Hamilton-Button ambiance is solid, but there are subtle undercurrents in their relationship. (LAT)
As a key element of our Great Rivalries Issue, we asked veteran Formula 1 journalist Edd Straw to dig into the fascinating dynamic of F1 teammates. Here's a taste:
The majority of today's drivers provide bland answers when asked about the battle with their teammates. The drivers' handbook would offer this response: “You always want to beat your teammate but there are 20 other guys out there you're trying to beat just as much. We have a really good relationship.” Sure enough, the secret world of teammate relationships is often surprising, occasionally sordid and rarely anything other than fascinating. Why? Because if you're a half-second off pole position, the watching world can't be sure how much of it is driver and how much of it is down to car development and preparation? If you're in equal equipment in the same team, the relative performance of you and your teammates is regarded as an absolute indicator. Beating them is a must.
Formula 1 is a hotbed of teammate intrigue. Take the Lewis Hamilton-Jenson Button axis at McLaren, often cited as intra-team utopia. Scratch the surface and you see the inevitable cracks, but both drivers realize the importance of not letting such tiny schisms widen. Since team principal Martin Whitmarsh sat the pair down ahead of their first season together at McLaren in 2010 and warned them of the mutual disadvantage of not working together, it has been all smiles. Yet there have been several flashpoints. In Turkey, Button dived past Hamilton when both were supposedly fuel-saving and a few moments later, he had to make room for Hamilton's late-braking move at the first corner.
The dynamic varies. Michael Schumacher saw himself as Mercedes team leader when he returned in 2010, insisting on taking the lower car number from Nico Rosberg. He's not the only driver to try to harness everything, even inconsequential details, to assert himself.
It's dangerously straightforward to fall into the number two role. Rubens Barrichello fell victim to this at Ferrari. An excellent development driver and quick enough to be near Schumacher's pace, he was the ideal teammate, but it came at a price.
“I always had to try different strategies because I knew that he had Plan A and I had Plan B,” says Barrichello. “I learned a great deal more mentally because there was a time that I concentrated too much on my teammate when I should have concentrated on myself.”
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