Simmering rivalries are one of the things that sporting urban myths are made of. Whilst Nico Rosberg has failed to get the better of his team mate Lewis Hamilton, the tension between them is clear for all to see. The Hamilton/Rosberg rivalery has many similarities to the Vettel/Webber duel fought out during their years together at Red Bull Racing.
The statistics show that Rosberg is closer to Hamilton than Webber was to Vettel, but no mater how close he is, it is Lewis who has won the battle of the Mercedes drivers in the past three years and is now an F1 triple world champion.
Niki Lauda revealed earlier this year that Mercedes have sought to minimise the conflict between their two drivers by writing a rules of engagement book larger than the bible. Yet when every on track move is unique, given the nature of racing, it is impossible to envisage every possible scenario and regulate accordingly.
Nico Rosberg was clearly upset with Lewis Hamilton for his turn 1 move in the 2015 US GP in Austin, describing it as “extremely aggressive” in post race interviews. Rosberg on pole failed to nail the start and Hamilton drove up the inside and into turn one at least on track position parity with his team mate. The German driver was pushed wide and off the track costing him 3 places and allowing the Red Bull cars through.
“Turn 1 for sure was very aggressive”, Rosberg stated in the written press media conference. “What do I say? I haven’t seen it, so I cannot comment it,” Rosberg said after the race.
“For sure it was extremely aggressive.
“We hit each other. I would say Lewis came into me, which is not good, but I cannot say any more.”
During race commentary, Martin Brundle questioned whether Hamilton had really put enough steering input into the car to avoid hitting Rosberg, and Paddy Lowe confirmed after the race Lewis had radioed through an apology.
Toto Wolff agreed with his German driver that Hamilton had crossed a line that should not have been crossed. “I think he [Rosberg] has reason to be upset for that particular incident. It was too hard and we need to pick it up and discuss it.
“During the race I was happier because emotionally the race panned out for Nico to win it, and that would have recovered the situation finally. But Nico made that one mistake that cost him the race win. So I think it is important that we sit down in a couple of days and discuss it – because we don’t want it to escalate in to something bigger.”
Mercedes will sit Hamilton down and restate their expectations of the code of on track contact between the drivers, though Wolff does not want just yet to rain on Hamilton’s party. “I don’t want to take anything away from Lewis, as he deserves the title. Reducing our discussion now to that one incident is not right. But obviously we need to talk about it a certain stage.”
Had Hamilton pulled the same move on Rosberg later in the race, it is likely he would have been reprimanded in some way by the stewards. However, the race stewards tend to cut the drivers more slack over lap 1 incidents due to the mayhem of 20 cars hurtling through the same section of track.
In the end it mattered little, because the race ebbed and flowed and following the final VSC it seemed as though Hamilton would struggle to even make the podium. He had tyres over 20 laps old and was being hunted by Rosberg and Vettel on fresh rubber. But then, Daniel Kvyat gave Lewis some relief as he lost his car on damp Astroturf and slammed it into the barrier. This allowed Hamilton to pit under the ensuing safety car from first place, fit new soft Pirelli tyres and emerge second behind his team mate.
Rosberg then promptly handed the race to Hamilton after the restart. He spun up his wheels entering the stadium section of the Circuit of the America’s and Lewis brezzed past to take the lead.
Nico was lost for words when asked to explain what happened. “I am not saying anything was wrong with the car. I am assuming it was a mistake I made. Getting too much wheel spin and getting away with the tyres not fully up to temperature. It felt strange as it had not happened to me before.”
Fresh after winning his 3rd F1 drivers title, Lewis revealed having matched Senna’s WDC winning achievements, there was no one left who he felt he needed to emulate. Michael Schumacher is statistically the best F1 driver in history having won drivers titles, yet Lewis is not driven to equal or beat the German’s records.
“I think for Sebastian [Vettel] being the same country, that will be Seb’s target, for me it was always to get the three that Ayrton had,” said Hamilton. “He wasn’t from the same country as me but it was the guy who inspired me as a youngster.
“I don’t know what I will do next – but there is no one I want to equal or emulate next.
“I said one race ago, I feel like I had the baton down for myself and Ayrton and will carry it as long as I can and as strong as I can. It’s very humbling experience, especially to equal Ayrton Senna, who meant so much to me and still does today, I feel very, very blessed.”
Despite Lewis’ comments, it is hard to believe he will not enjoy his new achievement and come back next year looking for another F1 drivers’ title. Yet his comments today will leave him open to criticism over his commitment should he fail to put up a solid defence of his title in 2016. And if Nico Rosberg is feeling that whatever he does isn’t good enough to beat Hamilton, maybe Lewis’ comments today will give him the motivation to come back next year and give it his all once again.