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If Nico wins in Monaco tomorrow, the scales may tip back in his favor

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It’s been quite a week in Formula 1. Not only have we been in Monaco, which – in case you missed it – is quite a big race weekend for us, but the most explosive driver rivalry in years has sparked into life.

And one man has been at the heart of it: Lewis Hamilton.

Over the past few weeks, the mind games at Mercedes have certainly been brewing. Hamilton might have won the last four races, but he continually said: “Nico was quicker.” Essentially, it was a back-handed way of saying “I was slower, and yet I still won!”

All the while, Rosberg remained tight-lipped and said very little on the matter. He was quoted in one interview as saying that there would always be something in his fridge for Lewis. These two have been friends since their karting days, but now the cracks are appearing.

In qualifying, Nico went off when on provisional pole and brought out the yellow flags, denying his rivals of a better lap time. Frankly, it appeared to be an innocent error, and the stewards thought so too after investigating the matter.

Hamilton was less than convinced, though. He didn’t smile at all after qualifying despite securing a front-row start, and he said very little on the matter. Rosberg apologized, but in the press conference Lewis just muttered: “Yeah… I was up a couple of tenths… yeah.”

Then, in the FIA media pen after the race, Hamilton spoke to the media and made his true feelings clear. He was asked whether he thought the move was deliberate, à la Michael Schumacher at La Rascasse in 2006.

“Who knows?” Lewis replied. “I’m not saying anything.”

Mercedes soon began to dissect the matter, cancelling its usual press briefing in order to deal with the FIA. When the stewards decided that Rosberg had done nothing wrong, it was confirmed that he would start from pole position tomorrow.

Hamilton might have had the momentum coming into the race weekend, but if Nico can indeed win tomorrow, the scales will tip back in his favor. Not only will he regain the lead of the drivers’ championship, but he would also have beaten Hamilton in spite of his mind games. In the wake of everything, the questions about his hunger to win, the questions about his morality, he will have beaten him.

And of all the races, Monaco is the one that Lewis so dearly wants. He won here in 2008, but has not appeared on the podium since. Never before has a driver won five straight races and not won the title; Lewis currently stands on four. If Nico can spoil his party, it would be a sweet victory for the German.

Let’s just hope they keep it clean. Whoever has the lead heading up the hill from Sainte Devote tomorrow should take a huge step towards winning the race, and – who knows – maybe the championship.

Make sure you’re watching the Monaco Grand Prix live on NBC from 7:30am ET tomorrow. It has the makings of a classic.

Petrucci set for MotoGP return at Le Mans

PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 18: Danilo Petrucci of Italy and Octo Pramac Racing rounds the bend during the 2016 MotoGP Test Day at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on February 18, 2016 in Phillip Island, Australia.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Danilo Petrucci will make his comeback from injury at this weekend’s MotoGP race in Le Mans after missing the first four races of the season.

Petrucci underwent surgery on his right hand due to a recurring problem that meant he could not race in Qatar, Argentina, Austin or Spain for the Pramac team.

The Italian’s place was taken by Michele Pirro for the last three races, but Petrucci is now fit again and will race at the Circuit de la Sarthe this weekend.

“I trained a lot in the last few weeks. This time I did things more calmly, waiting for my body to give me permission to train,” Petrucci said.

“I’m happy to be back and I feel good. Of course we must see the reaction to the first impact with the track as the intense workout made at home certainly cannot be compared to a race weekend. But I’m very confident.

“I want to thank all the people who helped me, my trainer Marco Baglioni, Tommaso, Filippo, and my brother Francesco who have trained with me, pushing me every day.

“I also want to thank the Medical Team of Terni who provided me with all the tools for physiotherapy and Dr. Tarallo, from the team of prof. Catani, who operated me.

“Then a big thank to all my fans for their support. I can’t wait to be at Le Mans and I hope I can soon give to all of them so much satisfaction.”

The French Grand Prix takes place on Sunday May 8.

Magnussen named Driver of the Day for Russian GP

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark driving the (20) Renault Sport Formula One Team Renault RS16 Renault RE16 turbo on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Kevin Magnussen has won Formula 1’s official Driver of the Day poll for the Russian Grand Prix.

Magnussen started 17th in Sochi after a difficult qualifying session, but made the most of the trouble at the first corner for many of the cars ahead to work his way into the top 10.

The Dane’s pace was impressive during the second half of the race to ensure he finished the race seventh, marking Renault’s first points as an F1 constructor since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The result was also Magnussen’s first top 10 finish in F1 since the penultimate race of the 2014 season when he raced for McLaren.

On Monday, the official F1 Twitter account confirmed that Magnussen had won the vote through its website.

Kvyat, Gutierrez, Sainz handed penalty points after Russian GP

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01: Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico driving the (21) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo and Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM09 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo collide at the start during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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The Russian Grand Prix proved to be a busy race for the FIA stewards as a number of incidents resulted in three drivers receiving penalty points on their super licences.

Daniil Kvyat, Esteban Gutierrez and Carlos Sainz Jr. were all sanctioned by the stewards for actions during the race.

Kvyat’s antics on the first lap defined a number of drivers’ races as he hit Sebastian Vettel twice in a matter of seconds, the second hit punting the Ferrari racer into the wall and out of contention.

Kvyat said after the race that it was easy to attack him, but the rest of the paddock was less than impressed, leaving many expecting an apology from the Russian.

After being handed a 10-second stop/go penalty during the race, Kvyat was also given three points on his FIA super licence, taking his tally up to five for the 12-month period.

Gutierrez was also penalized for an incident on the first lap after he took out Nico Hulkenberg and sparked a multi-car melee at Turn 2. He too received a time penalty during the race, but was handed two penalty points afterwards by the stewards.

Finally, Sainz was found to have forced Jolyon Palmer off track between Turns 2 and 3 during the race. He had 10 seconds added to his race time and also received two penalty points.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

SOCHI, RUSSIA - MAY 01:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates his win on the podium next to Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari  during the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on May 1, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg saw his Formula 1 championship lead swell to 43 points on Sunday after winning the Russian Grand Prix, marking his seventh straight victory.

The German has not lost since the Mexican Grand Prix back in November, and will head to the start of the European season in Spain later this month full of confidence.

It proved to be a race full of intriguing storylines as Lewis Hamilton fought back from 10th on the grid to finish second, Romain Grosjean took Haas back into the points and everyone got angry with Daniil Kvyat for causing mayhem at Turn 2.

Following the race on Sunday, NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton brings you all of the latest news, interviews and insight in Paddock Pass.