ROSBERG’S NEW OFF-TRACK TACTIC ISN’T WORKING, WRITES DANIEL JOHNSON
Are we watching the self-destruction of Nico Rosberg, who for much of last season seemed not miles away from being Lewis Hamilton’s equal?
His outburst after last week’s China GP was extraordinary. Beaten again, he is clearly at his wits end. But it would be too soon to write the German off as a man who has lost control.
There was a detectable element of premeditation in the way he challenged Hamilton publicly after the race.
Presented with the current situation — Hamilton is driving faster and better — Rosberg has to find some means of destabilising his team-mate. Being overtly generous wasn’t working, so why not try stirring things up a bit?
But it backfired spectacularly in Shanghai. It is not Rosberg’s style — he is usually moderate and calm. My feeling is that if he pursues this tactic, it will serve only to further weaken him, rather than his foe.
The hard truth is there is only one way to knock Hamilton off form — qualify on pole and win the race. Starting in Bahrain this weekend.
■Hamilton does some dippy things but spraying champagne in the face of a woman on the Shanghai podium was not one of them.
It was decried as a sexist act, but Hamilton sprayed champagne in Rosberg and Vettel’s faces too so it was a gender-neutral act.
There are no worries of a similar repeat in Bahrain — rose water, rather than champagne, is sprayed for religious reasons.
The winner’s podium champagne spray was gender neutral.
■The Bahrainis — specifically their sovereign wealth fund, Mumtakalat — are the reason Ron Dennis regained control of McLaren in 2014. He convinced the 50 per cent shareholders to return him to the helm. Other than signing Alonso, they don’t have much to show for it.
This will be a big race for McLaren. They don’t promise much on the performance front, but the team’s wealthy backers will be watching closely. Another disaster could leave a lasting impression.
■Ferrari left China in astonishingly optimistic mood despite being roundly beaten by Mercedes.
Kimi Raikkonen, never one to mince his words, was asked if he thought the Italian team could catch Mercedes this year.
“Yes, I don’t see any reason why not,” the Iceman said.
If he is right, this is terrific news for Formula One. Two teams and possibly four drivers in the championship hunt. As Murray Walker would say, ‘faaaaaaaantaaastic!’
Bahrain won’t be the best indicator — that will have to wait until the Spanish Grand Prix next month, when teams bring a major upgrade package. But Raikkonen clearly knows something we don’t.
■Can Bahrain deliver again? Hamilton and Rosberg’s duel last year was the zenith of a race that was remarkable all the way down the field. It was an instant classic.
It might be too much to expect the same of Bahrain this year — there is every possibility it could be a dud, as it has been for most of its 10 or so years on the calendar — but we can always hope.