Rosberg vs Hamilton: Best of enemies

Lewis Hamilton and newly crowned world champion Nico Rosberg may be excellent drivers but they can’t stop clashing with each other as tensions constantly simmer in their complex co-habitation at Mercedes.

The Hamilton-Rosberg soap opera, this season played out over a record 21 episodes from Australia to Sunday’s tense climax in Abu Dhabi, makes for riveting viewing.

The fast-moving Anglo-German production has added much-needed spice to a sport dominated by one all-conquering team and in danger of a visit from the Monopolies Commission.

The two childhood chums who forged a bond as teenage teammates on the go-karting circuit have much in common.

Both 31 years old they share a base – a shiny spotless gadget-laden garage – and a close knit family unit of Mercedes mechanics.

They wear identical clothes at their workplace, and tread virtually identical paths through life, wheel after wheel after wheel.

They drive the same make of car – a case of ‘his’ and ‘his’ – and keep the same work hours, often within ten thousandths of a second.

And like most couples, they have the odd tiff.

The only difference with a conventional relationship is these spats are conducted behind the wheel of a 375 kmh (233mph) F1 car with tens of millions of people watching.

Formula One is no stranger to producing intense rivalries.

In the mid 1970s James Hunt and Niki Lauda pushed each other to the limits. And Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost’s personal feud in 1989-90 erupted into warfare on the racetrack.

The origins of Hamilton and Rosberg’s rivalry stems from when the Briton moved from McLaren to join Rosberg at Mercedes in 2013.

Flashpoints in 2014 came at Monaco when Rosberg ran off the track in final qualifying, and Belgium, where the pair collided leaving Hamilton with a puncture.

Tension and acrimony fuelled by their contrasting characters and will to win kept their pressure cooker rivalry bubbling nicely throughout 2015.

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff warned the squabbling duo that if they “crossed the line” they risked the sack.

Wolff had to tread a fine line, trying to keep a rivalry that was pushing them to produce their best on the track from descending into chaos.

Rosberg noted: “I hope that Toto always comes back to the conclusion that it’s actually good the way it is. I can see a couple of extra grey hairs that have arrived. Maybe those are courtesy of us…”

Wolff’s services as a marriage guidance counsellor were needed at the United States Grand Prix in Austin.

Hamilton took the win and the title but Rosberg, incensed by Hamilton’s aggressive tactics to the first turn, petulantly tossed his cap at his teammate waiting to climb the podium.

Hamilton made light of Rosberg’s ‘capgate’ tantrum.

“The cap thing? That was pretty funny,” he said. “Toto Wolff feels that he needs to perhaps sit with Nico to see where his head is at, because we don’t want tension in the team.”

This season, which began with Mercedes taking the unusual step of swopping the drivers’ mechanics, has again produced fireworks.

In Spain they collided and took each other out on the first lap.

In Austria they came together on the last lap as Rosberg turned into a corner late with Hamilton taking the win. And the pair banged wheels again at the start in Montreal, leaving Rosberg “pissed off”.

And so to Abu Dhabi, where Hamilton deployed cagey gamesmanship to slow the pace in front to back up the field in the ultimately vain hope that Rosberg in second would fall prey to the cars behind .

Rosberg foiled his teammate’s Machiavellian plot to finally claim his maiden Formula 1 title.

F1 fans must now wait until Melbourne in March for the opening episode in Hamilton vs Rosberg IV which promises to be every bit as combustible and compelling as previous seasons.