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The cold war at Mercedes

1 year ago

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Edd Straw | Motorsport journalist


3 February 2023

Teammates in Formula 1 are the living embodiment of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. The driver sharing the garage with you is simultaneously your closest ally and your biggest rival, which history proves can be a combustible situation. Add the catalyst of a World Championship at stake and the potentially combustible can soon become explosive.

Usually, these situations are diffused by establishing a natural order as good drivers are made to look ordinary by the greats, exemplified in recent times by Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez at Red Bull, or the five years Valtteri Bottas spent as Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes de facto wingman. There might be days when the understudy takes centre stage, but not over a season.

But sometimes by accident or design, two drivers who are, or could be, gold-standard are paired. The tale of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at McLaren is seen by modern audiences as the prototypical teammate rivalry, but the history of warring teammates is as old as  motorsport itself. Before the war it’s fair to say blue-blooded Mercedes drivers like Manfred von Brauchitsch and Rudi Caracciola were not best pleased to be outpaced by the rather more blue collar Hermann Lang who’d joined the team as a humble fitter. Above all, racing is competition and your teammate is only really your friend if they’re consistently slower.

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