Giovedì giorno di inizio vero di ogni GP, anche qui a Monza dove, puntuale come sempre, allo scoccare delle 15.00 ha preso il via la conferenza stampa dei piloti. Sala gremitissima di fotografi e giornalisti. Forse non tutti sanno che la conferenza stampa può essere seguita anche dalla sala stampa, dai monitor, anche se ovviamente essere lì davanti ai piloti, osservare i loro sguardi, i loro gesti è un valore aggiunto unico, oltre ovviamente al fatto di poter far loro delle domande. Oggi a Monza c’è stato il “tutto esaurito” e non poteva che essere così visto in prima fila erano seduti Nico Rosberg e Lewis Hamilton, al primo confronto pubblico dopo l’incidente di Spa e la lavata di capo del team Mercedes. In mezzo ai duellanti, Fernando Alonso. Alle loro spalle Kevin Magnussen, Vallteri Bottas e Max Chilton, a fare da comprimari al trio. O sarebbe più corretto dire al duo…
Faceva strano, oggi, vedere Fernando scambiarsi sorrisi e battute con Hamilton, lo stesso odiatissimo rivale di quando i due correvano in McLaren. Lontanissimi quei tempi, e oggi il duello è un altro, sempre “domestico” ma con conviventi diversi, anche se per uno strano gioco del destino uno dei due è ancora Lewis, cosa che la dice lunga su quanto possa essere temuto dai compagni di squadra.
Ovviamente il tema della conferenza non poteva che essere il duello, le conseguenze, il presente. Cosa diceva il linguaggio del corpo? Un Lewis Hamilton tranquillo, a suo agio (arriva e comincia a scattare foto e a twittarle), dalla risposta immediata. Un Nico Rosberg cambiato, diverso, a tratti teso, diplomatico nelle risposte.
Ma ecco i momenti salienti della conferenza stampa.
Nico, we’ve all seen the statement from the team and other things you’ve said since, but what persuaded you that you had something to apologise for because when we spoke after the race in Spa you weren’t sure?
Nico ROSBERG: Just with time. I took the week to think about it and had a look at it and discussed with the team on Friday and I just in the end decided that it was me who should take responsibility for it.
So, Lewis, in your mind, is it a racing incident? Is that how would put it in your mind now?
Lewis HAMILTON: There was nothing in my mind. I think this is the first time that we’ve been in the room for a long time that there have been so many people here. For me, I’m really excited about moving forward, I feel energetic, I had a good couple of days break last week, so excited to be here, this is one of my favourite circuits so I hope that we can have a good weekend.
And how do you move forward? Have you found a baseline, if you like, of trust and understanding to encourage you to believe that you guys can work together from here?
LH: I knew you were going to say that! I think I already said everything in the press release. Trust is a big word and it’s not something I would particularly apply to racing on the track. Naturally, me and Nico have been racing for a long time and I think we have set a good foundation a long, long time ago so that’s what we work from.
Nico, coming back to you, this duel is often compared to great duels from the past history of our sport. Are you becoming aware that the two of you are making history this year and do you feel the responsibility of that?
NR: Yes, definitely, yes. And in Spa, definitely I was not proud of the way it went because in general I really want to contribute to ‘my sport’ in inverted commas, you know, because I want it to be the most entertaining sport in the world and if I’m able to contribute to that in many ways throughout the season then I’m very happy about that and I’m sure in many we have and that’s great.
And Lewis, just a word from you on that: do you feel the hand of history on your shoulder? Are you aware of the responsibility?
LH: I don’t think I have a responsibility towards history. I mean, history is created every day. I just love racing and I’m proud to be amongst all the drivers here and I’m just trying to enjoy every single day as it comes, you know. Everything becomes history eventually and I personally don’t put us in the same ranking as the greats back in the day.
To Lewis and Nico. In a TV interview earlier this week that Fernando did, he remarked that both sides of the garage would now be divided – engineers, mechanics, people that know you well would favour one or the other. Do you sense that within the team that you are now a garage divided?
LH: I don’t know if that’s the case. We have a very professional team and yeah I mean they just want to win. So they’ll be working as hard as they can. Also the guys working in the garage work collectively for the pit stops. That thought doesn’t even cross my mind. I think the guys will be working flat out this weekend. They know we have the chance to have one-twos and to win the championship for both the Drivers and the Constructors and I think they will giving it their all.
NR: I general, there has been throughout the whole season a healthy rivalry, within the team also. That is why we are where we are, you know. We have the best car out there, we have the best team at the moment. That’s because we work well together as a team and if you don’t work well together as a team you can’t dominate the sport as we are at the moment so I think that’s the best proof of that.
Lewis, do you now accept that it was simply a racing incident from Nico’s part, and Nico, do you think that, in fact now you will be at a small disadvantage because you will have to be extra careful not to have an accident in close combat?
LH: Well, again, I know it’s something you all want to talk about but after the race it was important to really try and move forwards and that’s really what I’m focussing on. What’s happened in the past is in the past and it is what it is. I’m excited to get back in the car. I have seven races, there’s still a lot of points available and so that’s my focus.
NR: It’s been very clear from the beginning that we must not have contact between us team-mates. And so from that point of view the approach doesn’t change now for the future. It’s been the same.
Lewis, a question for you, we learnt from last Friday that Nico gets punished by the team for the incident in Spa. What I want to know is: did you get punished by the team for not accepting the team order in Hungary as well or not?
LH: Um… well, I don’t know really. We all get punished for all the incidents that we… we have meetings always. We always get a big slap on the wrist. But as I said I’m moving forward. In actual fact in the first… in Hungary I didn’t say ‘no’ to the situation. I said that “if he gets close then I’ll let him by,” so I wouldn’t hold him up. And afterwards I sat with Toto and Paddy and they said “ you made the right choice.” As human beings, we have the right to question things that are said to us – orders – just to make sure that it is the right one. And it turns out that that one wasn’t the right one and the team said that to me in the meeting.
But it was a team order during the race…
LH: It was, but Nico didn’t get close enough to go by…
Question for Nico and one for Lewis. For Nico, how has the booing on the podium affected you in Spa? If you think about that and are you afraid it can happen again? And for Lewis, what does it mean that you freeze the discussion for the future contract with Mercedes? Are you thinking something like Fernando’s strategy in 2007?
NR: It was definitely not a nice feeling to hear boos towards me. And I understand, because they travel a long way, some of them, to watch a great, exciting race; a big battle between Lewis and I, and they didn’t get that. I understand that and I accept that.
LH: Well, I haven’t said that I was freezing anything. We’re constantly talking with the team – but I think at the moment the priority is to win the championship. I still have a contract for a whole ’nother year on top of this one, so there is no rush. But I do want to say that I see my future with Mercedes. I’m really happy there, so…
A question to Lewis. You fought for the 2007 title with Fernando as an opponent in the team, and now with Nico in the team. Which of the two offered you a fairer fight on and off the track?
LH: That’s not really a particularly good question. When you’re fighting with your team-mate, as Fernando said, you’re fierce competitors but outside it’s really important to remain respectful and, I think I’ve had the pleasure of working with quite a few different drivers and every single one of them has been hard to race against, in a different way, a different manner. I think generally, the majority of the time, we’ve not really had many problems. And that’s what I hope for moving forwards.
Nico, could I just ask why you apologised? Was it because your team bosses made you or was it a heartfelt thing?
NR: They can’t make me apologise. It definitely was a decision that came from me after hearing people’s opinions and after having looked at it myself again. I felt that it was my responsibility.
NR: Time. And hearing other people’s opinions.
Just one more question on Spa, if I could ask Fernando and the two Mercedes drivers as well: in a situation that we saw happen last time out in Belgium, when there’s a mistake by one driver and it effectively puts another driver out of the race and then the first driver makes an 18 point gain over the second driver in a hotly contested title race, should the FIA investigate the incident a bit more closely than they did in Spa?
FA: I don’t know why I need to answer so many questions on Spa! No, I would like to answer, you know, to be honest, because I have no clear input on that. It’s FIA rules and they get us to race in a fair way and to respect the rules and they always try to do that and if in Spa they didn’t decide to go any further, they thought that it was OK like this but as I said, I was not in that incident, I was not involved. I saw it the week after but I have no clear opinion.
Q: Nico, were you asked to clarify your comments or anything?
NR: No. Just we need to trust the FIA to make the right calls, that’s our position as drivers.
LH: I think the FIA have a really tough job, particularly over the last couple of years they’ve done an exceptional job, I think, on the majority of the calls. I think their problem is always that the rules… the scenario is always different, so the same rule doesn’t always apply exactly. Sometimes perhaps it’s difficult to say which rule applies to what situation but I think there’s a very good question, to be honest, because how do we move forward from that? Does that mean that we can all now say OK, we can race a lot closer and if the guy in front comes off and is out of the race, nothing’s going to happen so then we will be more relaxed towards it or does that mean if it happens again there will be a penalty? I think we’re always asking to be able to race. It’s very hard out there to manoeuvre a car at those high speeds without sometimes having contact but there’s a fine line. But I think it’s a really good question, I don’t know the full answer to it really.
Nico, is it right that Niki Lauda talked to you in the week after the Spa race and apologised for the interviews he gave directly after the race at Spa?
NR: Yes, it’s true, yes, and that was a nice gesture of his which I have accepted, fully accepted of course, and also there, it’s a thing of the past.
Sensazione a pelle? Che la tensione tra i due sia tutt’altro che sciolta e che sui due penda una spada di Damocle, il primo che sgarra la paga… E il più forte, psicologicamente, in questo momento sembra proprio Lewis Hamilton, nonostante il distacco in classifica. Ha un altro anno di contratto, la trattativa non è congelata come era stato detto, nel team sta bene e l’obiettivo è uno: vincere il Mondiale. E nei suoi occhi, che oggi brillavano più degli orecchini e della catena al collo, lo si leggeva chiaramente quale Mondiale. Il Costruttori conta, ovvio, ma ve lo vedete un Hamilton che si accontenta del secondo posto a fine stagione e dichiara “sono felice per il team”? Mancano 7 GP… Lui scatta e twitta. C’è tutto il tempo. E nella finale di Abu Dhabi punti doppi…