Nico Rosberg’s brutal moves on Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at the Bahrain Grand Prix raised eyebrows and tempers around the Formula One community, but according to the stewards, he did nothing wrong.
The results of the investigation have been released, and Rosberg was cleared of all wrongdoing. You can read the details of the verdict here.
To précis the substance of the matter for both incidents, Hamilton and Alonso were both clearly behind Rosberg as he came out of Turn 3, so he was free to choose whatever line he liked, providing he stuck to it.
Interestingly, if Hamilton or Alonso had stuck to the normal racing line coming out of the corner, they probably could have passed Rosberg quite easily and he wouldn’t have been able to respond.
Hamilton simply buried his right foot and drove around Rosberg on the track apron. Alonso, however, backed out and resorted to the time-honoured method of complaining loudly to his team in the hope that the stewards were listening.
While the inevitable comparisons have been made to Mercedes teammate Michael Schumacher, the contention that Rosberg somehow did something wrong is silly.
The situation is nearly identical to the one between Schumacher and Hamilton at Monza in 2011 which was also given the green light by the stewards. Conspiracy theorists will say that Mercedes gets a special deal from the Charlie Whiting, but what both drivers did was within the rules.
Besides, a completely different set of conspiracy theorists say that Ferrari get a special deal—but they can’t all be right.
All of these incidents differed dramatically from the one between Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello in Hungary in 2010, where Barrichello came within a whisker of being run into a wall. The difference was that Rubens was alongside when Schumacher moved over.
Fernando Alonso said in a post-race interview with Formula1.com, “As for the incident with Rosberg, I can only say that if, instead of such a wide run-off area there had been a wall, I’m not sure I’d be here now to talk about it.”
If he was dumb enough to drive into the wall, then he would have deserved the consequences. He certainly wasn’t forced off the track.
One thing that has been missed in all of the examination of Rosberg is the fact that Hamilton deliberately drove off the track to gain a position. The rules are very clear about leaving the confines of the track without justifiable reasons.
Overtaking probably doesn’t count as one of those reasons. Hamilton may well have dodged a bullet.
Of course, had this been a traditional track instead of one of Hermann Tilke's Nerf tracks, there's no way he would have got away with it.
Opinion will be divided as to whether Rosberg’s actions were right or wrong.
They certainly didn’t look pretty, but that’s not the same as saying they were illegal. In both cases, the manoeuvres were made to look worse by the actions of the following drivers and they both had other options.
Were Rosberg’s actions sporting? Probably not, but were they legal?
Absolutely, so get on with racing.