Rosberg chastened after Spa

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are fighting for the Formula One title

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton, left, and Nico Rosberg continue to find themselves on divergent paths in this year's Formula One world title battle

First published in Sport © by

As Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg addressed the Formula One media for the first time since departing Spa at war, the body language expressed by the Mercedes drivers spoke volumes.

In front of a crammed press conference room at Monza, the venerable circuit the scene of this weekend's Italian Grand Prix, all eyes were unsurprisingly trained on the duelling duo.

Moments after taking his seat, like a true showman Hamilton played to the crowd as he borrowed the phone of Mercedes' senior press officer.

The 29-year-old then proceeded to take one photo of the gathering, before then snapping a 'selfie' with the journalists and photographers behind him.

For the most part, Hamilton was relaxed, taking the questions in his stride, smiling profusely at one point when Fernando Alonso - sat in between the pair - put his arm around the Briton when the Spaniard was asked if he could be an "ambassador for peace".

At the other end of the front row was Rosberg, giving off an air of someone who wished to be anywhere else other than in that room being grilled by the media.

Credit to Rosberg, he did not duck the issues at hand, but he was predominantly hard faced, suggesting the last two weeks since what had transpired at Spa had been a strain.

Rosberg was handed a six-figure fine by the team for colliding with Hamilton on lap two of the Belgian Grand Prix which, in the words of Williams' Felipe Massa, "destroyed" the Briton's race.

The upside for Rosberg is he came away from Spa with a 29-point lead over Hamilton with just seven races remaining.

The downside has been the fact he was forced to admit he was in the wrong, the criticism he faced from his team bosses and the backlash in general from many observers.

Asked as to what had persuaded him to apologise, after insisting fiercely on Sunday in Belgium and in his video blog the day after that what transpired was "a racing incident", Rosberg said: "Just with time.

"I took the week to think about it, had a look at it and discussed it with the team last Friday, and in the end decided it was me who should take responsibility for it.

"It definitely was a decision that came from me after hearing people's opinions and having looked at it myself again.

"I felt it was my responsibility. I definitely was not proud of the way it went because in general I really want to contribute to 'my sport'."

Rosberg now finds himself in the uncomfortable position of villain, a role he is unfamiliar with given his previously clean Formula One career.

That much was evident at Spa when he was roundly booed by many fans on four separate occasions during his time on the podium.

Wounded by such a response, Rosberg added: "It was definitely not a nice feeling to hear boos towards me.

"I understand, because they (the fans) travel a long way, some of them, to watch a great, exciting race, a big battle between Lewis and I, and they didn't get that.

"I understand that and I accept that."

Just as Rosberg now accepts motorsport's number one rule - do not crash into your team-mate.

"It's been very clear from the beginning we must not have contact between us," added Rosberg.

"From that point of view the approach doesn't change for the future."

From Hamilton's perspective, it is a future where 'trust' in Rosberg seemingly no longer exists.

For all his general confidence throughout the press conference, the 29-year-old suggested the situation between himself and Rosberg had changed, albeit far from irretrievably broken given their prior friendship.

"Trust is a big word and it's not something I would particularly apply to racing on the track," said Hamilton.

"Naturally, me and Nico have been racing for a long time and I think we set a good foundation a long, long time ago, so that's what we work from.

"It's important to really try and move forwards, and that's what I'm focussing on.

"What happened in the past is in the past and it is what it is. I'm excited to get back in the car.

"I have seven races, there are still a lot of points available, and so that's my focus."

In the end, it was left to two-time champion Alonso, as an outsider looking in,to put the situation in perspective for both men.

"I'm sure these guys will move forward," said Alonso.

"As Nico said, they have a clear target, which is winning the world championship - both of them.

"They are in a privileged position, which is to fight for that goal.

"From the outside we will try to enjoy to the maximum this beautiful battle. The sport is made of these kind of things.

"They have a good problem: fight for the world championship."

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