The chequered flag has dropped on another Formula 1 season. A frantic period filled with prodigious talent emerging, crashes and controversy aplenty, and the retirement of some of the sports most revered names. All of which was headlined by two teammates whom, it seems, are a ticking time bomb waiting to explode: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton is brash, loud, impulsive, but arguably one of the most naturally gifted drivers of this century. His knack for creating headlines off the circuit can relate to his ability to make headlines on it. A true celebrity driver. Nico Rosberg, on the other hand, is a reasonably quiet man in the public eye. Tactically astute, risky when necessary, but always a driver for whom self control has been paramount in the face of Hamilton’s all action bravado.
As the dust settles though, it does make one wonder how much longer the strained relationship between the two can last. Yes, they won all 21 of the Grand Prix races this year bar two (Daniel Ricciardo winning the Malaysian Grand Prix, and Max Verstappen taking the chequered flag in Spain), and were either politely reserved or modest in the post race interviews, but that did nothing to suggest they had patched up their differences.
Then there were the incidents occurring during races. In Spain, Rosberg’s defending of his lead when Hamilton attempted an overtake caused both drivers to spin off the track, with each driver blaming the other for their crash. This was a replica of the Austrian GP, which Hamilton narrowly escaped the collision and took victory, while Rosberg limped over the line in 4th, having led just moments previously.
Toto Wolff – the Mercedes team boss – has not yet decided what should be done about the most recent embroilment between the driver, in which Hamilton was accused of driving slowly when leading the race so fellow drivers might catch up to second placed Rosberg. Despite team orders indicating he should pull away from the chasers, Hamilton replied with a rebellious “let us race” and put Rosberg under pressure.
Hamilton, and others, justify his tactics as the Briton ‘doing what he has to do’. It was expected that he would not go down without a fight and so it proved. However, it begs the question as to whether Hamilton’s insubordination towards his bosses may result in him leaving Mercedes.
He is the biggest star in Formula One these days. A rock ‘n’ roll image behind the wheel of a car, so comparable to James Hunt forty years previously. Where Hunt let the lifestyle draw the talent from him, Hamilton’s remains at the wheel. Furthermore, he is surely Mercedes biggest asset, taking more poles and more race victories than any this year. In a near unprecedented tactic from Mercedes bosses, they may be inclined to let Hamilton’s disobeying orders slide in order to keep hold of him. After all, he and Rosberg have catapulted the team to three straight constructors championships, where they have looked nigh on untouchable in that time.
Right now, Wolff holds the cards, but if he wants to prolonged the success he and the team have enjoyed over these three years, he may have to stick on Hamilton, and let him be top dog.