#6 – Nico Rosberg – Germany – 11 Starts, 202 Points, Best Finish: 1st (Australia, Monaco, Austria, Germany), Championship Position: 1st
#44 – Lewis Hamilton – Britain – 11 Starts, 191 Points, Best Finish: 1st (Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Spain, Britain), Championship Position: 2nd
Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS have been the outstanding team of the 2014 Formula one season so far, taking nine of the eleven wins on offer and comfortably leading both championships. But it has not been all plain sailing for the team.
The occasional mechanical gremlin has cropped up, and the rivalry between the two drivers has seen relations between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton become a little more strained.
After eleven rounds it is Rosberg who holds the slender advantage in the championship, edging Hamilton by 202 points to 191. But it is the Briton who has won the most races, five, compared to the German’s four.
The opening round in Melbourne gave a good indication of the speed of the Mercedes. Hamilton took the pole position and Rosberg the win, but the first sign of weakness from the team was evident when Hamilton retired early with a power unit issue.
It is Hamilton that has had the worst of the luck when it came to car issues. He also retired in Canada when running comfortably up front, while in Germany and Hungary suffered during qualifying that relegated him to the back of the field, although in both he managed to climb through to take podium finishes.
That being said, Rosberg has also had some issues, although only once has it caused him to retire. He had a gearbox issue at Silverstone when leading that ultimately saw him end the race at the side of the road.
After Australia, the team had a run of five consecutive 1-2 finishes, but none were better than in Bahrain, the third round of the year. After a late safety period bunched up the field, the two drivers fought hard but fair for the lead whilst comfortably pulling away from the rest of the field. It was the first time the team had shown their hand when it came to the speed of their car, and it left the opposition floundering. Hamilton ultimately came out on top, but it was a very good race, not just for the team but also a good advertisement for Formula 1 in general.
They looked on course for a sixth 1-2 finish in a row in Canada, but both drivers suffered identical ERS-K failures that limited the top speed of the cars, and it caused Hamilton to retire when his rear brakes failed. Rosberg was able to keep on going, but was forced to concede the lead to the Red Bull Racing machine of Daniel Ricciardo with only a handful of laps to go.
Another 1-2 finish followed in Austria, with both drivers having to get past the two resurgent Williams cars, with Rosberg ahead of Hamilton, while at Silverstone Hamilton won in front of his home fans for the second time in his career after taking advantage of Rosberg’s retirement.
Rosberg then took victory in front of his own fans at Hockenheim, while Hamilton fought back from a brake disc failure in qualifying to take a fighting third. The Briton was forced to start from the pit lane at the Hungaroring in Hungary the following week following a fuel leak in qualifying that saw his car catch alight in the pit entry, but once again, a strong race and luck with the safety car saw him clinch third place, ahead of Rosberg who lost out in the safety car shuffle.
While a lot of the apparent rivalry has been the press making assumptions, there is no doubt that tensions are running high within the Mercedes camp, and it will be up to the bosses, including Toto Wolff, Paddy Lowe and Niki Lauda, to keep the two drivers in line. There is no doubt both want to win the championship, and as it stands, the likelihood will be it will be either Rosberg or Hamilton that takes the 2014 drivers title.
Once the Constructors’ championship has been won, the gloves might come off between the Hamilton and Rosberg, and the two drivers should be allowed to race to their own strategies. They might be good friends off the track but they are rivals on it, and it could be Rosberg’s best opportunity to win the championship, thirty-two years on from his father’s title back in 1982.
The team will also be worried about the mechanical issues that have affected both drivers in 2014. The car is the one to beat, but as Daniel Ricciardo has proven twice this year, it is possible. If they can have a reliable car for both Hamilton and Rosberg for the rest of the year, it could be something special to watch. There is nothing like a good on-track battle between closely matched drivers.