Rosberg success sparks conspiracy theories

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Nico Rosberg won this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix, pipping Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 1.9s.

Strangely enough, this is about the same amount of time that Hamilton lost to his German colleague in the pits.

The combination of slow pitstops and mechanical gremlins which have befouled Hamilton so far this season, leaving him 29 points back in the all-Mercedes world championship battle, have got people wondering: are the German team favouring their countryman Rosberg over the British Hamilton?

That theory is not without merit. After all, in terms of marketing, having a German driver win for a German manufacturer would be that little bit more valuable. It would only be human for Mercedes to want their countryman to be the star, too.

However, in reality, there is no chance of Mercedes trying to eke out some advantage for Rosberg by forcing slow pitstops and mechanical misfortune on Hamilton.

The national ties aren't as strong as you'd think. Mercedes are based in Brackley, England, with a mostly English core of staff from their previous incarnations as Brawn GP, Honda, BAR and even Tyrrell. It's also worth remembering that while Nico races under the German flag, he mainly has that association by birth rather than heritage; he's the son of a Finn who grew up in Monte Carlo.

In terms of practicality too, this would be the most subtle and well executed sabotage ever in F1. Historically, if you're trying to covertly favour one driver in a race team of dozens, it doesn't go down well. For instance, at the 1990 British Grand Prix, Nigel Mansell thought his Ferrari had suffered a massive deterioration from the previous weekend. After pressing his mechanics, it transpired that his team-mate Alain Prost had been unhappy with his machine and convinced Ferrari to swap their chassis over without informing Mansell.

Mercedes are working hard to give parity to their drivers. We often hear the same messages relayed to both men in quick succession, they always pit the leading car first (unless, like at the Austrian Grand Prix, the following car has a greater strategic need), and take it in turns to pick who goes out first for qualifying.

What we are watching on Sunday afternoons is not an intricate conspiracy by Mercedes to shave seconds off of Hamilton's race time. Instead, we're seeing Rosberg step out of the shadow he's spent his whole life under.

There's the expectation of his championship-winning last name. His junior formulae accomplishments, where he was the first GP2 champion and outscored Hamilton in the 2004 F3 Euro Series, despite starting one fewer race, are largely ignored. Thanks to a sluggish start to his F1 career with a succession of temperamental Williams cars, his more illustrious team-mates such as Michael Schumacher and Hamilton have been expected to easily beat him before a wheel is turned.

To put it bluntly, Nico is not considered elite and Lewis is.

It is easy to think, then, that foul play must be at work at Mercedes for Rosberg to have the upper hand. After all, Hamilton is the greatest natural driver of his generation, winning everything on his way to beating double world champion Fernando Alonso in his debut year. There is no way that Rosberg can be beating him fairly - is there?

Yes, there is. There is no conspiracy at Mercedes, only a driver seizing his moment in the sun.

Ben Halls