British fans may even scores by booing Rosberg

Nico Rosberg (centre) reacts in the grid before the start of the Austria Grand Prix on July 3, 2016.
Nico Rosberg (centre) reacts in the grid before the start of the Austria Grand Prix on July 3, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

LONDON • Britain's army of Formula One fans are noted for their fair-mindedness.

Back in 2009 they swallowed their disappointment at seeing Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button beaten on home ground by Sebastian Vettel and gave the German a standing ovation.

"When I looked left and right in the last two laps the people were already standing up and cheering and clapping," Vettel said after becoming the youngest driver ever to win the British Grand Prix.

That day Vettel, 21, was still a season and a half away from becoming the second German to win the world championship.

Nico Rosberg, the man who is desperate to be the third knows that, depending on events, he could receive a very different reception at Silverstone tomorrow.

Rosberg's fans booed Lewis Hamilton in Austria last Sunday, in response to a last-lap incident which handed the Englishman a win and pushed the German down to fourth, cutting his title lead to 11 points.

After colliding with each other in the heat of battle at Spa in 2014 and twice already this season, and coming perilously close on several other occasions, the two Mercedes drivers have been given a stern warning by their team management. But they have been warned before, to little effect.

If Rosberg wants to know about the sound of booing at the British Grand Prix, he only has to ask his team's non-executive chairman.

Forty years ago this month, during an afternoon of high drama, Niki Lauda was a witness to an outbreak of audible dissent from grandstands almost wholly occupied by devotees of his rival, James Hunt.

Mass jeering, slow hand-clapping and the hurling of beer cans brought Formula One the closest it has ever come to a football riot.

Hamilton, who topped the timesheets in yesterday's practice sessions, will be hoping to record his fourth win in his home race, and his third in a row.

He goes into the weekend having established a moral advantage once the stewards in Austria determined that Rosberg was to blame for their most recent altercation.

And the British fans are most likely to respond to the attempt by their counterparts in Austria to humiliate a man who, with three wins in the last four races, now has momentum firmly on his side.

THE GUARDIAN

F1 BRITISH GP

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'British fans may even scores by booing Rosberg'. Print Edition | Subscribe