Lewis Hamilton denies being friends with Nico Rosberg as gloves come off at Mercedes
Rosberg retakes lead of championship with victory in Monte Carlo; Hamilton angered by Mercedes' pit strategy during Sunday's race
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 26/05/14 9:00am
The gloves have officially been taken off at Mercedes after an angry Lewis Hamilton denied that he was friends with Nico Rosberg in the wake of the German regaining the lead of the World Championship by winning the Monaco GP.
Simmering with indignation after being denied a final run to snatch pole position in Saturday's controversial qualifying session and, a day later, an opportunity to overtake Rosberg during the race with an opportunistic early pitstop, Hamilton has signalled that his friendship with the German, which dates back to their adolescence, is now over.
"We are not friends," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. "We are colleagues."
Hamilton and Rosberg have repeatedly insisted that their friendship would survive the aggravation and stress of fighting each other for the World Championship.
"We've always been friends, we always will be friends," Rosberg later told Sky F1. "But friends is a big word. What exactly is friends? We have a good relationship and work well together."
The pair failed to acknowledge each other following the race, 24 hours after Hamilton refused to offer Rosberg the benefit of the doubt when the German secured pole position in highly controversial circumstances with his last-lap error preventing his team-mate completing his final lap in the most important qualifying session of the season.
Rosberg's 'hollow' Saturday victory paved the way for his second lights-to-flag victory in a year around the ultra-tight confines of Monte Carlo as Hamilton failed to find a way around the sister Mercedes.
"I had great pace and felt very strong but it's a very difficult place to overtake," added Hamilton.
But it's the simmering antagonism between the two Mercedes drivers which is threatening to overtake all the other talking points in the sport - although talking to each other is the one thing that Hamilton and Rosberg, but particularly Hamilton, appear determined to avoid.
"I don't really have an answer for that," replied Hamilton when asked during the post-race press conference if he planned to sit down with Rosberg in a bid to clear the air.
"He said his thing in a meeting with Toto [Wolff] and Niki [Lauda], and I said what I needed to say and that's as far as we need to go really."
Hamilton also confirmed that he wasn't present on Saturday evening when Rosberg delivered his post-qualifying debrief to the Mercedes team.
"I went to the toilet and Nico did his big debrief before I got there which is unusual," he revealed. "Usually we do it when we're both in the same room but as I came up I did mine and fortunately the engineers had written down what Nico had said so I read it."
It's understood that Rosberg apologised to Hamilton on Sunday morning for blocking his final lap during qualifying, while it also emerged on race day that Hamilton himself said sorry to Rosberg in Spain two weeks ago after running with a higher engine setting than had been pre-agreed prior to the grand prix.
Pressed on the point
What Hamilton and Rosberg had to say in the post-race press conference...
Lewis, obviously the momentum is broken for the moment. We heard you on the radio quite a lot after the safety car and the pit stops, questioning and speaking about the strategy calls. Obviously you pitted together under the safety car. Had there been a thought that you might try to undercut Nico before that? Can you explain to us what the conversation was about?
Hamilton: "I don't remember to be honest. I don't. I think they saw a crash and normally under the crash we could have come in and I really should have come in but the team didn't call us in. We really should have pitted that lap."
A question for Nico and Lewis. We have seen that there is a pretty tense situation between the two of you and we also heard comments from Lauda saying you did not want to talk and apologise. Are you going to have a pizza together, a dinner, to sort the problems, talk about it and try to get the situation back to normal.
Rosberg: "It's fine. We've had discussions and the benefit we have is that we've known each other for so long. We always sit down and discuss it and then move on and that's what we're doing this weekend also."
Hamilton: "I don't really have an answer for you there."
Niki Lauda said that in Barcelona you used an engine mode you were told not to and you had to apologise to Nico for that. Do you think that that mode would have helped you win the race today?
Hamilton: "No... today we were using all the modes. In the last race it was a mode that didn't really affect the outcome of the race. We were told that we had to stay in a certain mode. Nico did it in Bahrain and I did it in Barcelona. In this race we stuck to the strategies we had to stick."
Rosberg: "I don't know what Niki is referring to but it's completely normal that we switch modes together you know, we always do that in the races. It's nothing unusual."
Lewis, yesterday you told the BBC that you might handle the situation with Nico like Senna would. What did you mean by that?
Hamilton: "I don't know. I can't really remember to be honest. I think it was just a joke. Obviously I didn't."
I think you said on the radio that you had a problem with your eye in the closing stages. What happened there?
Hamilton: "I've never really had it before. I kept making sure my visor was as closed as possible but I had quite a bit of wind coming in. I got close to Nico at one stage and all of a sudden I got a bit of debris in my eye, or some dirt, so I was driving with one eye, which is virtually impossible to do and so through the low-speed corners I was trying to open up my visor to clear it up but it was just making it worse. Fortunately, I think with five laps to go it cleared up so I was able to stay ahead of Daniel."
Last day Nico Rosberg was mentioning that the previous races were not one-to-one races, relating to the weather, because you were winning the races and this time he's winning the race and I want to know if you think this weekend is a one-to-one race for you?
Hamilton: "I'm still not fully understanding the question, but all the races have been very, very close but this weekend I think I had very good pace. I drove with all my heart and gave it all I could, fairly, and I feel like I drove fairly all weekend. So I leave today quite happy and I can go into the next race with even more energy and determination."
Lewis, it seems pretty clear to us that you feel aggrieved with the events that occurred yesterday in qualifying. Is this it now for you? Is it gloves off in your battle with Nico? And secondly, do you feel that you are getting full and fair support from the team?
Hamilton: "Generally, there is a fierce battle between me and Nico and it will continue that way to I'm sure quite late in the season. Nico's not had a single hiccup through the season so far. Obviously I had a car that didn't finish in Melbourne but otherwise it's still quite close, so I'm just going to keep my head up, keep pushing. I know the team are working hard for the both of us. The team can sometimes be in awkward positions, which they were yesterday, and their job is really to protect us both and that's what they did."
Lewis, after your victory in Barcelona, you said that Nico was faster than you in the race. Today he can even beat you. Is it a worry for you? And do you know where you should improve pace-wise.
Hamilton: "Erm... not really. I was pretty comfortable with my pace this weekend."
Lewis, what do you think was the reason why the team didn't call you in immediately after the crash? You complained over the team radio about that.
Hamilton: "I think it's just what we have a rule that the guy in front gets the first opportunity to pit first so I think that would be why."
Lewis, how did the debrief of yesterday's qualifying go because as we understand, you were not in the debrief room, while Rosberg was?
Hamilton: "I was in there. I went to the toilet and Nico did his big debrief before I got there which is unusual. Usually we do it when we're both in the same room but as I came up I did mine and fortunately the engineers had written down what Nico had said so I read it."
Nico, have you been surprised that the team didn't call you in right after the crash of Sutil?
Rosberg: "No. Surprised? No, not really, because I don't think about that too much. I know I can rely on them to make the right call at all times so it's not something that I'm thinking too much about, the strategy and should I be boxing now or not, because I know that they're going to make the right call."
Nico, do you think it was fair what Lewis said about you not being hungry as him because you were growing with boats and jets and all that stuff?
Rosberg: "I didn't hear Lewis say that and so I'm not going to comment because it's easy for you to just invent something and so I'm not going to comment on that, and even if something like that was written - which I don't know because I don't read the media - then still, between what Lewis says and what's written, so much can turn around so it's better I don't say anything and I know that Lewis wouldn't say something like that, especially not to the press, maybe to me if he feels like it but not to the press."
Nico, you may give the same answer to this question then, because there were some comments from yourself in one of the German newspapers or certainly a few of the German newspapers and you can correct me if I'm wrong, if the English translation was not correct, but you remarked that when Lewis goes through a difficult period that he can crack. Do you think that that's what happened this weekend, that maybe Lewis did crack under the press yesterday in qualifying, and Lewis, any comment on that yourself? Do feel you're the kind of guy that doesn't crack, that you can hold it together in these kind of circumstances?
Rosberg: "Again, that is definitely very very far from anything that I've ever said and ever would say. Definitely not and I've known Lewis for many many years and he's always been strong, among other things mentally, so I'm definitely not expecting him to crack any time soon, that's for sure. It's going to be a tough battle which is going to be ongoing, but I would never say something like that anyways."
Hamilton: "Do I feel like I crack? No."
Lewis, to clean the situation, did you tell the BBC in this interview where you said these things with the boat or didn't you say that?
Hamilton: "I was asked who was hungrier. I think if you ask every driver they will say that they're the hungriest and I said that what gives me the hunger is where I grew up in comparison to where Nico grew up. You know I've always been striving to come and live here. I used to travel around with Nico in his Dad's plane, I used to go to his boat, I used to go to his house, I used to have those experiences and that gave me those experiences and that gave me the desire to want that one day, which gave me the hunger. It was his Dad obviously who inspired me to be where I am today."
So you did say it.
Hamilton: "Yes, but - as Nico said - it was taken out of context a little bit."
Lewis, do you believe with a normal pit stop - not under safety car conditions - you would have had any chance to overtake Nico and get the lead of the race?
Hamilton: "It's irrelevant now, but obviously with the start, we got exactly the same start... there's only two opportunities in the race and the pit stop would have been the other one but the safety car came out at the perfect time for him so I didn't have the chance there. Otherwise, that was it."