Lewis Hamilton admits friction with rival Nico Rosberg is real
"But it is a small fire that everybody pours a lot of gasoline on to make it bigger" says the Formula 1 world champion
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 07/03/16 11:23am
Lewis Hamilton has admitted there is genuine friction between him and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
The Silver Arrows pair have repeatedly clashed over the last two years - most noticeably when they collided during the 2014 Belgian GP and when an emotional Rosberg memorably threw his cap at Hamilton following the US GP last year - after being pitched into an exclusive fight for the world championship courtesy of their field-leading machinery.
Hamilton and Rosberg were boyhood friends but their relationship has buckled under the strain of their title battles and the reigning world champion has conceded the perceived antipathy between them cannot be dismissed as media invention.
Asked by the official F1 website if the 'friction' with Rosberg was reality or media hype, Hamilton replied: "It is there. But it is a small fire that everybody pours a lot of gasoline on to make it bigger. And then, of course, also me and Nico, we unintentionally pour more gasoline on to the fire depending on who is winning a race.
"So it is real - a real competition."
But where is the line drawn between competition and conflict? Mercedes have already warned both of their drivers that unless they learn to co-exist then the team would have to consider changing their line-up. However, Hamilton and Rosberg may have additional motivation to forge a constructive working relationship in 2016: the anticipated surge from Ferrari.
"I hope it is not purely a 'Lewis and Nico show' - I hope Ferrari gets involved in that show and that we will have fierce competition beyond me and Nico," said Hamilton.
Ferrari have set the fastest time in the opening exchanges of winter testing while Mercedes have focused on strengthening the reliability of their new car. Many in the paddock believe Rosberg remains the dark horse in the championship battle having won the final three races of the 2015 season. But according to Hamilton, Rosberg "had it good" in the final month of the season when the world champion, by his own admission, switched off after securing his third title.
"I did not do the bare minimum, but I did what I needed to do to finish the year," reflected the 31-year-old. "I didn't do what I had to do to win the championship because I already had won the championship. If you fight for the championship you have to bring that extra five or ten per cent - after I had bagged the title I didn't need that anymore. I used my energy elsewhere. But now my sole focus is again on winning the title - but Nico also has grown, so I have to accept that he is exceptionally fast and so I also have to lift my bar again. I don't know how - but that is my goal."
While the rest of the field has effectively been in hibernation over the winter, Hamilton has remained a high-profile figure on the front and back pages. While bristling at the suggestion he should be considered a celebrity, Hamilton offered no objection to the observation that he is the only F1 driver to understand that the sport is part of the entertainment industry and made this fascinating reply when asked to identify the the crossover between 'the sporting and show business sides of F1'.
"F1 is a show. Fans are fascinated by the energy of the fight," said Hamilton. "Sure, they would also like to do what we are doing, but that is of course illusion - it is a bit like watching people in space: none of us will ever go to space. So where it meets is that we are still human beings - just like them - but in a way the projection is that we are some sort of higher species. That makes it a show. A lot of beautiful girls should be here, there should be music, and bands should perform. It should be a big spectacle just like the Super Bowl."
In addition to attending the Super Bowl, as well an exhaustive number of music and fashion award ceremonies, Hamilton's winter activities are understood to have including recording a music album. But the F1 world champion is adamant that Hamilton the musician is not set to overtake Hamilton the racing driver either in profile or priority.
"Let me say it bluntly: this here - F1 - is what I know how to do best," he said. "Yes there are also other things that I do really well, but nothing compares to that. I know that and accept it. All the other things I enjoy. Who knows, if one day my stuff is good enough you will hear it."
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