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


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?