IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Lewis Hamilton (left) and team mate Mercedes Nico Rosberg’s has all eyes on their strained relationship. Image: AP/ Luca Bruno
MONZA, Italy – Formula 1’s 'silly season' is bursting into life at Monza and almost every team in the pits lane is playing ball, even dominant Mercedes and one of the best-paid and most marketable stars, Lewis Hamilton.
Team boss Toto Wolff had already lifted the lid by warning that if Hamilton and team mate Nico Rosberg can’t fix their broken relationship the team might have to change its line-up for 2015.
He repeated the warning on Friday, two days before the 2014 Italian F1 GP here, with: "My statements were about what would happen if we couldn't get on top of it, something which is a very, very worst-case vision and I don't think we were ever going to get there.”
BACK TO McLAREN?
Even so, the warning has been made. Could it be connected to Hamilton's "frozen" contractual negotiations and rumours at Monza that Mercedes is trying to drive down the value of the 2008
F1 champion's next deal?
Hamilton is also now linked with a shock moves back to McLaren, even Ferrari. Is that why Fernando Alonso on Thursday (September 4) was being so complimentary when he looked back at their apparently poisonous pairing at McLaren in 2007?
Would the Spaniard prefer Hamilton as his 2015 team mate over the struggling Kimi Raikkonen? Here’s what he says: "(At McLaren) it never was a problem with Lewis," Alonso said. "It didn't work because of the team. I never had a problem with Lewis and it's not a surprise today that we still have a good relationship."
That does look like a long shot but it seems clear that Mercedes is looking at its current pairing and wondering if it makes sense for the image of the brand and to best capitalise on performance.
"If they (Rosberg and Hamilton) were more disciplined nobody would be able to keep in touch with them," the visiting Flavio Briatore said at Monza on Friday. "For me there has to always be a first driver and a second."
Even the academics agree, including Dr Paolo Aversa of London's Cass Business School who has concluded that pairings such as Rosberg and Hamilton do not work. The Times of London quoted Aversa as saying: "Toto Wolff now realises the internal conflict between Hamilton and Rosberg could lead to Daniel Ricciardo finishing between the two Silver Arrows team mates.
"It looks increasingly unlikely that both Hamilton and Rosberg will be lining up for Mercedes next (2015) season. Their on and off-track clashes are symptomatic of two roosters in the henhouse, which is statistically proven to decrease performance."