Italian GP diary: Rosberg to tone down criticisms after being labelled 'the new Jacques Villeneuve'

MONZA, Italy -- The Formula One paddock is a busy place that hosts a lot of serious business over a race weekend, but this here we try to bring you some of the news stories you might otherwise miss ahead of the Italian Grand Prix.

The new Jacques Villeneuve?

Max Verstappen and Nico Rosberg probably won't be buying each other a Christmas card later this year. Verstappen is unimpressed with the latest opinions of the 2016 world champion, who has launched a podcast and video blog since retiring on the back of his title-winning season in 2016.

Rosberg blamed the Dutchman for his early collision with Kimi Raikkonen at the Belgian Grand Prix last week.

Speaking about Verstappen, Rosberg said: "Back to his old self a little bit, too aggressive .Then I don't understand how he stays flat-out even when the car is broken and then shunts it... He just has balls of steel.

"That didn't make a lot of sense though, so that was not good from Verstappen."

Rosberg also made headlines after that race when he said Sebastian Vettel had looked like Ferrari's most famous number two driver, Rubens Barrichello, at Spa-Francorchamps when he moved over to let Charles Leclerc through.

Verstappen thinks Rosberg has turned into another one-time F1 champion -- Jacques Villeneuve, who won the 1997 crown, has made a career since retiring from racing by making outspoken comments.

"I don't really care what [Rosberg] says in his podcast," Verstappen told Dutch media when Rosberg's comments were put to him. "I think he is the new Jacques Villeneuve.

"Villeneuve has changed quite a bit, but it seems that Rosberg now and again wants to give a contrary opinion.

"But I really don't care what he says on his channels anyway. He does it very often. At the beginning of this year he even called me a narcissist. That is very extreme."

Verstappen was less than complimentary of Rosberg's driving skill, while also suggesting the German is simply desperate for attention now he has quit racing for good.

"Nico has never been credible, even as a driver. It's his problem. He has no charisma and can't get a job. I don't know what he wants, more viewers? Money? He should have kept driving to earn a lot more."

The article went down well with Rosberg's most famous rival.

Hamilton, Rosberg's former Mercedes teammate, posted a screengrab of an article carrying the quotes to Instagram with the caption: "This had me in stiches!" with two crying-with-laughter emojis.

The five-time world champion went on to explain the post the following day after qualifying.

"I thought it was really funny -- I think Max is generally a really funny guy so I was cracking up when I saw it.

"It's interesting because obviously we know what it's like - all the drivers have all been here and know what it's like being criticised from the public and when [they are] in the sport moan about being criticised by people from the outside and then when drivers retire they become those critics, so it's an interesting dynamic. And also some of those... unfortunately drivers become irrelevant when they retire and ultimate have to hang on to utilise other people's light to keep them in the light and so... but that's the way of sport, I guess."

Rosberg's response

Rosberg is in the paddock this weekend and has already addressed the comments. He spoke about how frustrating he found similar situations Verstappen faced, when he would be asked to comment on a quote from another pundit.

Speaking on his video blog on Saturday night, Rosberg said: "When I was still active, one of the things I hated most was journalists telling me about comments that ex-drivers made about me which came across in a critical way. In my case it was always someone like David Coulthard, it drove me nuts.

"We have the situation now that journalists are relaying stuff that might have been negative to Lewis or even Max, and whatever. So now Lewis even Instagram storied about it, Max also in the news you might have seen firing back at me, whatever. But Lewis especially -- he Insta storied about me so it must have annoyed him pretty much when they said 'Rosberg said this or this'. That must have annoyed him pretty much if he Insta storied about me.

"At the same time I love doing these analysis, because I love discussing this sport with you guys and giving you great insight. But I have a great respect for the drivers, as I hated it when ex-drivers comments got relayed to me, so I need to make a bit of a change there because I don't want my ex-colleauges who I respect a lot like Max and Lewis and everybody else to get relayed some comments about me which come across very criticaly to them.

"I have a lot of respect for those guys I'm going to try and change my tone a bit now. Little bit of a change now... let's see if it's good or not".

Time will tell, Nico.

Rolling back the years

Forty years on from his championship-winning season, Jody Scheckter was back behind the wheel of his Ferrari 312T4 at Monza on Saturday.

The car belongs to Scheckter and he employed the services of ex-Ferrari mechanics to get it into a running condition for a series of demonstration laps this weekend. The last time Scheckter, now 69, drove an F1 car at Monza was at the 1979 Italian Grand Prix when he led a one-two victory for Ferrari ahead of teammate Gilles Villeneuve. Scheckter retired at the end of the 1980 season, but that was the only year Monza did not feature on the F1 calendar.

Scheckter, who now runs a farm outside Basingstoke in the UK, wasn't holding back as the car's flat-12 engine sung down Monza's straights to the delight of the Italian crowd.

"The whole thing is special for me," he said. "I'm a farmer now, so having all of this fuss is a real, real privilege for me, it really is."

"I was nervous!" he added. "I haven't driven a car that fast for a long, long time, and the track has changed somewhat. I must have been brave! I was concentrating, I had a microphone to talk, and never said one word."

The man with no name

Oh, that reminds us... As we were talking earlier about the 'other' Villeneuve, Gilles' outspoken son Jacques, it's worth mentioning the Canadian driver didn't escape without his own criticism this week either. This time Hamilton was the one instigating the initial comment.

During his time in the TV media pen Hamilton was asked about comments made by the 1997 world champion ahead of the Italian Grand Prix that young drivers today don't fully appreciate the danger of racing and drive without any fear as they've all grown up racing online and in simulators. The comments were made in reference to last weekend's fatal F2 crash in Belgium which claimed the life of Anthoine Hubert and has left American driver Juan Manuel Correa in intensive care.

The Mercedes driver was quick to dismiss such a suggestion.

"I don't really agree with a lot of opinions from that individual," Hamilton said. "I personally don't listen to that indivdual's opinions.

"I don't think so. If you look at kids on the ski slopes, from small up, they've got no fear. It's the same with us racing drivers whatever age. Maybe it creeps in when you get older.

"But the simulator isn't making you more fearless. So I don't agree with that."

Hamilton's fellow Brit, McLaren rookie Lando Norris, was also unimpressed when Villeneuve's comments were put to him.

"I don't think it's got anything to do with sim racing," the 19-year-old said. "It's just something he maybe wants to use as an excuse for it.

"Safety is getting much better, especially compared to when he would have been racing. It's not like we completely forget it. We don't go flat out and not care about anything. We still realise what danger is.

"Everything is getting safer, so sometimes you take more risks than at other times. I don't know what happened on the weekend, and I don't want to talk about it, but I'm sure it wasn't anyone doing anything stupid or risking anything.

"I think it was something small that turned into something pretty big. I don't think it's because we're younger, more fearless, less fearless... It's unlucky, that's about it."

A homage

Norris will run a Valentino Rossi tribute helmet for this weekend's race in tribute to his boyhood hero. The Englishman's lid will the trademark sun logo and traditional blue and dayglo colours of the seven-time Moto GP champion.

Norris, 19, revealed the new design on Thursday ahead of this weekend's race at Monza.

Norris met MotoGP legend Rossi during that series' British Grand Prix at Silverstone last month and has made no secret of his affinity for the Italian rider since, recently appearing on a Twitch stream while dressed head to toe in Rossi merchandise featuring the Italian rider's iconic number 46.

Norris went on to explain his thinking behind it.

"I've always loved doing my own kit," he said ahead of the race this weekend at Monza. "In karting I used to have different helmets, suits and boots, sticker kits, but you get more limited with what you do in car racing. But even now, for the races I can, I want to have a special helmet or boots or something.

"I already spoke to Valentino quite a while ago, just on social media, trying to sort this - because I obviously had to ask him if I could do that.

"It was an opportunity to make this race more special and more of a one off and something to remember it by, and that was by having more of a connection with Valentino, the guy I've always looked up to, my hero. So it is more of a dedication to him than anything else."

There are some other one-off lids this weekend which have captured attention.

Home (ish) colours

Alfa Romeo is marking its "home" race with a slightly revised car livery, featuring the colours of the Italian flag. Alfa is still based in Hinwil, Switzerland, and owned by the Sauber company.

Alfa signed a technical and commercial agreement with Sauber ahead of this season, bringing the iconic Italian manufacturer's name back into the sport. To commemorate that return this weekend at Monza, it has a red, white and green stripe visible at the rear of the car.

In a statement commemorating the livery change, Alfa said: "We will be racing with all our heart. And we'll look great while doing it."