Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton/Nico Rosberg, Renault, More

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2015

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton/Nico Rosberg, Renault, More

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    Toru Takahashi/Associated Press

    Nico Rosberg made a very public point of telling Lewis Hamilton he was unhappy with the way the Brit drove during Sunday's Formula One Chinese Grand Prix.

    Hamilton drove very conservatively in his middle stint to protect his soft compound tyres. This caused Rosberg to come under pressure from Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari, and he made his feelings very clear in the post-race press conference.

    Another pair of drivers had a far more significant reason to fall out, but Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado didn't have a bad word to say about each other after their coming together on track.

    The stewards, however, had other ideas. Button, who apologised for the incident, is now the "proud" owner of his first two super licence penalty points. He also received a five-second time penalty, which dropped him from 13th to 14th.

    Elsewhere, Renault admit they will need a month to fix their reliability issues, Ferrari never truly believed they could beat Mercedes in China and Romain Grosjean thought of Jules Bianchi as he crossed the line for his first points since last year's Monaco Grand Prix.

    Read on for a full roundup of the top stories coming out of the race weekend.

Nico Rosberg Unhappy with Lewis Hamilton's Tactics

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    Andy Wong/Associated Press

    Nico Rosberg was less than happy with team-mate Lewis Hamilton's tactics after finishing second in the Chinese Grand Prix.

    Hamilton drove well within the limits of the car in the second stint to prolong the life of his tyres. This backed up Rosberg into potential undercut range for Sebastian Vettel.

    He made his displeasure clear several times on the team radio. In the official post-race press conference, Hamilton indicated his main interest was looking after his own car. Rosberg responded:

    It’s just now interesting to hear from you, Lewis, that you were just thinking about yourself with the pace in front, and necessarily that was compromising my race.

    Driving slower than was maybe necessary at the beginning of stints meant that Sebastian was very close to me and that opened up the opportunity for Sebastian to try that early pit stop to try and jump me. And then I had to cover him.

    So, first of all it was unnecessarily close with Sebastian as a result, and also it cost me a lot of race time as a result because I had to cover him and then my tyres died at the end of the race because my stint was just so much longer.

    So I’m unhappy about that, of course, today. Other than that, not much to say.

    Asked for a reply, Hamilton said:

    My job is not to…it’s not my job to look after Nico’s race. My job's to manage the car and bring the car home as healthy and as fast as possibleand that’s what I did. I didn’t do anything intentionally to slow any of the cars up. I just was focussing on myself.

    If Nico wanted to get by he could have tried but he didn’t.

    Rosberg later revealed on Twitter that he was choosing not to attack at that stage as he had "destroyed" his tyres earlier in the race when he did try to overtake his team-mate. He felt trying again on the same soft tyres would not work, and he was aiming to have a crack at the end of the race.

    In the event, that proved beyond himHamilton, with slightly fresher medium tyres, was quicker and able to manage a comfortable gap.

    Both drivers have a point of sorts, and the whole disagreement comes down to the old issue of the driver's interest versus the interests of the team. Hamilton was well within his rights to drive at whatever speed he wished and had no personal reason to go quicker.

    It would also have been better for him had Vettel got ahead of Rosberg. Mercedes, however, want their cars to finish first and secondhence the radio messages to Hamilton asking him to drive quicker.

    F1 is a sport for both teams and individuals, and if Mercedes continue with their policy of allowing their drivers to race, we're likely to see this situation arise again.

    But regardless of the rights and wrongs, Rosberg's commentsthough great for us to hearwould probably have been better made in private.

    There's no benefit to letting the world know your team-mate has you rattled.

Renault Facing Long Road to Recovery

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    Andy Wong/Associated Press

    Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul admits the manufacturer's target for solving their reliability problems is more than a month away.

    Speaking after the race, which saw two Renault-engined cars retire due to power-unit failures, he told press at the circuit:

    We knew we had this reliability risk above our heads. Obviously it struck today, not the best day.

    We knew it was a weakness so there was a plan in place. We need to make sure the plan is good enough for the size of the issues we had today, and whether it can be addressed fairly quickly.

    I'm not quite sure from a logistical perspective that it could be addressed for Bahrain, but certainly our aim has been to have absolutely no reliability issues by Monaco. We knew that the first engine we built had some reliability weaknesses.

    The plan is to make sure that the future engine we will be building has absolutely no reliability issues.

    The Monaco Grand Prix Abiteboul mentions takes place on May 24. Before then, F1 visits Bahrain (April 19) and Spain (May 10). If the reliability problems are indeed fixed by then, Red Bull and Toro Rosso can at least expect to finish their home race in mid-Junebut reliability isn't the only issue.

    The Renault unit is also significantly down on power.

    We saw this during Sunday's race, one battle in particular giving a very clear view. Even with DRS assistance and a better exit from the long Turn 13 leading onto the back straight, Daniel Ricciardo was repeatedly unable to get close to Marcus Ericsson's Sauber during their lengthy duel.

    But finding a fix for that problem is even further away. Abiteboul admitted, "When you have to address reliability issues you're not necessarily in a position to address power, which is also still missing."

    Per Autosport, a mid-season engine upgrade was always on the cards. But at this rate, the season could be all but over before it's ready to go.

Jenson Button Apologises to Pastor Maldonado and Receives Penalty Points

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    Andy Wong/Associated Press

    Jenson Button has picked up his first super-licence penalty points after accepting the blame for his collision with Pastor Maldonado.

    After a long and exciting duel, Maldonado passed Button at the penultimate corner on Lap 47. The McLaren driver fought back, following his rival closely onto the pit straight and attempting to re-pass into Turn 1.

    However, Button misjudged his entry to the corner and ran into the back of Maldonado. The Lotus was sent into a spin and retired soon after, while Button suffered front-wing damage.

    The pair were summoned to the stewards after the race, and Button was quick to admit he was at fault. The stewards' decision stated, "The driver of car 22 admitted that he had made a mistake and had caused a collision with car 13 in Turn 1," and that the Brit had received a five-second time penalty and two penalty points.

    Button later apologised to Maldonado on Twittera rarity in this age of seemingly blameless drivers and never-ending finger-pointing.

    Great to battle all the way today to a 2 car finish in Shanghai, Sorry @Pastormaldo 4 getting a little over excited #MclarenHonda #Progress

    — Jenson Button (@JensonButton) April 12, 2015

    Maldonado gave his own view of the incident on the Lotus website, saying, "This can easily happen when you’re fighting for position, braking off-line and using DRS, so it’s just one of those things.”

    Roberto Merhi also received a five-second time penalty and two points on his licence after the stewards ruled he had driven too quickly following the safety car deployment.

Ferrari Were Under No Illusions Heading into China

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    Toru Takahashi/Associated Press

    Ferrari were not surprised by Mercedes' return to winning ways in China, with team boss Maurizio Arrivabene admitting he knew his team would not be able to compete on pure speed.

    Speaking after the race, he was quoted by Autosport saying:

    After Malaysia was a big, big happiness for all of us, and here we were expecting exactly what's happened. Here, for us, it was not new news that Mercedes was very strong.

    Our strategy was to be near them as much as possible, to take advantages of any mistakes. So it's happened exactly as we have in mind, so I think we have achieved our objective.

    Sebastian Vettel also accepted he could not have really pushed Mercedes for the winor even second placebut added he is optimistic Ferrari can continue to close the gap. Speaking at the post-race press conference, he said:

    Towards the end I think they were just too quick. They were pulling away. Nico had a sequence of really, really quick lap timesso we couldn't do thatbut all-in-all, as I said, closer here, which is great for us, and in front of the other teams.

    If we keep doing that, and keep getting closer, obviously there’s a point where we are some real challenge for these guys, which I’m looking forward to.

    Ferrari did indeed look closer, but it's possible they were flattered by Mercedes' caution on the soft tyres.

    Race winner Lewis Hamilton was in cruise control for much of the opening half of the race, and at the end of each stint he had plenty of life left in his tyres. Vettel seemingly had lesshis pace dropped off toward the end of his opening two stints, while that of the two Mercedes increased.

    Per the FIA's timing charts, the four-time world champion's hard-pushing in-lap before his second stop was one minute, 48.687 seconds. Hamilton's, on tyres two laps older, was a 1:47.504 and Rosberg did a 1:47.946.

    In the final stint, with less worry over the wear of the medium compound, Hamilton extended his lead over Vettel from 10.107 seconds at the end of Lap 35 to 20.253 seconds on Lap 53.

    One suspects that period, not the early part of the race, was more representative of the gap between the two teams.

Romain Grosjean Dedicates Points Finish to Jules Bianchi

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    Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

    Romain Grosjean dedicated his seventh-place finish at the Chinese Grand Prix to countryman Jules Bianchi.

    Bianchi remains in a French hospital after sustaining severe head injuries at last season's Japanese Grand Prix. He scored the only points of his short F1 career at 2014's Monaco Grand Prixalso the scene of Grosjean's last points before Sunday.

    April 6 marked six months since the crash, and Grosjean was quoted by Motorsport.com's Adam Cooper, saying:

    When I crossed the line there were big thoughts for Jules.

    Last time I scored points he was scoring points as well. I think if I can give him a little bit of energy and a little bit of something for the fight he's inI believe if you never give up, it goes true.

    It was a s--t day, that six months anniversary. It feels hard, he's with me on my helmet, I'm sending him as much thoughts and power as I can from what we do. I'm just hoping that a miracle happens.

    Bianchi's accident led to a number of recommendations to improve safety in F1, including the virtual safety car and much-needed earlier start times for certain races.

    He remains very much in the thoughts of the whole F1 community.

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