I have just re-read my last Motor Sport column written after the Spanish Grand Prix. OK, I’m not claiming to be Mystic Meg, and I can’t read your tarot cards, but the predicted former friends/current rivals arrived in spectacular style this weekend for the two Mercedes drivers. It happened much sooner and in a more dramatic way than anyone imagined that it would – Monaco was one of those weekends that we won’t forget for a very long time.
Whilst a fair amount of abuse always gets thrown at me for asking difficult, yet as I see, relevant questions to the drivers after qualifying and the race, I do enjoy getting good answers from them. However, I did feel quite sad about the situation this weekend. For a friendship – a real long, childhood friendship – to implode so publicly might have made the headlines, but forgetting who was right and wrong, it was a shame. I felt I’d gone from talking tyres and strategy to Jerry Springer in the space of a weekend!
Just days before getting to Monaco I had been in Barbados working on Top Gear Live for the first time. I absolutely loved hosting the live festival and the list of drivers and cars was endless. Right at the top of that was Lewis Hamilton in last year’s (lovely sounding) Mercedes F1 car.
Throughout the weekend he was on amazing form, taking part in everything from car football and rolling a Robin Reliant (deliberately at one point) to taking on the mighty Ken Block in his Global Rallycross car. Behind the scenes Lewis was surrounded by family and friends and headed ‘home’ to Monaco as relaxed as I’ve seen him.
Nico Rosberg is always very happy at his home Grand Prix. He might race under the German flag, but he’s spent his life in Monaco, going to school there and he knows the place inside out.
In the build-up to the race, Hamilton was quoted on Formula1.com, the official Formula 1 website, as saying that “I come from a not-great place in Stevenage and lived on a couch in my dad’s apartment. Nico grew up in Monaco with jets and boats and all these kinds of things so the hunger is different.”
Lewis said it had been taken out of context, but this was just one of many incidents between the two coming to light. During the Spanish Grand Prix Hamilton went against team protocol and turned up his engine to maximum to ensure victory. When asked about it after the Monaco race, Hamilton said that Rosberg had done the same thing to try and win in Bahrain.
The key to what happens next is how Niki Lauda manages the situation. He said that Nico was cleared by the stewards so therefore he’s done nothing wrong, but that “he will sit down with Lewis and make sure it is fixed”.
Canada in two weeks will be the real test to see if Lauda can smooth things over, at least publicly. If he does then surely Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon will be headhunting the Austrian…
Away from the dramas at the front, I was delighted for Marussia who scored its first points in Formula 1. Yes, it was Monaco and it is a war of attrition, but staying out of trouble and having the reliability to finish is crucial and that’s something Marussia always seem to have got right. Jules Bianchi drove a determined race showing why he his held in high regard in the paddock. He might not have reached the heady third place that his great-uncle Lucien Bianchi managed in 1968 aboard his Cooper BRM around Monaco’s streets, but his move on Kamui Kobayashi showed that he was desperate to prove his worth.
The guys and girls at Marussia are some of the most welcoming and helpful in the paddock and their efforts don’t get enough respect. Every week it’s like a small football team taking on Real Madrid and yet every week they turn up and more often than not see the chequered flag. There is no doubt about the winning pedigree throughout the team, from team principal John Booth to all the others behind the scenes, and it was a pleasure to see them leaving Monaco on Sunday night happy, relieved and determined on a budget flight to Birmingham!
The streets of Monaco entertained the doubters, but also the believers. What will Canada bring?