was going to say. He’d made a mistake. He’d misjudged the moment. He hadn’t intended to take Lewis out; he’d just wanted to crowd him. Could he, though, admit that he’d got it wrong? Drivers of his calibre aren’t supposed to make these sorts of errors; they are presumed to have perfect judgement.
As the race progressed, Nico became more confused. His mind wandered into time-wasting, tyre-damaging passes down the inside in vain attempts to overtake Seb Vettel. Despite driving the fastest car, and being on fresher, softer tyres, he could do nothing about Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull in the closing laps. He nished second – but by then he had composed his story. Far from admitting a mistake, he would instead tell the team that he’d hit Lewis intentionally. That was the macho thing to do.
And while Nico had to live with that, and with the impact it made on the team, his words had an unexpected effect on Lewis. Initially incensed, by mid-week Lewis had found a new level of condence. It went like this: ‘If Nico has to resort to that sort of stuff to beat me, then he’s never going to outrace me or outdrive me. Assuming mechanical reliability, I’m going to win.’
Therefore it was a new Lewis Hamilton who raced at Monza – just as it was a new Nico Rosberg who raced in front of the Italian crowds. Lewis Mk II (Mercedes era) had never been more condent, more sure of his car, more comfortable with his team and his position within it. By contrast, Nico Mk II was less condent, chastened by the ne imposed by the team management, and confused by his own understanding and explanation of what had happened at Spa.
Suddenly it was Nico who was locking-up the front Carbone Industrie brakes and using second gear where Lewis would be snicking it into third. Suddenly it was Nico who was using more fuel than Lewis. Suddenly it was Nico who was making major unforced errors in race conditions. The momentum shift was enormous.
Both Mercedes drivers struggled with brake temperatures in Hungary, in the wet – and with the potential for glazed discs – but it was Lewis who better managed the small-window CIs. He started from the pitlane in the spare W05 (Rosberg raced the same chassis – 04 – all year; Hamilton raced 05 apart from Hungary, where he raced the spare chassis – 03 – after his race car caught re in Q1), worked his way through the eld, lost time to the leaders when Nico became trapped behind Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso, and then ignored ‘instructions’ when informed from the pitwall that Nico was on an alternate tyre strategy. Although Toto Wolff told the Austrian press immediately after the Hungarian GP that Lewis’s lack of response had cost Nico a win, it’s clear that Lewis was correct to ignore the instruction and that Mercedes were wrong to give it to him: Lewis’s car lost fuel pressure over the last six laps in Hungary. He would undoubtedly have won that race with a healthy engine. And his tyres were in good enough shape, contrary to explanations given
The turning point: when Nico struck Lewis at Spa, Lewis lost the race but gained the moral high ground that motivated him all the way to his second title