Things got a bit awkward between Russian autocrat/one-time Formula Something driver Vladimir Putin and Formula One Russian Grand Prix winner Nico Rosberg after today’s race. Putin looks like he feels ignored as Rosberg does everything else but shake his hand, and then unleashes the shade.
Rosberg quickly went around Putin as he entered the room where everyone gathers before the podium ceremony. He was like a man on a mission, speeding past a couple folks asking for him by name to briefly shake third-place driver Kimi Räikkönen’s hand, then continued taking gear off to do his required weigh-in.
After he was done getting comfortable, Rosberg shook the hands of Putin and Putin’s interpreter. While Rosberg thought he was off the hook, he was roped back in for a brief, stilted, and very awkward conversation with the Russian leader, as translated through his interpreter:
Putin, via interpreter: Do you like it here? Is everything all right?
Rosberg: Yeah, everything was good. It’s a great track, and they’ve done a great job. ... F1 is growing in this country.
Putin, via interpreter: Yes, exactly. Thanks to you.
Rosberg: Oh, we try.
Putin, via interpreter: You and your colleagues, sincere thanks to you. Different segments, different sections of this sport have started to develop in Russia and people take pleasure in watching you do your job, if you can call it a job.
Rosberg: [awkward laughter] You have some great Russian drivers, as well.
Of course, many of us would be glad to drive an F1 car for fun, but it is Rosberg’s job, and Putin sounds like he’s brushing that off here. You know, a “job” is that thing that normal people who can’t just rig whole governments in their favor have to do.
Then again, this mutual coldness could be as simple an issue as a language barrier combined with some unclear expectations of where Rosberg should go first after the race. Russia may be a corrupt hot mess of a country, but they did host the Russian Grand Prix. It’s Red Bull oops-machine Daniil Kvyat’s home race, at that. Unless you’re making a completely warranted political statement by snubbing a homophobic hyper-macho caricature of a leader, it’s probably best just to shake Putin’s hand and then go on with your post-race duties.
Of course, given Kvyat’s Maldonado-like performance during the first lap of today’s race, it’s possible that Rosberg was throwing a little shade of his own back at Putin. You could feel just a slight inflection of, “Why, yes, I can do my so-called job better than your countryman. There’s a reason I’m here and Daniil just racked up the penalties.”
This is Rosberg’s fourth win of a very dominant 2016 season, and his seventh win in a row from a streak that started late last year. Rosberg started the Russian Grand Prix pole and led every lap of the race afterward.