The pressure of being at the top of a dominant team in Formula 1 is already hitting home at Mercedes.
We are just four races into the 2014 season, a year so far that has seen the Silver Arrows in control throughout and the emergence of a battle within team-mates that could enthrall us from Australia all the way to Abu Dhabi.
The thing is, in the 21st century a straight fight between teammates isn’t nearly as open as it was certainly in the days of Senna and Prost at McLaren.
The ‘duel in the desert’ between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton was the first time two teammates have been allowed to race freely against each other, at the front, until the chequered flag for quite some time and you knew the pitwall wasn’t entirely comfortable with what it saw.
It has been the rule now for quite some time among teams that the driver that is ahead after the final stops is allowed to hold the position ahead if his team-mate is behind. It was that that led to the infamous ‘Multi-21′ at Red Bull last year.
We have seen that on countless other occasions at other teams including Mercedes at the same race in Malaysia last year.
The fact is, at the moment Mercedes’ only real threat is themselves, they hold a margin of upwards of a second per lap on their rivals with only the wet qualifying sessions at three of the first four races distorting the picture.
Knowing this, it is creating a little tension not just between the two drivers but also between the tiers of management at the top.
There is the non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, the old-school racer who doesn’t believe at all in the idea of team orders, and the businessman Toto Wolff who has the more modern approach of trying to restrict the drivers in their on-track battles in the quest to preserve a result for the team.
Just today (Thursday) Wolff has claimed that the team will need to consider its current policy of allowing their drivers to race freely because of what he sees as an emerging threat from Red Bull and Ferrari.
“There might be situations where you can’t lose lots of time in battle if you have your enemy right up your back,” Toto was quoted by the BBC.
Wolff also indicated that the interests of the team will come ahead of the interests of the drivers.
While it is true that those teams are indeed continually closing the large gap to the dominant Mercedes the chances of them beating the Silver Arrows, at least in the short-term are slight.
Those comments will not go down well with Lauda, who, at least for now, will claim the battle for the championship remains very much a two-horse race, between Hamilton and Rosberg, therefore the team should not get involved in dictating positions.
The man who may hold the power in this battle of the Austrians is the newly introduced Paddy Lowe who is in charge of all operations on the track and in the factory.
His position on team orders is slightly less clear, though during the Bahrain battle, he simply told the drivers to race clean and fair and not risk a double retirement.
As for the drivers themselves they have indicated that they have no intention of calling in team orders in a straight fight, though Rosberg has said previously the issue may be raised if the competition get too close.
For Hamilton the issue has more teeth given the broad consensus he is perhaps the better of the two drivers.
In the past few races he has certainly laid down a marker to Rosberg with three brilliant wins highlighting his every ability as a racing driver, the two dominant displays from the front in Malaysia and China and his wheel-to-wheel skills in Bahrain.
Despite some questions I have about his ego and whether it can stand a straight battle with a team-mate, much like most will ask about Sebastian Vettel and his battle with Daniel Ricciardo, however, Lewis insists he is comfortable with the current situation.
“The deal we have is we want to race each other and I’ve never asked or demanded to be a number one. I just let my results speak for themselves,” he also told the BBC.
“I’ve still got a huge battle on my hands, making sure I’m on top of all the data and all the different settings and trying to do a better job.
“Nico is still leading the championship and will be massively quick at every race we go to,” he added, “there are so many races to go, so you cannot predict what is going to happen.”
Ultimately, what the drivers say and what they think in private may mean very little, Mercedes in its current form has never had to deal with this kind of scenario before.
Despite the pressure of a closing Red Bull and Ferrari, the team must relent from letting that get in the way of what will be a battle of the Silver Arrows for the Drivers Championship.
The Constructor’s title is all but sewn up right now with a 100-point lead over Red Bull, that should be the incentive for Lauda’s racing brain to win over Wolff’s business brain and allow Rosberg and Hamilton to go for gold between them without interference.
If it ends in tears once then that is a mere setback and the drivers will learn not to push that line again. Hamilton and Rosberg are two of the most experienced drivers on the grid today and will know when too far is too far.
It is for Wolff to understand that and trust the men behind the wheel, then the fans can be treated to a proper battle for the world title with a winner not dictated by financial rewards or team preference but by the man who deserved it the most.
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