|No intense sporting rivalry is void of gamesmanship or subtle tactics, but all things considered, when looking at the recent past, the relationship between Mercedes and Ferrari, Formula 1’s two powerhouses,has been, on average, a respectful and courteous one.
Tensions ramped up and tempers flared however on Sunday, when Mercedes was the victim, for the second time in three races, of an opening lap punt by Ferrari.
After Hamilton’s post-race “interesting tactics” comment, Silver Arrows boss Toto Wolff poured fuel on the fire, quoting – or perhaps ‘outing’ – Merc’s technical director James Allison as saying that Kimi Raikkonen’s clumsy move was either “deliberate or incompetent”.
It was actually neither, as any reasonably smart pundit endowed with common sense had observed, and indeed as Hamilton himself conceded the following day when he labelled Kimi’s move – for which the Finn apologized – a “racing incident”.
The heady words from the Mercedes camp lead to several interesting observations.
The first is that the Scuderia is now definitely on its arch-rivals case, and perhaps even slowly edging ahead of its opponent, a fact that has undoubtedly unsettled Wolff and C°.
Their angry and excessive reactions on Sunday reflected not only their concerns, if not their outright anguish, but also a massive stress level that has crept up on the usually calm and composed crew.
The second noteworthy thought is that if the bitterness and acrimony doesn’t subside on the German side, how would a full-blown belligerent relationship between Mercedes and Ferrari impact the future of Formula 1, beyond the sporting front?
The two manufacturers, along with Renault, are rumoured to be working in unison to impose their views and requisites to Liberty Media with regard to the sport’s 2021 engine regulations. Some have even called the coaction a veritable ‘cartel’, a word nobody really wants to hear in any sport or industry.
However, if you’re sitting across the table from your rival and worst enemy, speaking only in monosyllables, with very stiff lips, the task of working towards a common goal becomes a very complicated one.
Perhaps that is exactly what Ross Brawn is banking on…
Phillip van Osten