There was an interesting little moment in the post-race press conference in Sochi on Sunday evening, when race winner Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were each asked whether Mercedes' victory in the constructors' world championship would affect the manner in which they would be allowed to fight for the drivers' title.
"Same," Hamilton replied, deadpan.
"It's the same, you know," said Rosberg. "Up until now, it's always been we can fight and it continues to be like that. We can fight, it doesn't change."
It took me back to Niki Lauda's comments in Spain, where Hamilton had taken a narrow and slightly controversial victory over Rosberg, who complained later that his team-mate had turned up his engine. Hamilton had responded that Rosberg had done that in Bahrain, where he - Hamilton - had also beaten him.
In view of all the fuss over their collision in Belgium, Lauda's remarks are mildly amusing.
"My strategy is very simple," the Austrian legend said. "We do not interfere with who is winning what. We let them drive from the beginning to the end. This is my philosophy. So far nothing happens.
"I wish that this continues to a point in the championship where there is no third guy. Then I'm completely relaxed. Then they can drive over each other, and whoever is surviving is the world champion. This is my dream. But we're not there yet. I want them to throw everybody off and then there is no enemy, and then it's really going to be warfare."
There are 100 points left on the table, thanks to Abu Dhabi's double-points status, and with Hamilton on 291 he is within eight points of closing out third-placed Daniel Ricciardo (199) as a contender. Which effectively means that the Australian already is excluded, barring miracles and notwithstanding his three victories this season.
But Hamilton says he isn't even thinking about such things as how he will fight Rosberg, or how that fight will pan out.
"It's a very positive feeling to have points and be finishing ahead of Nico," he said after extending his lead by a further seven points, "but history has shown this year that a gap can never be enough. The most important thing is what the gap is at the end of the year. At the moment nothing changes. I've got to keep on fighting and pushing as hard as I have been up until now. If I can bring any more, then I will."
And he explained how he keeps his mindset sharp when a title is at stake.
"There is never a comfortable feeling. I never did have a comfortable feeling when I was in a championship in my life, not in GP2 in 2006, in my rookie season in 2007, or when I finally won the title in 2008. It's tense all the way to the end and this is a championship that is going to go to the end. I just hope that the future is bright for the next three races."
This article was first published on Oct 14, 2014.
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