“Was Ros­berg dis­tracted for a mil­lisec­ond?”

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - AN­THONY ROWLINSON Pho­tos: LAT AGREE/DIS­AGREE? mn.let­ters@hay­mar­ket.com

The ques­tion is... why? Why was Nico Ros­berg in the wrong en­gine mode at the start of the Span­ish GP, forc­ing him to make what ap­peared to be an ad­just­ment as he ex­ited the high-speed Turn 3, hav­ing felt his power unit go into ‘har­vest mode’?

As MN left the Cir­cuit de Catalunya, Mer­cedes had no an­swer to this ques­tion, and were con­duct­ing a tech­ni­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tion to try to find one. But what is known is this: Nico, from P2, once again got the bet­ter of the start over pole­man Hamil­ton and passed Lewis around the out­side of Turn 1, mak­ing the move stick through T2 and into T3.

Then came trou­ble. Ros­berg’s en­gine was “down on K power” ac­cord­ing to Mer­cedes, leav­ing him about 160bhp short of the full quota as he ex­ited T3. The power loss re­sulted in a speed dif­fer­en­tial of ap­prox­i­mately 16km/h (10mph) be­tween Ros­berg and a clos­ing Hamil­ton. Lewis, alert to an im­mi­nent pass­ing op­por­tu­nity, was fur­ther en­cour­aged by the flash­ing of the red rear light on Ros­berg’s W07 Hy­brid – an ex­ter­nal in­di­ca­tion of his PU hav­ing en­tered ‘har­vest mode’. This was hap­pen­ing in the heat of a first-lap bat­tle, at around 150mph, in split sec­onds on the ap­proach to Turn 4.

Hamil­ton, see­ing Ros­berg’s car had a prob­lem, moved to the right to line up an in­side pass on Nico. As his Merc be­gan to pass Ros­berg’s, Nico was mak­ing ad­just­ments with his left hand to a steering wheel con­trol. He ini­tially stated that he was “press­ing the over­tak­ing but­ton on the top left of the steering wheel”. “I know where it is with­out look­ing,” he said. “It wasn’t a dis­trac­tion.”

But a dif­fer­ing anal­y­sis came from An­thony David­son, who is em­ployed as a Mer­cedes sim­u­la­tor driver and who is there­fore in­ti­mately ac­quainted with the car’s cock­pit con­trols. He sug­gested to MN that Ros­berg was in fact at­tempt­ing to switch en­gine modes, to re­lease it from a ‘har­vest’ set­ting and was do­ing this at the very mo­ment he came un­der at­tack from Hamil­ton. Ros­berg later hinted this was cor­rect.

Could he there­fore have been dis­tracted for a mil­lisec­ond, just when he needed to de­fend him­self from Hamil­ton at a cor­ner not reg­u­larly used for over­tak­ing?

“There was no sur­prise,” Ros­berg in­sisted. “It was a nor­mal bat­tle. I was well aware where Lewis was. I moved over as early as pos­si­ble in a very clear strong man­ner, to make sure that he didn’t go up the in­side.”

By this time, how­ever, it was too late. Sens­ing a gap, Lewis fol­lowed his racer’s in­stinct and went for it. But Nico’s de­fence edged Hamil­ton onto the track­side grass and be­yond the point of no re­turn. Lewis spun out of con­trol and into Ros­berg, elim­i­nat­ing both cars from a race they were likely to have dom­i­nated.

A stew­ards’ en­quiry fol­lowed but no ac­tion was taken against ei­ther driver – the shunt hav­ing been deemed a “rac­ing in­ci­dent”.

That may close the mat­ter as far as the FIA is con­cerned, but at Mer­cedes, an al­ready sim­mer­ing in­tra-team bat­tle just got turned up to 11.

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