2008 seems a long time ago now and that’s because it was. No one realises this more than Lewis Hamilton; gazing back at his championship winning year, and forever on tenterhooks looking for that elusive title of double world champion.
After spending 17 years in the bosom of McLaren, 2013 sees Hamilton move to pastures new at Mercedes. Judging by Mercedes’ general form over the past three seasons, Hamilton’s move seems a bit like switching from a Horse to a Donkey for the Grand National. Senseless.
In the grand scheme of things however, perhaps his transfer does have a degree of logic. Take for instance the team’s ruthless ambition to succeed; with names such as Ross Brawn, Aldo Costa, Nick Fry, Bob Bell, and Geoff Willis sat within the teams’ hierarchy, it goes without saying that success is more than expected. This will to win has reached fever pitch as of late, following the appointment of F1 legend Niki Lauda as Non-Executive Chairman, and hijacking Toto Wolff from Williams F1) to head up the role of Executive Director. Furthermore, considering the 2014 rule-changes and the financial clout that Mercedes has to adapt to them, and Hamilton may just be sitting pretty in his new Silver Arrow seat for seasons to come.
Hamilton’s had the majority of the camera lenses and microphones directed his way within the team since his Winter-arrival, but what about Nico Rosberg? Last season’s Chinese Grand Prix winner, Here is a man who has consistently put (an older) Michael Schumacher to shame for three years, with his outright pace and race-craft. Take a second to absorb that statement, and it doesn’t take too long to realise that Rosberg is by far and away, not a slouch. At one with the team, devilishly quick on occasion, and at the helm of a car he has influenced the design of for months (unlike Hamilton), all of a sudden it seems to be far from a one-horse race within the Mercedes ranks.
Between the two drivers sits a relationship that harkens back to the days of homework, muddy knees and 8 o’clock bedtimes, when the German and the Brit were team-mates during their karting years. Since this adolescent phase, it has been common knowledge that the two are friends, perhaps more so than, for instance, Lewis and Fernando… Should their chemistry rub-off in a more professional manner at Mercedes, Ross Brawn and co might be left come the end of the season with the of smug faces.
The early signs certainly seem positive, with the Mercedes WO4 being the pace-setter come the curtain call during pre-season testing. Despite ridiculously cagey, cynical remarks from both drivers to the press, the consensus in the paddock is that Mercedes are perching at the sharp end of the grid heading into Melbourne with reliability, consistency, and raw-pace all being suggested over the past few weeks of testing. It would seem then, that the car looks to be doing the two immensely quick-drivers justice.
For Rosberg, Hamilton, and the team as a collective, 2013 is absolutely about setting the foundations for an all out title assault in 2014. That said, individual agendas are just as prevalent; Hamilton needs to prove that the grass really is greener on the other side, just as much Rosberg needs to finally announce himself as a frontrunner to the world of Formula One.