Just as Fangio and Collins were true teammates so were Fangio and Stirling Moss in the all-conquering 1955 Mercedes-Benz team. Moss was content to learn by circulating so close to Fangio that the redoubtable Mercedes team manager Alfred Neubauer worried they’d collide – although they never did. Two years on, at the British GP when race-leader Moss hit trouble, his team-mate Tony Brooks willingly pitted his car to let Stirling take over. Their reward was the first-ever win for British drivers in a British car at the British GP.
When you’re a racing driver, you’re there to win and the first person you have to beat is your team-mate. But even with such intense rivalry it is still possible to be competitive and remain friends. Senna may not have got on with Prost but he certainly did with Gerhard Berger – maybe because he feared Alain more than Gerhard so became obsessed with beating him.
In 1978, the fabled black and gold Lotus 79, driven by Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson, was dominant, but although Ronnie was at least as fast as Mario he, like Moss in 1955, dutifully followed his team leader rather than risk a collision and there was no enmity between them. And one of the most amicable F1 partnerships of all was that of 1973 team-mates Jackie Stewart and François Cevert. Sir Jackie acknowledges that, by the end of the year, the Frenchman was his equal but Cevert, like Collins before him, was happy to wait. Sadly, again like Collins, he was killed before achieving the championship that would almost certainly have been his.
Another example of the way drivers of equal ability can compete against each other without recrimination is that of Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve, Ferrari team-mates in 1979, who raced without acrimony to the end of the season with Scheckter winning the title thanks to Villeneuve deferring to him at Monza.
So where does all this leave us now? Are Hamilton and Rosberg more like Senna and Prost or Scheckter and Villeneuve? Whatever, we fans must be forever grateful that their Mercedes team bosses let them fight it out on the race track. This has been one of the most exciting seasons I can remember, and whoever takes the honours – be it Lewis or Nico – they will truly deserve it.