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Mercedes fued fuels F1 interest

Fri, 29 Aug 2014

IT REMAINS far from being Senna/Prost, Mansell/Piquet, Hunt/Lauda, but Formula One again has a rivalry to stir the senses and excite the masses.

If Bernie Ecclestone was starting to grow anxious about the decline in global television audience figures, the feud between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton is manna from heaven for the sport's supremo.

Prior to Sunday's controversial collision in the Belgian Grand Prix, and the explosive remarks from Hamilton that followed, the head-to-head had resembled nothing more than a playground squabble.

Now, in light of the flashpoint that unfolded at Spa, described by Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff as "unacceptable", the battle lines have been well and truly drawn.

With Rosberg going on to finish runner-up behind Daniel Ricciardo, so opening up a 29-point gap to Hamilton, the gloves are definitely off between the duo and the real scrap has now commenced.

Following a heated, hastily convened post-race meeting between the drivers, Wolff, executive technical director Paddy Lowe and non-executive chairman Niki Lauda, what unfolded was pure theatre.

As Rosberg gave his sanitised, non-committal version of events to the German media downstairs in the Mercedes motorhome, sat directly just 15 feet above him on the first floor was Hamilton with the British written press.

As bombshells go, Hamilton's remarks exploded with a force long absent from the paddock as it has been some considerable time since a driver expressed such candid views on his team-mate.

Mercedes will not want to lose any more points, not after witnessing an almost certain one-two go up in smoke at Spa.

This mess is still nowhere near the magnitude of the Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost feud, when they ran each other off the track in subsequent Japanese Grands Prix in 1989 and 1990.

Nor is there outright hatred between the two, as was the case with Senna and Prost and also Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet.

Instead, whatever friendship they had from their days in karting has now been shredded via a campaign that has nosedived into acrimony.

And the big winner in all of this? Well, that is the sport itself.

Nothing fuels sporting debate quite like an intense rivalry, and when it is two guys within the same team, so much the better.

Ecclestone, in particular, will be loving it.

By Ian Parkes, Press Association