ standings, 122-118. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who was fourth, is already 57 points behind Hamilton.
“It’s a special win, definitely, because Lewis has had the momentum with results,” Rosberg said.
He finished 9.2 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who was 0.4 faster than Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull. Four-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel’s frustrating season with Red Bull continued as he abandoned the race on lap eight with a power unit failure.
Hamilton and Rosberg raced each other in their junior karting days, but they did not appear to shake hands after the race, and Hamilton looked visibly tense in the post-match race conference as he sat next to Rosberg.
He revealed that he and Rosberg had not even been in the post-qualifying debriefing together on Saturday.
“Nico did his big debrief before I got there, which is not what we normally do,” Hamilton said. “Fortunately the engineers wrote down what Nico said.”
Even at the drivers’ pre-race parade they were at opposite ends of the circuit, and now they have six months left together until the end of the season, starting with the Canadian GP in two weeks’ time.
Hamilton said after the race that he “drove fairly all weekend,” which sounded like a veiled swipe at Rosberg.
During the race, a tense Hamilton snapped back at his team when told that Ricciardo was closing on him.
“I don’t care about Ricciardo, what’s the gap to continued…