It wasn’t all of a sudden that things came to a head between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg during the Monte Carlo Grand Prix last weekend. It had been in the offing for some time.
The genesis of it lay in the fact that the two Mercs are the fastest and most reliable cars on the current grid. And in these cockpits are two drivers, who are, almost, evenly matched.
To win the title, therefore, they have to beat only one guy in the entire pit lane — that guy just happens to be one with whom he shares the garage.
Of the first five races, Hamilton won four with Nico taking the season opener in Australia. The Briton, who feels he was hard done by in Round 6 at Monaco, is actually the first to cross the line. At the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona earlier this month, Hamilton used an unauthorized engine mode as he took the chequered flag just 0.6 of a second ahead of Rosberg in the race.
Then he came to the Mediterranean principality and immediately added high-octane fuel to the fire. He questioned Rosberg’s hunger and killer instinct, given that the latter, the son of the former F1 champion Keke Rosberg, had a privileged upbringing.
In the event, Rosberg snatched the crucial pole position from Hamilton in a controversial way and then went on to comfortably win the race and regain the lead in the World Championship.
Hamilton, who finished second, didn’t even shake hands with the German and later accused him of using unfair tactics. This past Friday, Hamilton had said they couldn’t be best friends as “it’s so competitive, but then it stays respectful”. By Sunday evening, respect, perhaps, could, have been the first casualty.
This, of course, makes for good television. It has spiced up a season that is devoid of any credible inter-team rivalry. The more the duo complain about each other, the less fans will complain — just as they didn’t when Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were team-mates and title contenders at McLaren (2007) or when Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna slugged it out back in 1988 and ‘89, again at McLaren.
In fact, if the precedents those seasons set are anything to go by, it will get uglier and nastier, and for us fans, better. Over to Canada, then.
Daksh is a special correspondent based in Delhi.