They always say in sport that friendships and rivalries do not go hand in hand, and this is especially the case in Formula One.
It is bad enough having two drivers going at each other from different teams, but when they drive for the same team it becomes magnified. The reason why is simple. Other teams can always lay claim with a great deal of truth to the superiority of the rival’s car. But when you are driving pretty much the same car there are few if any excuses.
It is often why a F1 driver would rather finish 4th in the world title race but ahead of his 5th-placed teammate, than 3rd but behind his 2nd-placed teammate. It is the only true way that he can be judged.
For five races we have heard how buddy-buddy Lewis Hamitlon and Nico Rosberg were. History suggested that when both were going for the title and both allowed to race each other in pursuit of glory, it would only be a matter of time before the facade crumbled. Well, it crumbled alright in Monaco.
Hamilton began the chipping away by claiming how his tougher upbringing (and he was taken under the McLaren wing for all of his teenage years, don’t forget) made him hungrier than born with a silver spoon in his mouth Rosberg. Rosberg then split the paddock’s opinion with his qualifying lap that, courtesy of a wrong turn and a reversal, scuppered his teammate’s chance of claiming pole which, on a tight street circuit such as Monaco, is even more crucial than ever.
Cue a Rosberg win and a return to the top of the race for the world title leapfrogging over second-placed Hamilton in the process. Afterwards Hamilton appeared to have half a dozen lemons in his mouth as he failed to rejoice on the podium his runners’ up spot while, just a few inches away and above him, Rosberg lifted the trophy.
So what now? Gloriously for F1 the sprint for the world title appears to be a two horse race between two teammates with no love lost whatsoever. True rivalries are few and far between in sport, let alone bitter ones and F1 has grown tired of watching Sebastian Vettel drive his Red Bull to predictable titles.
The very fact that rivalries are so popular and so catch the fans’ imagination is underlined by the resurgence of the Hunt-Lauda story and the Prost-Senna rivalry which we were all reminded of in the 20th year since the Brazilian’s death. Now we have Hamilton v Rosberg, and it may well go down to the wire.
Mercedes may tut-tut and publicly admonish any signs of major team break up but you can bet your bottom dollar – and isn’t this what F1 is really about – that Bernie Ecclestone and chums will be raising a glass to both drivers in the hope this is just the start.