Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Mercedes Apologise to Lewis Hamilton, More

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2015

Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Mercedes Apologise to Lewis Hamilton, More

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    Ker Robertson/Getty Images

    For much of the afternoon, the Monaco Grand Prix was little more than a leisurely Sunday drive for Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton.

    The Mercedes driver had dominated the race from pole position and was on the verge of a fourth win of the 2015 season until his team threw it all away. 

    When the safety car was deployed in the latter stages, Mercedes opted to call Hamilton into the pit lane when they didn't need to, with the British driver relegated to third by the chequered flag, forcing the team to plead for forgiveness.

    The only reason Mercedes were put in that position in the first place, of course, was due to the crash between Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean, which injected life into an otherwise dull grand prix.

    Verstappen was one of the most impressive performers across the race weekend, but the sorry end to his day, which left his Toro Rosso car spearing into the barriers, has reopened the age-old debate over, well, his age.

    And one of the senior drivers on the grid, no stranger to the occasional on-track incident himself, has argued that the 17-year-old's collision with Grosjean can be directly linked to his lack of experience.

    While Verstappen's crash served to ruin Hamilton's race, it rescued Nico Rosberg's, who took his third straight Monte Carlo victories.

    The German, who has now taken back-to-back wins for the first time in his F1 career, has reignited his championship hopes, and Rosberg has responded to comments made by Bernie Ecclestone, who has revealed why he would prefer to see Hamilton win a third title this season.

    Ecclestone claimed Rosberg isn't a good ambassador for the sport, but one man who is, unquestionably, is Jenson Button, who won the championship in 2009.

    McLaren-Honda have suffered a horrendous start to the season, but after securing the outfit's first points of 2015 in Monaco, Button is hoping the team can maintain their rate of improvement in the coming months.

    Closing this week's roundup is Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen, whose opinions are split over their clash following that fateful safety-car period.

    Here's the best of the fallout from the Monaco GP.

Niki Lauda Admits Mercedes Made a Massive Error with Lewis Hamilton

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    Gero Breloer/Associated Press

    Niki Lauda, the Mercedes non-executive chairman, has admitted the team made a disastrous error of judgement when they decided to pit Hamilton in the latter stages of the Monaco Grand Prix.

    Hamilton had led every lap of the race and was seemingly on course for a fourth victory of the 2015 Formula One season when he headed for the pit lane during the late-race safety-car period.

    But after trading his soft-compound tyres for a set of super-softs, Hamilton would have been horrified when he rejoined the circuit behind team-mate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel with just a handful of laps remaining.

    Despite the advantage of fresher, faster tyres, Hamilton was unable to pass either Vettel or Rosberg, who lucked into a second successive win, on the tight, twisty streets of Monaco, ultimately settling for third.

    Although Hamilton continues to lead the drivers' standings, his points advantage over Rosberg has been sliced from 27 to just 10 points in the space of just two races.

    Hamilton admitted in the post-race FIA press conference that he put forward the idea of pitting after the team had told him to remain on track, but Lauda has insisted that the blame lies firmly with Mercedes, who misjudged the gap between the British driver and his rivals.

    The three-time world champion explained that Mercedes were panicked into the decision, telling Autosport.com's Ian Parkes:

    It was heartbreaking for Lewis, for me and everybody in the team.

    Lewis did say he was not happy with the tyres, but then we over-reacted by bringing him in, which was a mistake.

    It was completely unnecessary, a huge mistake because this is Monaco where you cannot pass.

    I apologised to him and his team because we ended up destroying his race.

Felipe Massa Criticises Max Verstappen After Romain Grosjean Crash

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Mercedes' mishap in the pits can be traced back to the crash between Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean on Lap 63, which resulted in the safety car being deployed.

    The incident marked the end of an eventful first Monaco Grand Prix for Verstappen, who after starting ninth lost part of his front wing in pursuit of Pastor Maldonado before suffering a painfully slow first pit stop.

    With a set of super-soft tyres bolted to his Toro Rosso, the Dutchman was in the midst of a strong recovery drive and was challenging the sister Lotus of Grosjean for 10th place when, as he tried to force his way past at Sainte Devote, Verstappen's front-left wheel collided with the Frenchman's rear-right, sparking a frightening accident.

    Despite a heavy impact—the rookie didn't remove his hands from the wheel as his car shot toward the barrier, which no doubt explains why he later complained of stiffness in his arms to BBC Sport—Verstappen was able to walk away but was handed a five-place grid penalty for the next race in Canada.

    And for good measure, the 17-year-old has incurred the wrath of Williams driver Felipe Massa, Formula One's self-appointed health and safety officer.

    Massa, who survived a life-threatening crash in qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, has been directly involved in two of the biggest on-track incidents in the last 12 months, colliding with Force India's Sergio Perez on the final lap of last year's Canadian GP before rolling into retirement at the start of the race in Germany.

    But the Brazilian, one of the oldest drivers on the grid at 34, has suggested Verstappen's lack of experience may have contributed to the crash, telling Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble:

    What happened was very dangerous. It shows that maybe experience counts in F1.

    It was lucky that he was not hurt because he could have been very hurt with what happened. ...

    I think it was very dangerous for him, to be honest, because he is 17. If he is hurt then everybody will talk about it.

    They will say, why give the licence to a guy who is 17 and he is doing that? But he is not hurt, and everybody is happy. They need to do things in a better way.

    Regrettably, it seems everything Verstappen does in his rookie campaign will be attributed to his age. When he gets it right, age will be nothing but a number; when he gets it wrong, he'll be too young to compete in the highest level of motorsport.

Nico Rosberg Unwilling to Change for Bernie Ecclestone

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    Dan Istitene/Getty Images

    Nico Rosberg may have entered Formula One folklore by becoming the first driver to win three consecutive Monaco grands prix since Ayrton Senna, but it seems he can't count Bernie Ecclestone as one of his biggest fans.

    In a joint interview with the official Formula One website ahead of the Monte Carlo race, F1 CEO Ecclestone admitted that he would rather see Rosberg's Mercedes team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, become world champion, telling the German: "You are not so good for my business."

    Ecclestone claimed Hamilton's high-profile and celebrity lifestyle, including the British driver's fancy for the "red carpet, fashion business and music," is a huge attraction for F1, with Rosberg and his compatriot Sebastian Vettel, he says, struggling to get gain the support of the German supporters.

    The 84-year-old claimed Vettel, despite having four world championships to his name, wouldn't be recognised in the street, and he also criticised Maurizio Arrivabene, the charismatic new Ferrari boss, who has been widely regarded as a breath of fresh air.

    Despite Ecclestone's rather brutal assessment of some of the most notable paddock figures, Rosberg has insisted that he is unmoved by the comments made by the sport's ringmaster.

    The 10-time grand prix winner, son of 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg, told Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble:

    None of that surprises me because he has been very open about that all the time, criticising anybody who is not as out there in the world like Lewis is and his manner.

    The more you are out there, the better it is because you create more tension. That is obvious.

    He [Ecclestone] is the commercial rights holder, so what does he want? He wants a movement out there. And Lewis does a lot of that in his own way. I am a bit more reserved in that sense. ...

    It is a straightforward thing but at the same time I care for the sport, I do think about it and I try to give a lot back to it in my own way.

    Rosberg might not be truly box office but, to his credit, he has led the way in terms of Formula One's increased presence on social media, frequently hosting Q&A sessions with fansThat might be more valuable to Ecclestone than he realises.

Jenson Button Relieved to Get McLaren-Honda off the Mark

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Prior to Sunday's race, McLaren-Honda was the only chassis-engine combination to have a 100 per cent record at the Monaco Grand Prix, with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost winning every event during the manufacturers' historic alliance between 1988 and 1992.

    The team were never going to maintain that record this season, but for much of the weekend it seemed the Woking-based outfit were set to miss a golden opportunity to register their first points of the 2015 campaign.

    Both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button once again failed to reach Q3 in qualifying, with the former's car coming to a halt halfway through the session and the latter being denied a chance to improve his lap time due to yellow flags.

    That misfortune continued into the race when Alonso was handed a penalty for colliding with Nico Hulkenberg, the Force India driver, on the opening lap before again stopping after 41 laps due to what the team claimed was an overheating problem.

    But Button, arguably the faster McLaren driver across the weekend, enjoyed a clean race on Sunday, ultimately finishing a comfortable eighth.

    And although the 2009 world champion—who failed to finish any higher than 11th in the opening five races and didn't even start the Bahrain GP—has admitted the team will not be satisfied until they secure a first grand prix victory since 2012, Button believes they achieved more than they anticipated at the Monte Carlo race.

    Button told Autosport.com's Scott Mitchell:

    It was a positive day for us. We didn't expect to finish eighth, so it's a good performance and I'm very proud of the whole team.

    It's been a very difficult year and it's not suddenly going to leap us forward to winning.

    We need a win, but this is a great stepping stone to winning in the future.

    We've made progress every race but when you score points, that's when people notice. ...

    Hopefully this will carry us forward to better things.

Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen Disagree over Stewards Decision

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    Dan Istitene/Getty Images

    While Lewis Hamilton was the biggest loser of the late-race safety car, Daniel Ricciardo was one of the biggest winners.

    Like Hamilton, Ricciardo headed for the pit lane after Verstappen's crash with Grosjean and took a set of super-soft tyres ahead of the restart.

    When the race resumed, the Australian made quick progress, pushing Kimi Raikkonen aside at Mirabeau and, after Red Bull team-mate Daniil Kvyat waved him past, challenging Hamilton for third.

    Having been unable to pass Hamilton, Ricciardo eased his pace dramatically at the end to allow Kvyat to reclaim fourth in a great display of sportsmanship. 

    But Raikkonen believes the three-time grand prix winner should have been forced to give back fifth position too.

    The Finn was left less than impressed with Ricciardo's overtake at Mirabeau in a move that was not entirely dissimilar to the first-lap incident between Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg, which saw the Spaniard handed a penalty.

    The Raikkonen-Ricciardo incident was subject to a late investigation by the race stewards, who decided to take no action. And the 2007 world champion has argued that the authorities are inconsistent in their application of penalties, claiming it was "obvious" that the Red Bull driver deserved a penalty.

    Raikkonen told Autosport.com's Ben Anderson and Scott Mitchell: "It's not very clear what you're allowed to do and what you're not allowed to do because someone can get a penalty for something and another cannot."

    "It usually is a penalty for these kind of things and this time not."

    Ricciardo, meanwhile, said he "appreciated" the decision, telling Motorsport.com's Andrew van Leeuwen how "it’s hard to get a clean move without a little contact in Monaco."

    And considering that Raikkonen tried to squeeze Ricciardo toward the apex at Mirabeau as he tried to defend the position, the stewards were probably right to view the clash as nothing more than a racing incident.


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