Last year was the best yet for Mercedes, who retained the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship with 18 pole positions, 16 victories and 12 one-two finishes in 19 races as Lewis Hamilton became the first Brit to ever win consecutive Drivers’ Championships.
However, relations are so fraught between Hamilton and his teammate Nico Rosberg that, despite Mercedes being 3/20 to successfully defend their title and the 31-year-old being 3/5 to keep hold of his, boss Toto Wolff spent the off-season threatening to separate his decorated double act.
“We took the decision of having two evenly matched drivers in order to make the team progress faster and better. It was a very conscious decision three years ago. Going forward, we will consider if it is the best setup for the team.
“Personality and character within the team is a crucial ingredient for the team success. If we feel that it is not aligned with the general consensus, spirit and philosophy within the team, we might consider that when we take a decision, in terms of the driver line-up going forward.
“The biggest weakness is the dynamic of the relationship between the drivers – and sometimes between the drivers and the team.”
Though Rosberg might seem more vulnerable due to his shorter contract and trailing Hamilton in their three years together, he has been with Mercedes since their 2010 launch and the theory is that the warning was aimed more at Hamilton, particularly the final point about criticising the team.
A lot of the incidents which caused Wolff to publicly address the situation came in the aftermath of the champion’s title triumph, as he reacted poorly to finishing 2015 with three straight second places behind his German colleague.
Regardless, bwin ranked every pairing to win the Constructors’ Championship since 1979 – the first year in which both drivers’ points counted to the team’s total – by one-two strike rates. The results indicate that Mercedes would be foolish to mess with a profitable formula. Only one duo in history have outscored them, emphasising that the off-track enmity hasn’t stopped them dominating on it:
There are two major conclusions to seize from the graphic. The first is that the top performing teams are the ones with no clear hierarchy. The four leading partnerships in our study divided the points in their Constructors’ Championship-winning campaigns at an average rate of 53% to Driver A and 47% to Driver B, whereas the average figure across all 22 combos scrutinised was 60% to A and 40% to B.
Likewise, the top eight is full of twosomes whose hostility was legendary. The sole couple outshining Hamilton and Rosberg are serial squabblers Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, whose lack of love for one another didn’t stop them landing two Constructors’ titles and a Drivers’ title each in two years together.
Hamilton makes a second appearance in the top four for his row-strewn rookie season alongside Fernando Alonso at McLaren. Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell make it to sixth despite the former describing the latter’s wife as “stupid and ugly” during their crotchety two-year union, while recent rivals Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber are eighth.
In other words, Wolff would be wise to keep away from the door, instead sticking with what he has and encouraging Hamilton and Rosberg’s obsession with one-upmanship. The German has the edge after his trio of victories to close 2015 and is 2/1 to win in Australia, with Hamilton a 9/10 favourite.