Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg rivalry fires up Formula One

Hamilton crashes at Hungaroring during practice for Hungarian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes GP chats to the media in Budapest. His attempt to take pole in Hungary suffered a setback on Friday, while team-mate and rival Nico Rosberg had the quickest time. Photograph: Charles Coates/Getty Images

Might peace be declared at Mercedes? Let's sincerely hope not. The team, who on Friday renewed Nico Rosberg's contract until 2018, will not share this opinion, but for them the spectacle is bit-player to the business of winning. For everyone else the battle between Lewis Hamilton and his team-mate remains very much the lead item in the Formula One season.

Their relationship, which has gone from childhood friendship to the sparring of the current cold war, has brought drama to what may otherwise have been a rather straightforward fight at the front of the grid.

“It’s a great feeling to start the day, with my contract being sorted,” Rosberg said. “That was always going to be a positive boost.”

The pair joined up at the Hungarian Grand Prix in the knowledge that while two more years together stretch ahead, one will go home tomorrow leading the championship. If it is Hamilton, the world champion will have come back from a 43-point deficit to overtake his team-mate at the top for the first time this season, and Rosberg might have to console himself by counting the zeroes on his contract.


There may even be a couple of tenths of a lap to be gained from the spur of mutual enmity. Both will doubtless think so. Neither will feel their relationship has anything further to lose while they have the dominant cars and the championship-winning potential that has seen Hamilton take the title for the past two years.

Such is Mercedes’ advantage over their rivals the pair have been the only real contenders since 2014. Both know this is their best chance to win the title, piling hope and expectation and on what is already a combative scenario. The friendly competition of their childhood in karting has all but disappeared, with Rosberg noting this week of Hamilton: “I have huge respect for him but, well, we’re not best friends at the moment.”

Own agenda

Hamilton is less inclined to even acknowledge the situation, batting back questions by focusing on his own agenda. “It would be the same thing if Fernando Alonso was in the car next to me,” he said before Rosberg’s contract was confirmed. “If there were any of the great drivers in the car next to me, we would be having the same fight. Might be smoother, might be more aggressive but not much different.”

But when the pair are forced together in public the reality is hard to disguise, from the cap-throwing incident in Austin last year to Hamilton talking about Rosberg to Max Verstappen, while Rosberg himself was sat only feet away, after the British Grand Prix.

The needle became an issue when it manifested on the track. The team read the riot act to Rosberg after he hit Hamilton at Spa in 2014 and relative equanimity returned until this season. Rosberg had a flying start, winning the first four grands prix but the pair hit one another at the fifth in Spain, ending both their races. They clashed again in Canada with less drastic results but when Rosberg drove into Hamilton on the final lap in Austria at the start of this month, the team were furious.

Evenly matched

Mercedes had rejected having a No1 driver policy when they took Hamilton on in 2013, believing the best way for the team to progress was to have two evenly matched drivers.

Toto Wolff, the head of the Mercedes team, warned at the end of 2015 that should the arrangement not work, they would consider changing the driver line-up. Post-Austria team orders were on the table and with Rosberg’s contract not renewed there was debate over whether he would be kept on. Mercedes chose to stick with what they know. Conservatism perhaps, and some will bemoan the excitement new blood and a new challenge for Hamilton may have presented. “In a couple of years we might look back and say Rosberg-Hamilton was one of the best battles,” Wolff said.

Hamilton’s attempt to take pole in Hungary suffered a setback in practice after he crashed during FP2. He had topped the time sheets in first practice but in the afternoon session lost control on the way into turn 11 going into the side wall. He was able to return the car to the pits, although the impact required him to be checked over at the medical centre. Rosberg concluded the session with the quickest time.

Hamilton apologised to the team for the mishap.

“For sure it is frustrating, and I am little bit disappointed with myself but these things happen. I am not injured so I can get back on it. In Formula One they are generally so over the top. You see MotoGP riders and they ride with broken ankles and collarbones and we have one little busted finger and they don’t want you to race. Fortunately I have no problems and the medical team did a great job.” – (Guardian Service)