After blowing his chance to cut the gap to Hamilton, Rosberg must now avoid the mistakes of last summer

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With six laps to go in Hungary, Nico Rosberg was on the cusp of a result that few thought thinkable following his crushing defeat in qualifying just 24 hours earlier.

Running second behind Sebastian Vettel, Rosberg was poised to move into the lead of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship for the first time in 2015 after teammate Lewis Hamilton had hit trouble and was running outside of the points.

And then Lady Luck made her final move in Budapest.

When trying to defend his position from Daniel Ricciardo behind, Rosberg cut back across the Red Bull driver’s front wing and sustained a puncture, dropping him down the order.

After pitting for a fresh set of tires, the German driver eventually finished the race in eighth place. By this point, Hamilton had battled his way up into the points, finishing sixth.

For Hamilton, it was an escape act that Harry Houdini would have been proud of. After making a poor start, going off track on lap one, hitting a driver, sustaining damage and receiving a drive-through penalty, he had still managed to extend his championship lead by a further four points.

After the race, Rosberg was unsurprisingly downbeat. The German driver knew that a golden opportunity to cut the gap to Hamilton had slipped through his fingers, and he now enters the summer break with a lot of soul searching to do.

Because there was a sense of déjà vu about the aftermath of the race in Hungary. Just as we saw in 2014, Hamilton had fought back and beaten Rosberg, who had blown another chance to beat his teammate.

And we all know what happened last summer.

The circumstances were a little different last time at the Hungaroring, of course. Rosberg had started from pole whilst Hamilton had started from the pit lane. However, Hamilton had fought back to lead Rosberg on track, albeit on a different strategy, prompting Mercedes to tell the Briton to let his teammate past.

Hamilton said that he only would if Rosberg got close enough, which in his eyes, he did not. Hamilton finished third, leaving a disgruntled Rosberg to finish fourth.

Rosberg was fuming after the race, but kept a lid on his emotions. Instead of going ballistic at the team and requesting an inquest into why Hamilton had ignored team orders, the German went away for the summer and stewed. All of this anger bottled up before the pressure grew too great and resulted in the two drivers colliding on track at the Belgian Grand Prix four weeks later.

It was only after this that Rosberg let rip at Mercedes and Hamilton over what had happened in Hungary. But it was too late. By this point, he was the aggressor, and it would prove to be a big psychological blow in his championship bid. He would beat Hamilton just once in the final seven races.

This time around, Rosberg cannot be at all angry with the team over his defeat. It was a racing incident that cost him in Hungary, and arguably, he should have played it safe instead of pushing to stay ahead of Ricciardo. Instead, he tried to keep the position and ended up with a puncture that could come back to haunt him in this title race.

In reality though, Rosberg should not have been fighting with Ricciardo. Had Mercedes fitted the German driver with the option tire as originally planned, he would most probably have been hounding Sebastian Vettel for the lead. He didn’t need to run the prime tire for the final stint. The option would have got him to the end.

But it was Rosberg who asked for primes long before making his final stop. He wanted to be on the same tire as Hamilton for the final stint, believing he could outrace his teammate.

Rosberg played safe when he needed to be brave with his strategy, and was then brave when he needed to play safe against Ricciardo. He panicked.

The summer is set to be a busy one for Rosberg with his first child due in the coming weeks. However, he must readjust and reset, putting the disappointment of this defeat behind him. He must not dwell on it like he did in 2014. He must not bottle things up. He must let it go.

The comfort he can take from Hungary is that we saw Hamilton at his weakest. The Briton called it one of his worst races after the race, and although this was a little harsh given his final result, he certainly appeared to lose his cool. Blaming Rosberg for his off-track excursion early on was indicative of this, with replays showing that Hamilton had in fact locked up all by himself and had to go off track to avoid hitting his teammate.

Both Hamilton and Rosberg have been supreme in 2015, finishing on the podium in every race up to Hungary. Both knew that if they were to make a real break in the title race, they needed their teammate to struggle and hit trouble. And yet when that happened, it happened to them both.

In an interview after qualifying on Saturday, Rosberg told NBCSN that he did not want to try an alternative strategy and luck into a win over Hamilton, telling pit reporter Will Buxton: “I prefer skill”.

Skill he may prefer, but on Sunday, it was all about luck.

Maybe it’s a sign of things to come. Regardless, we’re ten races down with nine to go. If Rosberg is going to kickstart his fightback, he needs to do so soon before Hamilton lays down a streak like he did at the end of 2014 and is out of sight well before Abu Dhabi.

And where better to do so than Spa, the site of his meltdown in 2014?

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”