As Nico Rosberg’s title hopes shrank even further in Japan, tension with his teammate and runaway championship leader Lewis Hamilton only increased.
Being only the second-best Mercedes in Japan has blown Rosberg’s deficit out from 41 to 48 points, with the German admitting: “It’s going the wrong way, definitely.
“I had to win, that was important but it didn’t work out. I just need to try to win next time,” said Rosberg.
But with now just five races to go, Hamilton can simply start finishing second amid a streak of Rosberg wins in Sochi, Austin, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi and still end up matching his hero Ayrton Senna’s tally of three drivers’ titles.
So what went wrong for Rosberg on Sunday?
Firstly, he answered “I have to deny that” when asked by the German newspaper Bild that a pre-race headache meant he was not race-fit on Sunday.
But he did have a particularly bad start from pole, shuffled even further down the order after a near coming-together with his teammate in turn one.
Rosberg was unhappy with Hamilton’s tactics.
“For sure it was close. I had to avoid a collision,” he insisted. “It’s difficult for me to comment” further.
Team boss Toto Wolff told German television RTL that he will sit down with the drivers and study the footage before forming an opinion.
“Two cars next to each other in the second corner does not actually work,” he said.
Rosberg drove off the circuit to avoid the clash, but team chairman Niki Lauda cleared Hamilton of any blame.
“For me it was a normal, aggressive manoeuvre that you do when you are on the inside line,” he told Austrian television ORF.
“Nico will say that Lewis should have given him more space, but Lewis had the better start and you have to say in fairness that he had the inside line.
“No question, Lewis delivered a perfect performance with everything under control so there is nothing negative you can say about it.
“But the two of them will certainly discuss it,” Lauda added.
Not everyone agreed with Lauda. Marc Surer, a German-language commentator, said: “The problem is that Rosberg could no longer drive a racing line, instead having to avoid a collision.”
As for Hamilton’s behaviour, “You should not do that to your teammate,” the former F1 driver added. (GMM)