Monday 16 December 2019

Jenson Button says no driver would throw a race after Nico Rosberg is accused over Italian Grand Prix error

Briton dismisses rigging claims against German as 'stupid' while Lewis Hamilton calls Monza podium boos for his Mercedes team-mate and title rival ‘unnecessary’

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton

Jenson Button has insisted no driver would deliberately throw a race in the manner in which Nico Rosberg was accused of during the Italian Grand Prix.

The fallout from Sunday’s race was dominated by claims – vigorously denied by Rosberg and the Mercedes team – that the German had wilfully made a mistake on lap 29 at the behest of Mercedes bosses as retribution for the clash with team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

Jackie Stewart, the three-time world champion, added fuel to the fire by questioning whether Mercedes had rigged the race.

However, both Button and the Mercedes F1 chairman, Niki Lauda, joined the chorus of voices laughing off the theory.

Button, who finished Sunday’s race in sixth place, said: “I don’t think any driver would do that. No driver. It is a stupid theory. No driver would do that.”

Lauda, a three-time champion himself, said: “The first [mistake] was no problem because he stayed in the lead. Here it’s more complicated because when you brake too late and too hard you flat-spot your tyres and your race is over. So you have to go more into the exit than at other places. So at the end of his mistake he made the right decision.

“He made Lewis’s life easy. And that’s it. Lewis was having big problems in the past, especially in Spa, so I’m happy for him that he won the race.”

Hamilton has branded the persistent heckling of Rosberg “unnecessary”, after the German was booed on the podium at Monza following Sunday’s race.

However, Hamilton suggested he sympathised with the right of fans to express themselves.

The 29-year-old, who narrowed the gap to Rosberg in the drivers’ championship to 22 points with Sunday’s win, added he had experienced boos from spectators during his Formula One career, while his team-mate said he hoped he would eventually be forgiven for causing the pair’s collision in Belgium last month.

“I think it’s always generally unnecessary,” Hamilton said on Monday night. “I think they are just passionate fans. I think they are very much like me, they wear their heart on their sleeve, so if they are unhappy about something ... I’ve had boos before years and years ago. It’s nice to come here and see the support I have had growing, even from the Ferrari fans.”

Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team chief, was much more forthright in his views on the jeering, even suggesting it could take its toll on Rosberg’s mental state.

“There should not be any booing on the podium,” Wolff said. “It is the top three guys who have had a mega race and whoever it is they shouldn’t be doing it. It is sport and sport should unite.

"But all those guys have fans; some of them are pretty emotional. Does that take a toll on you? Yes. So I think you have to be pretty tough. I don’t want to even think about being booed – but maybe it is something you need to survive if you want to take it to the top.”

Rosberg, who finished second at Monza, said: “I hope that with time people forgive and forget; that will be great. And I have apologised, I cannot do anything more than that.”

Meanwhile, after a weekend in which Luca di Montezemolo’s future seemed under threat, the Ferrari president has come in for severe criticism from the boss of the parent company, Fiat, raising serious doubts over his position.

Di Montezemolo insisted in Monza that he would serve another three years and decide when he leaves, but he has been publicly rebuked for his comments. Ferrari endured a nightmare weekend at their home race, finishing with just two points and slipping behind Williams in the constructors’ championship.

Sergio Marchionne, chief executive of Fiat, said: “We are good friends but his statements, these are things I wouldn’t have said myself. The heart of Ferrari is winning in F1. I don’t want to see our drivers in seventh and 12th place.

"To see the Reds in this state, having the best drivers, exceptional facilities, engineers who are really good, to see all that and then to consider that we have not won since 2008 ... The important thing for Ferrari is not just the financial results, but also it is winning and we have been struggling for six years.”

Ferrari had hoped new regulations in 2014 would enable them to bridge the gap to the front, after six years without a title. But they have only fallen further back, prompting star driver Fernando Alonso to describe this season as the least enjoyable of his Ferrari career.

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