Nico Rosberg stews as Lewis Hamilton twists knife
As Lewis Hamilton savours back-to-back Japanese victories and the sweetness of matching Ayrton Senna`s 41 race wins, his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg faces two long weeks of soul-searching.
Rosberg knows he blew a golden opportunity to close the gap on world champion Hamilton in the Formula One title race on Sunday after failing to turn pole position into 25 points for the second year running at Suzuka.
Hamilton lunged past Rosberg into turn one in an explosive start and roared away as the German finished second behind his nemesis, who now boasts a 48-point lead with five races left.
Rosberg, warned by Mercedes bosses last year after colliding with Hamilton, was too deflated even to protest at Hamilton appearing to force him off the track at the second bend.
"In turn two Lewis had the inside line and just made it stick," Rosberg said. "That was the end of it there."
A Mercedes one-two exorcised the demons of Singapore a week earlier when the Silver Arrows suffered a mysterious loss of pace, Hamilton retiring with technical trouble and Rosberg finishing fourth.
But the psychological damage Hamilton inflicted on Rosberg with his eighth victory in 14 races this year could have dealt a hammer blow to his title chances before the they resume battle at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi in two weeks.
"It was important to win but it didn`t work out," said a dazed Rosberg. "I just need to try to win next time out."
A feud which threatened to erupt last season could rear its ugly head again if Rosberg ultimately decides he was wronged at the start.
"I haven`t even seen it myself on TV," said Rosberg when pressed on the subject. "For sure it was close, I had to avoid a collision. It`s difficult for me to comment now."As Rosberg struggled to articulate his emotions, Hamilton also appeared lost for words.
"For me to come here to a race where I used to love watching Ayrton drive and to match his wins, yeah, I can`t really describe it," said Hamilton. "It doesn`t really feel real at the moment."
Sebastian Vettel, surprise winner in Singapore last week, summed up the dominance of the Mercedes after making the podium ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.
"Obviously we knew from the beginning of the season that these boys would be difficult to beat," the four-time world champion said. They`re doing a great job first of all, both of them. They have a great car, a great engine and all in all it makes them difficult to beat."
Vettel`s title hopes were all but killed off in Suzuka as the German now trails Hamilton by 59 points.
"Being realistic, I think it will be very, very difficult (to win the championship)," he admitted. "It`s probably in their hands."
McLaren`s woes will be under scrutiny again in Sochi after Fernando Alonso had his knuckles rapped by team boss Ron Dennis for calling his car an "embarrassment" at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Red Bull`s threat to quit Formula One in a row over engines could reach a tipping point by the time freight begins arriving in Russia after both their cars failed to score points at Suzuka.
And troubled Lotus will hope their cashflow problems ease after being locked out of their paddock hospitality unit in Japan over unpaid bills.