F1 fric­tion keeps things on the boil

CityPress - - Sport - SHAHIDA JA­COBS sports@city­press.co.za – TEAMtalk Media

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.

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