Hamilton, Rosberg show extent of rivalry at last

Hamilton, Rosberg show extent of rivalry at last
Mercedes Formula One driver Nico Rosberg of Germany holds his trophy behind team mate Lewis Hamilton of Britain after winning the Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco May 25, 2014.

MONACO - Pointedly, the two Mercedes team-mates barely acknowledged each other as they stood in front of Prince Albert's Royal Box on the start-finish line in Monaco on Sunday.

Nico Rosberg had just built crucially upon the controversial pole position he had taken to beat Lewis Hamilton by 9.2sec.

By any interpretation, their body language was cool to cold. Some suggested glacial.

Hamilton, still angry after he felt deliberately cheated out of pole by Rosberg sliding down an escape road in qualifying - and thus cheated of the likelihood of a fifth consecutive victory had he started from the prime spot - no longer trusts his team-mate.

Rosberg, who acted as if nothing had happened and denied that he had deliberately staged the incident to thwart Hamilton, suggested a trifle disingenuously that things had been sorted out between them prior to the start.

He said: "It's fine. We've had discussions and the benefit we have is that we've known each other for so long. We always sit down and discuss it and then move on."

Hamilton clearly disagreed and didn't bother with any sugar-coating in the name of corporate harmony.

"I think we run things successfully," he said of their rivalry, "but it'll never be perfect. You can't expect to be best friends and fight as fiercely as we do.

"But people speak of Nico and I as best friends, when the fact is that we've never been best friends since we started racing together when we were 13. We live in the same building and we say hi to each other, but we don't have lunches and dinners together."

When asked whether he really would have behaved like Ayrton Senna as he had threatened had they been side by side at the first corner, which many took to mean that he would not have shied away from contact, Hamilton smirked and said, "No, I was just joking. Seriously, I was joking."

It hadn't sounded that way at the time.

"Yep. The priority is the team, and I'm not stupid enough to do anything to jeopardise that."

But then he added: "I just wish you could have seen the data (from Rosberg's car), and I'm sure you did see it all on TV. I saw something late last night, in the data, and all I could do was smile. I'm not going to tell you what, I just wish you could see it. And then you could see for yourself..."

So after the bonhomie in the opening races the gloves are off for the title contenders, just as once they were with Senna and Alain Prost.

But will the Rosberg-Hamilton relationship become as toxic? I don't think it will.

Senna and Prost were both totally driven men hell-bent on proving their point - Prost that he still had it, Senna that he was the best.

They each pursued that with cunning and evangelical fervour.

Rosberg and Hamilton may be just as committed and just as cunning, but neither is as aggressive. And crucially, they do understand what's at stake for the Mercedes brand.

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