Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

This team ain't big enough for the both of us // Why this year's fight at Mercedes is so compelling

Published by Christine

The teammate fight at Mercedes has dominated the headlines this year. The 2014 title battle fluctuates between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, currently sitting in the latter’s favour, and their joint desire to get victory at each race weekend has upped the tension at every turn. What is fascinating about this battle though, is it is more than just your run-of-the-mill teammate rivalry. This time, it’s personal.

Lewis Hamilton happy with his day's work in Spain
Credit: Allianz SE

Hamilton and Rosberg have known each other a long time, and whilst their friendship status is unclear at this moment, it’s fair to say that they have been at least distant buddies in the past. As soon as it became clear that Mercedes were the team to beat in 2014, the questions started. How will this affect your friendship? Will you be able to stay competitive and remain mates? It wasn’t long before Hamilton declared the relationship null and void, but equally it wasn’t much further after that before he said they were fine. We just don’t know.

What we do know, however, is that friends or not, the pair have spent a long time racing in each other’s company and have a lot of information about how the other ticks. Not just a year or two spent in Formula One, but season after season of karting, junior single seaters, and feeder series to boot. They have spent years studying one another, and, according to Hamilton, dreaming of the future.

We were talking about how cool it would be, one day, if we were in Formula One, just how cool it would be to be team-mates. We said it several times. I can't remember back then if I believed it. Nico would say 'when I'm in Formula One', and for me it was 'if I ever get to Formula One'.

Because obviously Nico's dad was a Formula One driver - he knew he was going to make it. For us, we never really knew what was going to happen, we just kept at it.

- Lewis Hamilton

It’s a low blow for Lewis to hit out at the expectations to get into F1. It could just be a difference in personality that means Rosberg exudes the confidence of his aims, whilst Hamilton takes the more stoic British approach of waiting to see what happens. The pair can deny mind games all they want but Hamilton delving into the past like this is a clear indicator of how things stand. It’s also something we just couldn’t see at any other team, because no one else has the history like they do.

Not only do we have drivers with a very rich association with each other, but it’s also unusual to have such competition between teammates in equal machinery. In recent years, we have seen dominant drivers but they haven’t been matched by the sister car, for whatever reason. Here, we have a German team dedicated to equal treatment, with hugely competitive drivers, able to match each other for pace.

Nico Rosberg gets ready for a fight in Austria
Credit: Allianz SE

Race after race we hear their desperate calls over the team radio, asking what the other is doing. What tyres are they on? Are they having the same problems? Do they have to save fuel like I do? It’s incredible insight for us as fans, to hear the amount of information requested, the sheer paranoia about what is going on in the other car. Hamilton and Rosberg both have such an advantage over the rest of the field that they can spend their time obsessing over each other, instead of concentrating on the actual race.

It’s almost impossible to know how this season will play out, aside from Mercedes winning a very dominant championship. Which driver will pick up that most important trophy at the end of the year remains to be seen. Alongside that, it will be interesting to see what state the relationship between Rosberg and Hamilton will be come the end of the year. Are they close enough to survive what will be a tumultuous season but what is ultimately just a sporting endeavour? Or is the desire to win so strong that it will sacrifice absolutely anything else? You can keep your engine noise and your underbody sparks. This is why I love Formula One.