There is a unique dance, if you will, between teammates within a Formula 1 team. There is little doubt that both want to win races but inevitably, one may be quicker than the other and that’s ok but how much quicker is the issue.
When we look at the Mercedes battle between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, it devolved into an unhealthy relationship due to the fierce intra-team competition. When Nico left, the team brought in Valtteri Bottas and harmony was restored. Hamilton was quicker and not as threatened by Bottas. This has taught team boss Toto Wolff a lesson:
“In the past I always believed that a very fierce rivalry between team-mates would be good for the team because they would be pushing each other.
“The lesson I learned is that is probably not true – you need two team-mates that perform at a high level that keep pushing each other in the car, but the rivalry shouldn’t spill over into controversy outside of the car.
“The mindset and the relationship between the two made us stronger, gave an open and honest environment, and fundamentally our very fast, difficult car we got it into a good place also because the two worked so well together.
“The dynamic between Valtteri and Lewis made us develop the car in a very efficient way and made us win the two championships, so not for one second do I regret where we are today.”
I enjoyed watching this combined harmony and driver effort in 2000 with Ruben Barrichello and Michael Schumacher. Rubens was new to the team, elated to be with Ferrari and in a competitive car and was more than helpful in developing the car alongside Michael even if that meant the latter would win most of the races.
That lasted a few seasons until Rubens became a hollow shell of a driver and reckoned his entire career was merely to win Michael titles (to be fair, I think Michael was doing just fine on his own but every little bit helps).
Toto learned a lesson but the key here is to find two teammates who are capable of winning and not too disparate from each other. Think of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. If Force India can get them both teamed and focused on everyone else as the enemy, the duo could slice through the field working off of each other and score massive points.
Mercedes enjoyed some of that in 2017 as well. Bottas needed to finish on Lewis’s tail and when Lewis couldn’t finish, win the race. Just how long Valtteri will be happy in that role remains to be seen but it is the same question they posed to Rubens; is it better to be #1 at a mid-field team or #2 and a winning team?
Hat Tip: Autosport