The Nico Rosberg penalty denied us a podium battle on Sunday. Into the braking zone of the hairpin after the straight, Verstappen committed to his line in the braking zone and Rosberg pulled into the inside. The young Dutchman then changed direction again to counter and Rosberg punished him as a result.
The penalty is such a double-sided coin. On the one side, you have stewards getting involved with an overtake, an exciting piece of racing in which both drivers escaped the move undamaged. On the other hand, you have a young driver weaving in the breaking zone and a more experienced driver punishing him for such poor racing etiquette.
Verstappen did this to Ericsson last year. Look familiar? Aggressive overtake, forces a driver off the track. “Fantastic”.
What about his complaining today about Rosberg forcing him wide? Didn't expect it from him. https://t.co/Hlju5ze8K3
— SamVP (@91F1_) July 31, 2016
What the penalty did provide Rosberg with was an excuse after the race. The 5-second penalty was executed in the pit-box before a tyre change, but due to what Mercedes call a “stopwatch malfunction”, the German ended up serving an 8.6 second time penalty. In a sport where millions of pounds are splurged into shaving a tenth of a second off in aero Research and Development, it’s as funny as it is tragic that something that costs a fiver can lose a few seconds.
Rosberg wasn’t impressed and believes that the penalty cost him 2nd place and 6 extra points in the fight for the Championship.
“I was very surprised that I got penalised, I didn’t expect that at all. It’s just one more of those things when your day goes completely wrong.
All those things come together, but I don’t think it made a difference in the end. I couldn’t have challenged the Red Bulls I think anyways after that penalty.”
– Nico Rosberg
— Vortex Motio (@VortexMotio) July 31, 2016
This is a situation where Rosberg would be appreciated more if he took a leaf from Hamilton’s lengthy tome of complaints. The stewards are showing an inconsistency that is beyond belief for such a professional, premium sport. In the Hungarian Grand Prix, the Raikkonen vs Verstappen battle was similar, the difference being that Kimi didn’t lunge up the inside. No steward action. Verstappen plays the same trick in Germany and Rosberg is rightfully aggressive as a result. Stewards penalize the attacking driver.
What message does this send to the drivers? We’ll penalize you if you have a go at attacking the car in front, but we’ll do nothing if you hold back.
In the same way that some football referees like to make the match about their own presence, the stewards are comically inconsistent. The reason that there’s no consistency is because the stewards are different for each race. It’s like a club for the old guard of Formula One, where former drivers and personnel find relevance in keeping in touch with the sport. That’s what the paddock club is there for people. Go have a flute of Brut and mingle, don’t sit in a hot seat that determines the outcome of the f*cking race!
Rosberg thinks he could have caught the Red Bulls in the end. Well never know whether that would have been the case or not, because we were denied the chance to see it. The sport is falling into a position in which every racing incident becomes a knee-jerk penalty – and they scratch their heads that viewership is still free-falling.