SINGAPORE (AFP) – Alain Prost has warned Mercedes to be ultra-careful in their handling of the street-fighting duel between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.
The four-time former world champion, who was embroiled in a similar intra-team scrap with Ayrton Senna when both raced for McLaren in the late 1980s, said he felt Mercedes had overreacted in previous races and bowed to outside pressures.
As the heat intensifies ahead of the final races of a gripping season dominated by Mercedes, both men have sought to avoid inflaming a rivalry that team chief Toto Wolff this week described as “like enemies”. Prost, however, believes such emotive language has made the situation worse.
“I don’t think the team has been 100 per cent right,” said the Frenchman.
“In Hungary and in Spa, they were not right, not 100 per cent. They should react only to the facts and not the consequences.”
Acting in his role as an ambassador for Renault, Prost added: “The consequence in Spa was very bad – they lost a race that they should not lose, and for Lewis it was very bad.
“That’s the consequence, but the fact is almost nothing – it’s just a misjudgement. You cannot do that on purpose because you know there is a much better chance to break your front wing and not cause a puncture.
“That is stupid what I read, ‘he has done it on purpose’ – it’s really absolutely impossible, but then they overreacted and everybody overreacted. That is the risk of this kind of situation.
“Very often it is not coming from the drivers themselves, but from outside, and I was very surprised that Toto (Wolff) and Niki (Lauda) – they almost attacked Nico. That could destabilise the situation.
“Until now they have done no mistakes, in my opinion. But here, now, it’s going to be much more difficult.”
After his dramatic victory at the Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton remains 22 points adrift of Rosberg in the title race, but is determined to end defending four-time champion Sebastian Vettel’s run of three straight Singapore wins for Red Bull with his second triumph in Singapore.
Hamilton now has 28 career victories after winning six this year and, like Rosberg, relishes the chance to race clean and fair with restricted radio messages in the season’s only night race.
“It’s crunch time now,” he said.
Rosberg admitted that the Briton’s recent surge of speed and form, coupled with his previous experience of title battles in 2007 and 2008, may give him the edge.
“It’s not a concern for me,” said Rosberg.
“It might help him, yes, quite possibly having those experiences, but it’s not something that I am too concerned about.
“I’m focused on my own thing. He is a strong competitor, he has his strengths and weaknesses, but I concentrate on doing my job with my team and getting the most out of it.”
Rosberg added that he was very disappointed with his performance at Monza, where he missed his braking at the chicane to gift Hamilton the lead and victory, but said he was not feeling overwhelmed by pressure.