Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button will head to Bahrain this weekend as team mates as well as rivals, as the two back-to-back British world champions take to the track to start their campaigns for their second title in the MP4-25.
Both are worthy champions. Hamilton took the 2008 world championship in the penultimate corner of the last race of the season, after a close fight between him and Felipe Massa for the majority of the season. Button took the 2009 world championship with a race left to go after winning six of the first seven races. But who will win the battle of the McLaren team mates in 2010?
Both Lewis and Jenson have very different driving styles, and therefore, despite his impressive string of victories at the top of 2009, Jenson, in the number 1 MP4-25 is not as aggressive as Lewis in the number 2 car, who fights hard to win. Jenson has a smooth driving style, while Lewis is known for attacking and making some daring moves to get further up the field. But how do the odds stack against the pair?
Jenson may be the calmer driver, but will it be keeping cool that keeps Jenson in the number one McLaren for 2011, or will Hamilton's aggression and determination to win be what puts him back in the first McLaren?
The two are very evenly matched, and when in a good car, both excel. Jenson showed last season that with a fast car he was more than capable of winning races again and again. Lewis has had a good car for the majority of his F1 career. Jenson struggled with the then Honda team, before Ross Brawn stepped in. But Lewis has always had a good car, and was fighting for the championship in his first season, missing out on the title to Kimi Raikkonen by one point. In his second season, Massa provided stiff competition, but Lewis eventually emerged the winner.
So both excel in a good car, but when the car is not so good, Jenson fails to shine through, whereas Lewis's determination definitely shows. Despite a lousy start to the 2009 season, Lewis and McLaren got to grips with the MP4-24 by the end of the season, and although he was unable to retain his title, Lewis was the highest scoring competitor in the second half of the season. The MP4-24 was still far from good, but Lewis has the fight in him to chase down the top position. In Jenson's Honda days, he was less lucky, partly because the reliability of the Honda was worse than the MP4-24 ever was, and he was unable to score more than a handful of points in a season.
But what about when the two go head-to-head in the same car? If the MP4-25 is good, will it be keeping cool that propels Button forward, or will Hamilton's determination and aggressive driving style push him past his team mate when it really matters? If the MP4-25 isn't that great, will Jenson push on and make the most of it, or will it be Lewis that gets the most he can out of the car?
While many may be expecting Lewis to win the battle of the McLaren team mates in 2010, it goes without saying Jenson will be out to change the minds of those thinking it. Jenson is good in a fast car, and in the same team, there is bound to be a battle on the track as both drivers attempt to be the best. So who will win? We may not get to find out for some time, but in a week's time, the battle will begin.