Nico Rosberg has questioned the timing of the Safety Car’s first appearance in the Hungarian GP, saying that it, rather than Lewis Hamilton’s defiance of Mercedes team orders, was the “main problem” he encountered in Sunday’s race.
Leading from pole position, Rosberg appeared in control prior to Marcus Ericsson’s crash on lap seven. However, the Safety Car was deployed just as his Mercedes was racing down the pit straight, meaning the championship leader, plus the chasing cars of Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, were obliged to slow down immediately.
In contrast, cars further back had the chance to pit and could then rejoin and catch the Safety Car driving to the mandatory ‘delta time’, meaning they lost less ground than the top four who, led by Rosberg, pitted next time around.
It was a moment that proved crucial to the race’s outcome as it promoted eventual winner Daniel Ricciardo up the order and dropped Rosberg to fourth, where he eventually finished.
“It was wrong from the race officials because they sent it out at the wrong time because I got stuck behind it,” Rosberg said in a video blog published by Mercedes. “Normally, you’re supposed to do this average speed slow lap but I got stuck behind it right away.
“And it was so slow that all those guys that managed to pit first, they got by me then. And that’s not supposed to be the case. So that was the main problem.”
The race’s biggest talking point occurred later on, however, when Hamilton ignored an order to let his team-mate and title rival, who was on a different race strategy, past.
Mercedes have since suggested that they were wrong to ask Hamilton, who started from the pit lane, to move over. But although Rosberg described his team-mate’s stand – which may arguably have cost him victory – as “not good”, he said he was more upset with himself for not forcing his way past the rival Silver Arrow later on.
“I had to do something and the strategy in the end turned out not to be the best one. But it’s difficult to know that at the time,” Rosberg said.
“And then Lewis didn’t let me by, although he was ordered to do so, so that’s obviously not good and we need to discuss that internally.”
With Ricciardo passing both Hamilton and Alonso in the closing stages, Rosberg also tried to pass his team-mate around the outside of Turn 2 on lap 70 but was forced wide.
“The thing I’m most annoyed about is the last lap, though, because I had a little opportunity and was just so close but [I] didn’t manage to use it – there was just 30 centimetres missing or something,” he said.
“What he did was okay, the way he defended, because the guy on the inside, it’s his corner, so the guy on the outside needs to make it far enough in front that the other guy can’t push him out.
“I didn’t manage to do that, so that’s what annoys me most.”
Rosberg therefore finished right behind Hamilton, a result that has cut his championship lead to 11 points heading into the summer break.
“[I’m] still in front of the championship, a long summer break now, [I] get to think about it and look forward to that,” he added.
“Onwards and upwards for Spa.” (SKY)