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Has Lewis Hamilton lost control of hie ego? Has he become bigger than the sport? Some racing aficionados are left wondering, after this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Apparently, the Formula One driver is just too important to be criticized — with one broad sweep, the five-time champion declared all ex-racers irrelevant. A bizarre disrespect to the history of the sport, and those who made it great.
According to Channel News Asia (CNA), retired world champion Nico Rosberg has respectfully moved to defuse an F1 spat after his former Mercedes teammate Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen slagged him after the Monza F1 race this past weekend.
Rosberg, who hung up his helmet days after winning the 2016 title, told followers of his YouTube blog that he would “try and change my tone a little bit” when he discussed his former rivals.
Hamilton, heading for his sixth title this season, made his comments after Verstappen hit back at criticism from Rosberg, who is now a Sky Sports television pundit.
The Dutch 21-year-old alleged Rosberg was just being controversial to attract viewers, and said the son of 1982 champion Keke should have stayed in Formula One if he needed the money.
He also compared him to 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, known for forthright and often controversial opinions about the sport — a compliment of sorts.
It should be noted the vocal Dutchman is nowhere near the talent of Jacques’ father, famed Ferrari driver Gilles Villeneuve, nor Jacques himself, who won titles on both continents and retired at the top of his career.
Hamilton then published on Instagram a snapshot of a website story quoting Verstappen’s response, with a clapping emoji and the comment “this had me in stitches!”
Asked after Italian Grand Prix qualifying about his post, and what he thought of Rosberg’s comments, Hamilton made a further dig at his former teammate while siding with Verstappen, CNS reported.
“I think Max is generally a really funny guy so I was cracking up when I saw it,” he said.
“Unfortunately, drivers become irrelevant when they retire and ultimately have to hang on to utilize other people’s light to keep them in the light and so … but that’s the way of sport, I guess,” he said.
Rosberg — generally respected as a well-informed, cool head at Sky Sports — said he could understand where Hamilton and Verstappen were coming from, took the high road in his response.
“When I was still active one of the things I hated most was ex-drivers or journalists telling me about comments that ex-drivers made about me, which came across in a critical way,” he said. “In my case it was often David Coulthard. It would drive me nuts, seriously it was horrible.
“So now we have the situation that journalists have been relaying some of my stuff, or some comments I said that were negative … so I need to make a little bit of a change there because I don’t want (to upset) those guys, my ex-colleagues, whom I respect a lot.”
Meanwhile, it was clear Hamilton was peeved when Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc shut the door and squeezed him off the track at the Italian Grand Prix, escaping any penalty.
Hamilton also insisted that had he not been focused on winning the world championship he would not have given ground and the pair would have collided — a dangerous strategy in open wheel race cars — while Michael Masi, the race director, defended the FIA’s decision only to issue Leclerc with a warning.
Many race fans worldwide applauded the decision, however, as it translated into one of the most exciting races of a rather dull season.
“If that’s how we are allowed to race then I will race like that,” Hamilton spat. “As long as we know that you are allowed to not leave a car width for example. You are allowed to run wide even if someone is there and you only get a warning flag. As long as it is clear that that’s the way moving forward it’s fine, so I know how to go into battle.”
Leclerc won at Monza after a tense battle with Hamilton that lasted for much of the race. With Hamilton chasing the Ferrari driver he moved to pass going into the Roggia chicane.
Leclerc squeezed him wide and Hamilton was forced to go off track, immediately insisting that Leclerc had not given him a car’s width of space. Masi opted to give Leclerc a warning rather than a penalty and Hamilton was unequivocal that the decision would influence his driving in future — a payback threat we may see in Singapore.
Hamilton also suggested that “new drivers” are getting away with more — a clear shot at Leclerc.
“It doesn’t really matter what I think,” said Hamilton. “I avoided the collision, and just kept focusing on trying to get close again.
“It seems like the new generation get away with a lot more in that space, of how they manoeuvre their car compared to I’d say the more experienced drivers. But it’s good knowledge, now I know, and I look forward to the next one.”