Formula One fans the world over must surely and rightfully be rubbing their hands at the prospect of a unique season to be cherished with the Mercedes awesome twosome Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton locked in a titanic battle.
Whether they can remain friends in the heat of a tussle set to run and run is a question, and a worry, that their team’s hierarchy must be suffering even if they won’t admit it.
I can see how it can with so much at stake in terms of championship and, therefore, massive financial success and the need for no quarter or moment of surrender by either driver to be given in their desire to rule the grand prix realm.
There are precedents triggered by similar situations in past championship showdowns between teammates who became confirmed enemies to the horror of their bosses as partnerships collapsed under the weight of ambition and intensely personal and selfish drive.
I hark back to examples of destroyed associations that were never repaired: Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet at Williams in the late 80s; Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at McLaren in 1988; Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in 2007; and, more recently, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at Red Bull.
There have been many more — and there will be still plenty to come. Such is the nature of the business of being the best, and necessarily the most ruthless, in pursuit of dominance, however embarrassing it might be to one’s rival. Teammate or not.
The old saying in F1 is that the first man you have to beat is your teammate. Never was that seen to be more of a truism than right now with Hamilton and Rosberg risking all taking their cars to the limit without the faintest hint of a backdown.
It may augur upset and concern in a nerve-wracked team, but from the point of view of a public eager for a fair return for their entrance fee, or TV licence money, the spectacle is most welcome.
Forget the adverse comments about the lack of deafening engine noise as a loss likely to dull the atmosphere, the sheer neck-and-neck showdowns as evidenced not only up front but throughout the field last time out in Bahrain looks like a surefire winner to me.
Hamilton and Rosberg may have edged towards disaster that could have wiped either man out in the final ten laps after the safety car’s appearance had closed up the field, but for sheer edge-of-your-seat thrills in the greatest race for decades, it was memorable.
Rosberg and Hamilton, the 2008 champion, have enjoyed a strong friendship and mutual respect as talented opponents from their days as kid-karters, but the chinks are beginning to appear.
I have discovered that ahead of Bahrain GP, Rosberg’s side of the Mercedes garage provided the German ace with a secret document, an extensive run-down on what they believed could be Hamilton’s weaknesses, and now Hamilton has vowed to do some homework, too, on his partner.
Meanwhile, their team boss, Paddy Lowe, promises: “We are going to let them race each other. No team orders or preferences. It is important to keep providing the entertainment and excitement for us all.”
Hear, hear! I second that.
The writer is a motorsport expert based in the UK.