The Bahrain Grand Prix displayed the vast extent to which Mercedes have an advantage over the rest of the field. Despite a late safety car closing everyone up, the silver arrow drivers finished the race 24 seconds ahead of the pack.
It seems that the 2014 Formula One championship is in reaching distance for either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg. But which one is going to take the outstanding opportunity and how will it harm their positive off-track friendship?
Hamilton has two victories this season compared to Nico Rosberg’s one, but currently, it is the German who leads his team-mate by 11-points in the standings.
On paper, you would suggest that Lewis is the favourite to win the duel. Hamilton has 24 race wins to his name where as Rosberg has four. Of course, Lewis too has a world championship title. But on the other hand has been given more competitive cars throughout his Formula One career.
Hamilton has just edged Rosberg this season on pace, but Rosberg has shown that he has the consistency which means he is a serious threat. The way he challenged Lewis in the latter stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix shows he is gunning for glory and does not want to let this opportunity slip.
What is most intriguing about the situation at Mercedes though, is the relationship between the two drivers. The pair are genuine friends who have known each other since their karting days. It will be most interesting to see how the inevitable fight for the title will impede on their relationship- which has been so strong up to now.
We have seen intense, wheel-to-wheel racing this weekend, and you can expect more of the same to follow. Team favouritism, restrictions, contact in the car. These issues can be very mentally damaging to a friendship, and it will be fascinating to see how their body-language towards one another changes as the season develops and the title edges closer.
We see hugs and embraces post-race for now, but they may become more awkward by the race.
Hamilton has been involved in some intriguing team-mate wars of his own in the past. His feud with Fernando Alonso was clear for all to see, while driving alongside fellow Brit Jenson Button caused minor tensions.
The situation of the car’s strength is similar to as we have seen with Red Bull over recent years. But the main difference being, Nico will aim to be more competitive with lewis than Mark Webber was at times with Sebastian Vettel. When two drivers can genuinely win the championship as a pose to one, it makes a different situation for the team.
Nico will be keen not to fall into the area of ‘second driver’ to Lewis. And as of now it does not look like he will claim that status. It will be a true test of the pair’s real feelings for one another due to the freedom of the grid which they currently have.
Will there friendship be sacrificed for a world title, or can they be happy for one another?
What must be remembered is that these are athletes and winning comes first. You’d like to think it will stay clean, but in reality that is not likely, especially if the pair continue to be given freedom to race as closely as seen in Bahrain.
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