Nico Rosberg arrives at this weekend's British Grand Prix determined to move on from the controversy of Austria and re-extend his F1 world championship lead over Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
The pair came together for the third time in five races – a record that the team reckons has cost in the region of 50 points – on the final lap of last Sunday's race in Styria, with Rosberg coming off worst in a collision that the stewards – and the majority of the watching public – subsequently placed firmly in his hands.
Still apparently unable to accept the responsibility, however, Rosberg insists that he is putting the Austrian moment behind him and turning his attention back to fending Hamilton off in the longer term, with a first world title at stake should he succeed.
“It's not black and white, definitely,” he said of the collision that Mercedes tried to blame on late-race brake problems, “I respect the stewards' decision, fully respect it. They came to that decision as a group, but that doesn't mean I have to agree and my view can be different. That's it. It's a thing of the past now and I can begin being fully focused on what's in front and on this weekend.
“It's not a question of apologising [to team or Hamilton]. We are now moving forward, it's a thing of the past, we've had our discussions and been through it and, together, we have come to a conclusion of how best to move forward. Now we are going racing again. The great thing for all of us is that we are still definitely free to race, which is what we all want because we want to battle out there. [The situation] remains nearly unchanged and that's the most important, isn't it?”
'Nearly unchanged' refers to Mercedes' decision, while not imposing team orders, to strengthen its 'rules of engagement' for both drivers
in a bid to make them think twice before coming together in the remaining twelve rounds. Like Hamilton before him, Rosberg refused to divulge the new rules they were operating under, but insisted that he had never asked the team to consider using team orders to protect his position at the head of the points table.
“I don't see why it would be to my advantage or why I would even want it, because the exciting thing out there is to race and to race Lewis and to battle and beat him,” the German stressed, “That's where I get the biggest thrill, that's what I love and that's what I'm here for, so such a thought did not come to my mind. I strongly dislike team orders, if I may say, but it's a part of the game and always will be – like it was in Monaco.”
Struggling for pace and grip, Rosberg acceded to requests to move aside and allow Hamilton to take up the pursuit of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo in the Principality – a decision that ultimately allowed the reigning world champion to take the first win of his 2016 title defence. With Hamilton subsequently winning in Canada and Austria either side of Rosberg's fifth success of the year in Baku, the gap between the two team-mates is just eleven points heading to Hamilton's home race, but the championship leader accepted that both needed to put the wishes – and image – of the team first.
“I don't want to go into the exact written details of the rules of engagement because that is an internal matter - please respect that,” he noted, “For sure, this is a serious matter which needs to be discussed. We are team-mates in the end and we must avoid contact and collisions and costing the team in such a way so, definitely, it must be discussed and that's what we did, very constructively, and we have come to some conclusions and agreements moving forward.”
Asked whether his actions in Austria could be detrimental to his chances of landing another Mercedes contract – team boss Toto Wolff hinted at the possibility of suspending one or other driver if incidents persist – Rosberg said he had no reason to be concerned.
“It's a momentary thing that doesn't have a long-term impact on the happiness of the team with me and me with the team, and of being here and looking forward to racing many more years here,” he reasoned, apparently unaware that Wolff had termed the talks a 'final warning' for both drivers, “The 'final warning' matter is completely irrelevant. If you have a contract for ten years or zero years, it's completely irrelevant.”