Cold War at Mercedes

Six rounds into season 2014, it’s all at war where Mercedes is concerned.

Barring a problem instigated by a $1 spark plug component at the season opening Australian Grand Prix, the German marque would almost certainly have claimed maximum points available to date.

As it is, a yield of two hundred and forty points from an optimum of two hundred and fifty eight has the team on track to emulate the performances of McLaren in 1988 and Ferrari in 2002.

That the magnitude of the Brackley outfit’s utter dominance at each event this campaign – with both championships as good as sealed for constructor and one of the drivers at the wheel of a Silver Arrow, barely a third of the way through, has rapidly been lost to the dynamics of the inter-team rivalry, is encouraging for those on the verge of losing interest for the balance of the season, or permanently.

Hostilities between the protagonists, team-mates and until recently, good friends, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, threatens to reach levels unseen since the timeless Alain Prost-Ayrton Senna feud witnessed a quarter of a century ago.

Invariably relations between title contenders are going to intensify, but seldom are there two drivers from the same outfit gunning for the ultimate prize.

Think the aforementioned duo at McLaren in 1989, culminating with the infamous coming together at Suzuka. There’s Fernando Alonso and Hamilton at McLaren in 2007 and the ensuing Spygate fallout borne largely from the Spaniard’s frustration at then rookie Hamilton stealing his thunder. Or Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at Red Bull in 2010, everybody remembers what happened at Turkey, and the front-wing, “not bad for a number-two driver” Silverstone debacle.

Those are prominent examples, but one struggles to recall many other instances in recent history.

The breaking point would appear to have come last Saturday at Monaco, where Rosberg ensured he claimed pole position with an ‘error’ on his final run – triggering a yellow flag, thus denying Hamilton the chance to snatch all important track position on a circuit notorious for a lack of overtaking.

As it transpired, the German cruised to victory, his second in succession around the Principality, in doing so, regaining the lead in the drivers’ standings which he’d enjoyed until the Spanish Grand Prix.

The foundations for the rupture can be traced as far back as Bahrain, where the two went hammer and tong for the majority of the evening.

Ever since, relations have never been quite the same, and with each passing event, the joviality between the two – so evident not just last season, but as long as both have been competing, has dissipated, culminating in the cold front on display at Monaco all weekend.

The revelation that Hamilton ran an alternative engine mapping at Spain, ostensibly going a long way to ensuring his victory, cannot have helped affairs.

Hamilton’s recent assertion that the pair “are not friends, we are colleagues”, all but confirms that shared success has come at the cost of the relationship, at the very least, as long as the two are fighting for the title. Even then, one has to wonder if long-term reconciliation is a realistic prospect.

The Briton once shared a close relationship with Sauber’s Adrian Sutil, which cooled significantly following the German’s 2011 nightclub incident.

It may be that the competition’s only hope of any success this season, namely placing higher than third at any given event, lies in the outcome of the Silver Arrows quarrels.

The title race is all but over, but the real battle is just commencing. Let them fight like it’s 1989, if it comes anywhere close, it will be something truly spectacular!






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