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

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2016

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

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    Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

    Most, if not all, people in Formula One were in agreement that Nico Rosberg was the driver at fault for his collision with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the Austrian Grand Prix.

    Under braking for Turn 2, the championship leader made no real attempt to turn into the corner and allowed his car to roll into the side of his rival's, pushing Hamilton wide and then attempting to stop the British driver rejoining the track.

    Rosberg was fortunate to escape with a 10-second time penalty that had no effect on his finishing position, but the German has insisted it was Hamilton to blame for the third collision in five races between the Mercedes drivers.

    For his part, Hamilton was adamant he did everything in his power to avoid another crash between the Silver Arrows and has pleaded with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff to refrain from implementing the dreaded team orders.

    The latest collision between the pair is likely to harm Rosberg's contract negotiations with Mercedes, with the German yet to sign a new deal with the team beyond 2016.

    If, as some suspect, Rosberg and Hamilton are unable to co-exist, Mercedes may have a ready-made replacement in Pascal Wehrlein, who scored his maiden F1 point and the Manor team's first in two years in Austria.

    Having suffered from extreme degradation all season long, Wehrlein was surprised by the team's tyre management at the Red Bull Ring, with Manor's Dave Ryan suggesting the youngster could have finished even higher had blue flags not intervened in his battle with Williams' Valtteri Bottas.

    Like Wehrlein, Jenson Button was also celebrating his best result of 2016 after finishing sixth, but he has warned not to expect too much from McLaren-Honda ahead of his home race at Silverstone.

    Closing our post-Austrian GP roundup is Ferrari Sebastian Vettel, whose championship hopes are in tatters after a rear-right tyre failure led to a third retirement in nine races.

Nico Rosberg Upset After Being Blamed for Austrian GP Collision

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    Nico Rosberg has insisted he was not to blame for his collision with Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the Austrian Grand Prix, despite the stewards handing him a post-race penalty.

    After starting sixth due to a gearbox change, Rosberg's early first pit stop allowed him to jump ahead of polesitter Hamilton, with the Mercedes cars tracking each other closely in the second half of the Spielberg race.

    On the more durable soft-compound tyres compared to his team-mate's supersoft rubber, Hamilton had a pace advantage in the latter stages of the race and attempted to pass Rosberg around the outside of Turn 2.

    Rosberg pushed the three-time world champion wide, but in doing so dislodged his own front wing and dropped to fourth place as Hamilton, with a relatively undamaged car, registered his third victory of 2016.

    After the race, Rosberg told Sky Sports' Pete Gill and Emma Walker he—struggling with brake and tyre wear in the closing laps—was "very surprised that Lewis turned in" and "caused a collision."

    And after receiving a 10-second time penalty—as well as a reprimand for continuing with a damaged car—Rosberg has again protested his innocence but admitted he was ashamed after the Mercedes drivers collided for the third time in five races.

    Per Autosport (h/t Eurosport), the German—whose points advantage over Hamilton has been sliced from 24 to 11—explained:

    I got penalised by the stewards for the incident.

    I got 10 seconds, which doesn't change my result, but they give me the blame, which sucks.

    I respect that, but I'm of a different opinion. It doesn't help.

    I also got a reprimand for the broken front wing because it's deemed dangerous.

    I tried to drive as carefully as possible.

    It's really hard to get over something like that because I had the win in the bag, I was convinced I'd win it.

    Then to lose it like that on the last lap, especially in those circumstances, that's a pretty tough one.

    I'm really gutted also for the team because it's so bad every time when we collide like that.

    It's terrible. It's really the worst thing that can happen.

    I didn't lose that many points today, but for the team it's really not good.

    I'll try and forget it as quickly as possible, and enjoy some family time, and then the next race comes up so quickly.

    I just want to come back strong again and go for another win.

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told Gill and Walker the friendly fire between Rosberg and Hamilton "needs to end," suggesting Mercedes "are looking like a bunch of idiots and it's disrespectful to 1,500 people who work their nuts off to prepare the cars."

    The Silver Arrows have allowed their drivers to race freely since the beginning of 2014, but Wolff admitted the prospect of team orders "is on the table now" as it may be "the only way [Mercedes] can manage the situation."

    Meanwhile, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner—who was forced to manage tensions between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at the height of his team's dominance—argued the partnership between Hamilton and Rosberg is no longer tenable, per Autosport (h/t Eurosport).

Lewis Hamilton Describes Last-Lap Collision with Nico Rosberg in Austria

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    Lewis Hamilton has insisted there was nothing "controversial" about his final-lap collision with Nico Rosberg in the Austrian Grand Prix after claiming his third win of the 2016 season.

    With Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel suffering five-place grid penalties, the three-time world champion was left with a clear route to victory at the Red Bull Ring, but despite extending his first stint on ultrasoft tyres to 21 laps, Hamilton found himself behind his team-mate after the opening round of pit stops.

    Hamilton remained close to his team-mate, and when Rosberg made an error at the first corner on the last lap, the Englishman tried to pass the No. 6 car around the outside of Turn 2, but he was shoved off track.

    The damage done to Rosberg's front wing allowed Hamilton to take the lead with relative ease, with the British driver's third win in the last four races seeing him take a significant chunk out of his team-mate's lead in the drivers' standings.

    According to Motorsport.com's Valentin Khorounzhiy, Hamilton—who was booed during the podium ceremony—revealed he didn't believe the collision with "controversial" in any way but was adamant he did everything possible to avoid a collision.

    Per Autosport (h/t Eurosport), he said:

    I would've loved to have gone to the inside but he covered the inside so I had to go to the outside, but even got past him—which was mega. It's very hard to do that here.

    If he had done [Turn 1] normally as he'd done the lap before I wouldn't have had the chance, but fortunately the opportunity came.

    I don't go out to get involved in a collision. Today as you saw I drove as wide as possible within the white lines so I left a larger space, three cars could've came on the inside there.

    Honestly I don't really want to get into any negatives. I just want to focus on the fact that I won today.

    You guys can see the move and take your own opinion from that.

    I have my own opinion but I'm going to keep that to myself and try to focus on that race.

    The team want to finish first and second. That's my goal and the team's goal and I want to be at the front of that, but certain circumstances have led us to where we are today.

    Meanwhile, Hamilton has pleaded with Mercedes to avoid imposing team orders, suggesting he grew up wanting to "race the best and be the best, by outdriving another individual" rather than being gifted victories.

    Per Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble, Hamilton added "it is not always going to be blue skies and perfect" when Mercedes allow the drivers to compete freely, paying tribute to Toto Wolff and non-executive chairman Niki Lauda for being "great" and letting them race.

Pascal Wehrlein Surprised by Manor's Strong Austrian GP Pace

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    Pascal Wehrlein has admitted he was surprised by Manor's strong pace during the Austrian Grand Prix after securing the team's first points finish in more than two years.

    The German equalled Manor's best-ever grid position of 12th in qualifying, but he warned the race itself would be "a different story" given the MRT05 car's struggles with rear-tyre degradation, per the team's official website.

    After parking in the wrong grid spot just seconds before the start, Wehrlein made a solid start to the race but dropped to the rear of the field after making his one and only pit stop just three laps before Sebastian Vettel's crash on the main straight resulted in the deployment of the safety car.

    Despite his concerns over tyre management, Wehrlein spent 47 laps on the soft-compound tyres and pressurised Williams' Valtteri Bottas, who was on much fresher, softer rubber, in the closing laps of the race.

    Blue flags to allow the race leaders to pass appeared to bring an end to Wehrlein's challenge for points, but Sergio Perez's crash on the final lap allowed the youngster to finish 10th and score Manor's first points since the late Jules Bianchi's ninth-place finish at Monaco 2014.

    Per Autosport (h/t Eurosport), the Mercedes-backed youngster has revealed he thought his prospects of a points finish were extinguished when the safety car appeared and was amazed by his car's tyre management, stating:

    I thought 'the race is done' because we were so unlucky with the safety car.

    But I kept pushing and trying to manage my tyres because I didn't want to stop again.

    I was hoping to get a crazy scenario when [Nico] Rosberg and [Lewis] Hamilton were coming in the blue flags and have an advantage because of that.

    Otherwise it would have been difficult to overtake [Bottas] because he was on 10 or 15 lap old supersofts and I was on more than 40 laps old soft tyres.

    I was still able to fight with him so it was a great performance today from the car and I don't know where it was coming from.

    [...]

    It's the first weekend that we are not struggling with tyre temperature.

    We don't have so much downforce as the other teams and downforce puts a lot of energy into the tyres.

    It's the first weekend we are even overheating the tyres. We haven't had this before and it helped us a lot.

    According to the same source, racing director Dave Ryan revealed Manor were confident Wehrlein would have overtaken Bottas "quite easily" had it not been for the ill-timed blue flags.

    Wehrlein's first points finish has come at an ideal time for his career prospects, with the 21-year-old recently telling the official F1 website he is "ready" to race for Mercedes if Rosberg is unable to agree a contract extension.

Jenson Button Warns McLaren-Honda Won't 'Improve Overnight' After Austrian GP

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    Jenson Button has warned his sixth-place finish in the Austrian Grand Prix was a one-off, admitting McLaren-Honda are still not fast enough to run at the front of the field.

    With three long straights, the Red Bull Ring was not expected to favour the Honda-powered MP4-31 chassis, but Button dragged his car to fifth in the wet conditions of qualifying.

    Starting third after various grid-penalties were applied elsewhere, the 2009 world champion ran as high as second in the early laps but soon found himself swarmed by faster cars.

    Having made his second tyre change immediately after Sebastian Vettel's crash on the pit straight, Button effectively gained a free pit stop and crossed the line in sixth—his best finish since last year's United States GP.

    Despite his morale-boosting result, Button believes McLaren's fundamental flaws will prevent the team from repeating their Austrian GP performance at upcoming events, suggesting they are currently at the level of Force India and newcomers Haas.

    According to Motorsport.com, he explained:

    It's definitely as good as it was going to get. Not bad at all. We got the maximum of what we have at the moment.

    It's so nice fighting at the front again but our pace isn't there, as you saw. For us to try and keep cars behind is impossible—and for us to overtake is almost impossible.

    Still, we beat every car that we hoped to beat and the cars in front were way faster than us.

    We got areas that we need to improve, and they're not going to improve overnight, which is a shame.

    With the strategy we had in mind, which we executed...I pitted and I came out behind five cars and trying to overtake cars is unbelievably difficult for us.

    I had to take a lot of risk. And when they all have DRS, it's impossible.

    I think starting in that position makes life easier—you're in clear air, you can do the strategy a bit better.

    I don't think our outright pace is that great—I think we're very similar to Haas, Force India, I think that's our area at the moment.

    Per Sky Sports' Emma Walker, Button added this weekend's British GP "is going to be tough" for McLaren "unless" the event is held in "weird," similarly changeable conditions.

    Meanwhile, racing director Eric Boullier told the team's official website how Button's result demonstrated "just what [McLaren] can achieve when we’re able to take full advantage of the strengths, resources and determination of this organisation."

    He added: "This result is a landmark for the team, because it clearly shows in which direction we are headed: towards the front of the grid."

Sebastian Vettel Felt No Warning Signs Before Austrian GP Tyre Failure

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    Sebastian Vettel has insisted he felt no warning signs before suffering a tyre failure during the Austrian Grand Prix.

    Forced to start ninth after suffering a five-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change, the four-time world champion conducted an extended opening stint on supersoft tyres and was leading at the beginning of Lap 27, when his rear-right tyre exploded on the main straight.

    Vettel spun across the track and collided with the pit wall before careering back onto the racing line, with the German fortunate to avoid being hit by oncoming traffic.

    After suffering a similar blowout in the closing stages of last year's Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps, Vettel was fiercely critical of tyre supplier Pirelli, arguing the Italian manufacturer's conduct was "unacceptable," per BBC Sport's Andrew Benson.

    While he was not quite as damning of Pirelli at the Red Bull Ring, Vettel has defended Ferrari and suggested the tyre exploded without warning, telling the team's official website:

    When the rear right tyre failed, I didn’t feel anything, or rather, I felt it when it was too late and it exploded out of the blue. There were no signs before that, everything was normal. I spoke with the people on the pit-wall and everything looked the same, the pace was the same as the lap before, the tyres felt fine, the lap times were fine. It’s completely a question mark on why the tyre had the failure. Obviously the idea was to go on as long as possible with that set of tyres and to shape our race on that idea, but I don’t think it was an aggressive strategy, as lots of people went longer than us on the same tyres. Now there are still a lot of races left, but surely not finishing the race doesn’t help.

    Despite Vettel's suggestion that several drivers "went longer" on the supersofts, it should be pointed out that Sauber's Felipe Nasr spent the most amount of time of any driver on that particular compound, completing 27 laps on the red-marked tyres, according to Pirelli's official website.

    Per the same source, Pirelli confirmed it is working with Ferrari to investigate "the exact circumstances," but hinted Vettel's failure was "an isolated incident as no other drivers experienced similar problems."

    Vettel's third retirement in nine races has seen him fall 57 points behind Nico Rosberg in the drivers' standings.