So the Chinese GP took place only a few hours ago, but the acrimony between the Mercedes drivers of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg that came to define a lot of last season has reared up once more, following Rosberg’s accusation that Hamilton deliberately backed him up, thus forcing Rosberg into the clutches of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Rosberg’s argument is that Hamilton was going too slowly, thus forcing him into his dirty air, something that can damage F1 tyres. The only means for Rosberg to avoid this would be to likewise slow down, potentially making him vulnerable to Vettel.
Hamilton insists this wasn’t the case, and he could certainly argue, if he wanted to, that he was looking after his tyres (which he is entitled to do). Whether he was trying to hurt Rosberg’s race (which would in turn risk the team’s 1-2 finish, something they naturally wouldn’t be happy with) or whether he was just keeping on an eye on his tyre wear is something only Hamilton knows.
There’s a clash here as well, between the desires of the drivers and the wishes of the team. Hamilton will see Rosberg as the greatest threat to his championship hopes – after all, they have the same car, the best car – and thus Hamilton will want to do what he can to unnerve and rattle Rosberg. It would not surprise me in the least if Hamilton was actually holding Rosberg up on purpose.
The flip side is that Rosberg, if he felt he had the pace, could have tried to overtake Hamilton, but seemed more concerned with consolidating second place! I can only offer my own humble opinion here, but were Hamilton behind Rosberg, I don’t see him settling for second, I see him going for it. It seems that Rosberg is losing the battle on the track (he’s been out-qualified three out of three this year, and finished behind Hamilton every race so far as well), but also the psychological one as well. We are only three races in, but Hamilton is looking serenely confident, and Rosberg has no answer to that.