A Mercedes ‘get-together’ did not go unnoticed in the Monaco harbour on Wednesday.
The scene was former F1 driver Gerhard Berger’s luxury boat, but on board were Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda, fellow bosses Paddy Lowe and Toto Wolff, and drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. So far in 2014, the silver-clad party has been utterly dominant. Lauda said the Monaco get-together was at his expense. “This is my thank you for the great performance of the team so far,” Auto Motor und Sport quotes the triple world champion as saying. But it is also believed Lauda took the time to assure Hamilton and Rosberg that they can continue to go wheel-to-wheel against one another at the grands prix. At the same time, the F1 legend knows all too well that “Eventually it will go wrong”. “If the two continue to do their races ahead of the rest of the field, the probability of a crash increases,” Lauda acknowledged.
Mercedes is treading a fine line, between ensuring it capitalises on its massive investments and subsequent dominance, and not turning off bored fans. But allowing Hamilton and Rosberg to go at it runs the risk of an Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost-style personality collision.
Indeed, recent comments by Hamilton have reminded some of something Prost said at the height of the Senna rivalry: that the great Brazilian didn’t just want to beat him, that he wanted to “humiliate” the Frenchman as well. And Hamilton has told F1’s official website that, because of his upbringing, he is “hungrier” for success than Rosberg. “I come from a not-great place in Stevenage and lived on a couch in my dad’s apartment,” he said. “Nico grew up in Monaco with jets and hotels and boats and all these kind of things — so the hunger is different,” Hamilton added. And when asked what his ideal result on Sunday would be, he admitted: “Ha, finishing first, Fernando finishing second and Sebastian finishing third.”
When asked about the recent trend of their on and off-track rivalry, Rosberg said on Wednesday: “I don’t know what he (Hamilton) said so I’m not going to comment.” What is more open for comment is the precise extent of Mercedes’ dominance in 2014. Hamilton argues that his duel with Rosberg is more exciting than Sebastian Vettel’s dominance over the past few years. “The good thing is that unlike Sebastian, who was leading by 30-40 seconds each race, it’s not the case here, I’m racing my teammate,” he said. “So I actually do have competition and I’m grateful for that.”
But Vettel insists that Red Bull’s gap over the field was never as great as the advantage currently enjoyed by the silver cars. “We have never been in that situation,” he said. “We are five races in and I don’t think we ever started a season with five wins,” said Vettel.
Image: Mercedes GP