• The Inside Line

War declared

Kate Walker August 24, 2014
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At some point between the second lap of the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix and the end of the post-race media sessions, F1 fans lost out big time.

Even before Lewis Hamilton revealed to the world's press that Nico Rosberg admitted in the post-race debrief that the collision between the two Mercedes drivers had been deliberate, the big kahunas at the Silver Arrows had already decided that enough was enough. After 12 exciting races, Hamilton and Rosberg will no longer be allowed to race each other.

The two have the nicest toys of all of their playmates, and as long as they treated those toys with respect they were free to play as hard as they wanted within the bounds of the rules. But irrespective of whether Nico broke Lewis' toy accidentally or on purpose on Sunday afternoon, it was far too early in their play date for any such rough-housing.

So young Nico has been put on the naughty step and will be going to bed without any supper.

Or, in other words, the former blue-eyed boy of the Mercedes team has lost a lot of that loving feeling from his bosses, and no longer has the unconditional backing he once did from many quarters.

While the Lewis-Nico drama is understandably the big story from a news point of view, I am more interested by the impact of the incident on the quality of the racing we will see between now and Abu Dhabi. Of all the action we've seen on track this year, some of the most exciting has been the wheel-to-wheel battles between the Mercedes team-mates, and from this point forward the two are no longer allowed to race each other.

The good news, at least, is that it has taken this long for the Mercedes pair to come to such obvious blows. Red Bull and Ferrari are now fighting at the front, Williams remain a tantalising prospect week in and week out, and McLaren appear to be making incremental improvements.

We may not be treated to any more Dijon '79-esque displays from Rosberg and Hamilton, but with Daniel Ricciardo making his presence felt as a championship contender, an animated Fernando Alonso driving a much-improved F14 T, and Kimi Raikkonen seemingly awake for the first time since late 2013, even if Rosberg and Hamilton are no longer allowed to race each other, at least they finally have some other boys to play with.

Imagine if Spa-gate (you know it's inevitable) had taken place at one of the first four fly-aways, or if Bahrain's balletic battle had ended in contact. The Mercedes drivers would have been banned from racing each other before F1 made it back to Europe, and we would have seen half a season of lights-to-flag snorefests led by whichever of the two had secured pole on any given weekend.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.
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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.