As far as awkward encounters go, Nico Rosberg’s recent moment with Russian President Vladimir Putin may be one for the books. And some say it could have been avoided altogether if Rosberg had just decided to shake his hand first.
The awkward moment happened after Rosberg cross the checkered flag and became the winner of this season’s Russian Grand Prix. As the top three drivers gathered together in the room ahead of the ceremonies, Putin decided to join them along with his interpreter.
According to a report from Black Flag, it looked like Putin felt ignored when Rosberg entered the room and proceed to shake Kimi Raikkonen’s hand while ignoring the presence of the president altogether. The Mercedes driver then proceeded to remove some of his gear as he faced the couch with his back on Putin the whole time. Putin, meanwhile, simply looked on. His presence in the room seemed quite awkward altogether.
At some point, however, Rosberg finally acknowledged Putin’s presence, but that didn’t mean things went on smoothly between the two. On the other hand, it seems it may have gotten worse.
As Putin and Rosberg shook hands, the interpreter asked Rosberg, in Putin‘s behalf, “Do you like it here? Is everything alright?”
To which Rosberg answered, “Yeah, everything was good. It’s a great track, and they’ve done a great job. … F1 is growing in this country.”
Putin extended a bit flattery to Rosberg through his interpreter, remarking, “Yes, exactly. Thanks to you.”
Rosberg modestly answered, “Oh, we try.”
Had the moment ended right there, one could say that tension between the two men may have already eased. The problem was, Putin wasn’t done with Rosberg yet. The Russian president then had his interpreter say, “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.”
It seems Rosberg didn’t what to say next so he just commented, “You have some great Russian drivers, as well.” Never has a moment for a Formula 1 winner been more awkward and, strangely enough, diplomatic.
Despite this encounter backstage, though, the two still managed to do their jobs onstage. Putin went on to give Rosberg his trophy. It remains to be seen if the two will ever speak again.