SHANGHAI: Mercedes held emergency talks with their bickering drivers after Nico Rosberg furiously criticised Lewis Hamilton’s tactics after the Chinese Grand Prix.
With relations on a knife-edge before this weekend’s Bahrain race, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has moved swiftly to prevent things spiralling out of control — as they did last year when Rosberg drove into Hamilton in Belgium.
World champion Hamilton powered to his second win in three races this season, but Rosberg’s outburst shattered the fragile truce which existed between the rivals following their long-simmering feud.
Wolff took a dim view of the German’s accusation that Hamilton had intentionally held him up with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in hot pursuit.
“It needs to be contained without any escalation,” he said, flatly denying Hamilton had tried to wreck Rosberg’s chances. “Lewis didn’t do it on purpose. We have cleared that now — there wasn’t any animosity.”
Hamilton’s victory was an eighth in 10 races dating back to last season for the Briton, who dominated all weekend before winning for a record fourth time in Shanghai.
Once again he simply had too much pace for Rosberg, who appears to be unravelling under the pressure, berating mechanics after missing out on pole position and demanding that Hamilton speed up during Sunday’s race.
“It’s not my job to look after Nico’s race,” Hamilton shrugged. “I just focused on myself.”
That prompted Rosberg to snipe: “It’s now interesting to hear from you, Lewis, that you were just thinking about yourself.”
– Desert storm –
It was an unsavoury end to the weekend for Mercedes after striking back at Ferrari following Vettel’s surprise win in Malaysia, and raises concerns before Hamilton and Rosberg clash again in the desert.
“You need to be very careful half-an-hour after the race to point the finger,” Wolff said.
“(Lewis) was the quicker guy out there and he made the tyres last longer so we have the right order. What we need to look at is, was the race result for the team ever at risk?”
Vettel, meanwhile, failed to pull off a repeat of his upset in tropical Sepang but he and Kimi Raikkonen showed again that the Ferraris can be a handful for the Silver Arrows.
However, it will take something special to stop Hamilton in this kind of form.
His 35th career victory followed a fifth pole in China, joining Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio as the only drivers to score five or more poles at one track as the records continue to tumble.
Williams will travel to the Middle East in high spirits after Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas finished fifth and sixth respectively, while there was at least some light at the end of the tunnel for McLaren after their first double finish of 2015.
They have still yet to score a point this season, however, after Alonso finished 12th and Button 13th, only to be demoted one place to 14th after being penalised for colliding with Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado.