F1 friction keeps things on the boil
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg could not be more different, even if they tried. Both on and off the track, they are as different as chalk and cheese.
One will turn up at the Wimbledon royal box in a floral shirt and camel-coloured suede shoes only to be turned away for not adhering to the tournament’s strict dress code, the other is as comfortable in a jacket and tie as he is behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car.
And they never shy away from the fact that they are poles apart. Hamilton is proud to share the story of his tough upbringing in England.
Rosberg, on the other hand, the son of former F1 world champion Keke Rosberg, grew up in Monaco, which is a playground for the rich and famous.
“I come from a not-great place in Stevenage and lived on a couch in my dad’s apartment,” Hamilton said last year.
“Nico grew up in Monaco with jets and boats and all these kinds of things.”
Despite their contrasting backgrounds, their paths crossed at a very young age in 1997, when they met on the karting scene and they quickly became good friends. But even then they had their ups and downs.
Fast-forward more than a decade later and they find themselves as team-mates at Mercedes where they are challenging for the title for a second consecutive year.
Hamilton edged Rosberg to the Drivers’ Championship last year, but the interteam war certainly puts a strain on their working relationship and friendship, and the Mercedes bosses have had to step in on a few occasions.
The rivalry may embarrass the Mercedes head honchos every now and then, but it is one that F1 has desperately needed in the past two seasons – without it, the sport would have been a lot poorer.
Mercedes have wiped out all before them since the start of the 2014 season – they won 16 of the 19 races last year and have been victorious in eight of the nine grands prix so far this campaign. So imagine how dull it would be if one driver ran away with everything.
As far as the Mercedes bosses are concerned, both drivers have the same equipment, so it is a case of “may the best man win”. Not only is the team seeing the benefits – so is F1 as a whole.
The beauty of the Mercedes rivalry is that it gives other teams a glimmer of hope, maybe not in terms of winning the ultimate prize – the drivers’ crown – but in terms of picking up the scraps for race victories if the Mercedes boys lose their heads.
With a team-mate constantly breathing down his neck, Rosberg and Hamilton know they need to keep mistakes to a minimum and they are constantly being forced to up their game.
Rosberg, known for being methodical in his approach, has been accused of not being aggressive enough in the past, but we are seeing a different Rosberg these days – one who is not afraid to push the limits.
“There’s the internal [battle] and we have to think about the team, and at the same time think about beating each other. It’s always going to be complicated, and both of us want to win,” the German said recently.
“It shouldn’t be underestimated how we are pushing each other to higher and higher levels all the time.
“It is also great for the team, this internal battle. It is good to know now that the future is going to be like that,” said Rosberg.
And F1 needs these internal battles – when teammates’ relationships go bad, it makes for an exciting show.