Hamilton versus Rosberg tension remains high

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton during happier times

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton during happier times

The Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton show rumbled into Monza on Thursday and this time the Mercedes teammates kept their distance.

The Formula One title rivals could at least be said to be obeying orders after a week dominated by the fallout of their second-lap collision at the Belgian Grand Prix 11 days earlier.

Mercedes had read the riot act after Spa, where Rosberg hit Hamilton and effectively ended the Briton’s race and team hopes of a one-two finish, telling them they could race but contact on the track was not on.

They seemed to have taken the latter part of the admonition to heart when they attended an official news conference ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, their last race in Europe this season.

There was no public handshake for a start. If expectations had soared to the point where some would not have been surprised to see the pair jogging in from separate corners, to pounding music and strobe lighting, reality soon reasserted itself.

In the end, it was not so much what they said as how they said it – a day when the body language offered itself for interpretation.

Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton during their year as McLaren teammates

Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton during their year as McLaren teammates

Ferrari‘s Fernando Alonso, who had a stormy year as Hamilton’s teammate at McLaren in 2007, provided the buffer zone – sitting on the front row between the unsmiling German and his English rival.

Hamilton embraced the Spaniard, giving him a friendly slap on the shoulder, and then amused himself taking a ‘selfie’ and picture of his audience using the Mercedes press officer’s mobile while Rosberg stared fixedly ahead.

The German had accepted responsibility last week for what he called an “error of judgment” and was handed an unspecified punishment by the team.

“I took the week to think about it and had a look at it and discussed with the team on Friday and I just in the end decided that it was me who should take responsibility for it,” he said as the questions began.

“In Spa definitely I was not proud of the way it went because in general I really want to contribute to ‘my sport’ in inverted commas.”

Returning to the subject later, Rosberg denied he had been made to apologise by the team and revealed Mercedes F1 non-executive chairman Niki Lauda had rung to apologise for heated comments made in the immediate aftermath of the race.

Niki Lauda in the Mercedes pit garage

Niki Lauda in the Mercedes pit garage

“It definitely was a decision that came from me after hearing people’s opinions and after having looked at it myself again,” said Rosberg.

Hamilton, now 29 points behind Rosberg with seven races remaining, professed nonchalance as he surveyed a packed room with more media crammed into it than at any race this season.

“I’m really excited about moving forward, I feel energetic,” he said. “I had a couple of days’ break last week, so excited to be here.

Asked whether he had found “a baseline of trust” to move forward with Rosberg, he smiled: “I knew you were going to say that…trust is a big word and it’s not something I would particularly apply to racing on the track.

“Naturally, me and Nico have been racing for a long time and I think we have set a good foundation a long, long time ago so that’s what we work from.”

It was only when one reporter asked Alonso whether he could be the “ambassador for peace” between Rosberg and Hamilton that the sun broke through.

“Ah, no. I’m definitely not an ambassador for peace,” said the Ferrari man to general laughter and smiles on either side.

“They have a clear target, which is winning the world championship, both of them. They are in a privileged position, which is to fight for that goal. From the outside we will try to enjoy to the maximum this beautiful battle.

“The sport is made of these kind of things. They have a good problem: Fight for the world championship.” (Reuters)