Rosberg to keep Monaco pole
2:17pm Saturday 24th May 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Nico Rosberg has escaped punishment by the Monaco Grand Prix stewards after they could find "no evidence of any offence" during qualifying.
Rosberg was hauled before the stewards for an incident during the closing stages of qualifying that compromised Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton's final hot lap.
On provisional pole position by just 0.059secs from Hamilton after the opening quick laps, Rosberg locked up on the entry to Mirabeau on his second and final attempt, and was forced to take the escape road.
An attempt to reverse, however, swiftly brought out the yellow flags, and with Hamilton behind and on a quicker lap, the championship leader was forced to abort, denying him top spot on the grid.
Hamilton later inferred Rosberg's actions were deliberate, but after a surprisingly swift hearing, it was determined the 28-year-old German was not guilty.
A statement read: "The stewards examined video and telemetry data from the team and the FIA and could find no evidence of any offence related to the turn five (Mirabeau) incident."
The decision now paves the way for what could be a spicy duel between the Mercedes duo following the team's third front-row lock-out of the season, in particular given Hamilton's comments.
In response to a question on BBC 5 Live: 'Did he (Rosberg) screw you over?', Hamilton replied: "Potentially."
Asked a similar question on Sky Sports, Hamilton said: "I'm not saying no."
Such words are likely to enrage Rosberg and i t is now clear bridges have been burned between the title-chasers, to such an extent Hamilton has also suggested he will follow the example set by his hero Ayrton Senna.
The bitter hostility that existed between Senna and Alain Prost during the late 1980s when the pair were team-mates at McLaren has become legendary.
The current fracas between Hamilton and Rosberg remains far from the extremes of those days, although the former may yet take matters into his own hands.
"I don't know if Senna and Prost talked about it, but I quite liked the way Senna dealt with that, so I'll take a page out of his book," remarked Hamilton.
In 1989 Prost took out Senna late in the Japanese Grand Prix to win the title that year.
A year later, and at the same circuit, the Brazilian returned the favour by running into the Frenchman - who had moved on to Ferrari - at turn one to claim the second of his three championships.
As to whether Hamilton is referring to resorting to such tactics is unclear, but it would appear he has some sort of revenge in mind.
Throw in Hamilton's remarks earlier this week when he suggested his under-privileged upbringing on a council estate in Stevenage in comparison to Rosberg's Monaco-based childhood made him hungrier to succeed, and the touchpaper has been lit for fireworks on the streets of the principality.
Whatever transpires, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff is a man under pressure, but he is adamant he can continue to manage his drivers.
Wolff had strongly defended Rosberg ahead of the stewards' hearing as he said: "I don't think anybody does that deliberately in modern Formula One.
"He missed his braking point, which was in order to beat his team-mate, and he took the exit. That's it. There is nothing to add.
"I know you guys (the media) need to have some spicy, controversial story..."
Interrupted as it was suggested Mercedes were providing the story of their own making, Wolff countered: "Yeah, but it's all bull****."
Wolff, however, now has a far-from-happy Hamilton on his hands, with the 29-year-old certain to be fired up throughout the race to claim a fifth successive win and extend his slender three-point cushion over Rosberg.
Assessing the situation, Wolff said: "If you are P2 and your team-mate is P1 there is no reason to be happy.
"Of course, we'd like to have two happy drivers, but if you are as competitive as they are in a car capable of winning the world title, every weekend you are going to have one happy and the other unhappy.
"But I'm 100,000 per cent happy I'm controlling them to be happy.
"There is no difficulty in managing this situation of the drivers. We have spoken to them in the debrief and it was all okay, all good."
Behind the duo will be the Red Bull pair of Daniel Ricciardo and four-times champion Sebastian Vettel, finishing three tenths of a second and half-a-second down respectively on Rosberg.
Then come the Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in fifth and sixth, with the latter an astonishing 1.4secs off the pace, with McLaren's Jenson Button 12th and Max Chilton in 20th place for Marussia.