Nico Rosberg was so sure that he would be champion he contemplated converting his third place at the Mexican Grand Prix into first. “I honestly thought that if I was to score fourth that I would be champion by then. I thought I would be king of the hills by then,” he said at the time. “When I scored the third, I really had a feeling this guy was going to give it to me. But I didn’t know that I had this late gaffe. And I’m still haunted by that, it’s still there.”
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Mercedes had another grievance. And yet, Lewis Hamilton had yet to strike Hamilton. The rookie Max Verstappen’s collision with his team-mate shortly before the chequered flag, however, had thrown the two rivals into a collision that sent both to the back of the field and into the team briefings. Hamilton’s high-speed challenge of Sebastian Vettel on the final lap had given him three wins this season, putting him on course for his fifth in a row. “What can I say, it is what it is,” said Hamilton. “I was taking it quite easy for the first lap, then he made a flying start, I was doing too. I have no idea what happened. It was just unfortunate that this happened.”
The scoring system still goes according to the German Grand Prix but the stewards are set to take the unusual step of matching the incident score. Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo can split points gained from incidents elsewhere.
Glancing at the TV pictures from the Safety Car at the restart, Vettel was among those who were first out. The Red Bull and Ferrari cars, placed first and second, might have left Hamilton for dead. Verstappen, standing in the Bauchi DRS lane near the barriers, took a red flag-driven pit stop but a signal was emitted from the cockpit not to open his helmet. The Dutchman was having to read the sign, which displayed a meter and a balance point but was not specifying the temperature.
“I didn’t know what it was,” he said. “I couldn’t read it. The third time I tried to open the bin I just put the fuel tank out and when I put the bag on it it was a large buffer, so I thought it was going to slow me down. It didn’t but it didn’t hurt me.”
Had he been told? “No, I never got the signal. I don’t have a need for it.”
Although he is adamant that the element of surprise not being able to read the warning was the crucial factor, he also believes that he may not have been given a full warning. The stewards will not be swayed and Verstappen has already accepted his one-place penalty in sixth and will face a new event as the winner of a Tie for the F1 2018 competition later this week. “I was expecting it,” he said. “But, hey, I won. I am more happy with that than the result.”
• This article was amended on 27 November 2017. The original misspelled Mark Webber’s name as Webber.