MONZA Italy (Reuters) - Formula One leader Nico Rosberg felt sore enough at losing Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix without then having to face conspiracy theories suggesting he had done it deliberately.
The Mercedes driver, who finished second after making a mistake at the first chicane while under pressure from winning team mate Lewis Hamilton, could scarcely believe anyone would suggest such a thing.
“I’ve heard about that, but what would be the reason for me to do something like that deliberately?,” asked the German, who saw his lead cut to 22 points with six races remaining.
”There is no possible reason. There is no reason why the team would ask me to change position, or something like that.
“The only thing in people’s minds could be Spa, but Spa was a mistake which I’ve apologized for,” added the German, who hit the back of Hamilton’s car on the second lap of the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago.
Hamilton said after that race that Rosberg had “done it on purpose” but he was certainly not accusing him of any such intent in Italy.
Rosberg accepted blame for the Spa incident, which led to Hamilton’s race retirement, and was handed an unspecified punishment from his angry team who reminded their drivers they could race each other but must not make contact on the track.
If there were some wondering whether a restitution of points might form part of that penalty, an idea that was discussed and swiftly dismissed by some paddock pundits post-race, the driver and team ridiculed the very thought.
“It’s not something where I have to give back something. Mistakes, errors happen, and that’s the way it is, (I make) an apology and on we go,” said Rosberg, who braked late and continued straight on at the chicane.
He then had to slow and zig-zag to get back on track.
“It’s not like we now start shuffling and things like that, so there is no reason why I would do something like that on purpose,” added Rosberg.
Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff found the idea even more mind-boggling after being asked by BBC pundit and former team owner Eddie Jordan.
“I said to Eddie that only a paranoid mind could come up with such an idea,” he said.
“I think there was lots of pressure on Nico because Lewis was so quick yesterday and you could see that today as well,” he added, explaining also that Rosberg had to miss the chicane because the alternative was to damage the tires.
That would have entailed another pitstop and lost time.
Television images also showed Wolff smiling apparently as Hamilton took the lead after Rosberg’s error, providing more fuel for the conspiracy theorists, but he dismissed any suggestion the two things were linked.
”Whoever picks that up and tries to interpret anything in such a picture must be out of his mind,“ said the Austrian. ”First of all, it’s not live.
“It wasn’t synchronized with the picture.”
Wolff explained that he had smiled when his two drivers were closing up, with Hamilton chasing down Rosberg, out of a sense of ‘here we go again’ and anticipation of sparks to come. The footage was then spliced into the live action later.
Hamilton had started from pole position on Sunday, with Rosberg second, but fell to fourth at the start after a problem with his car’s race start settings.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Tony Goodson