Belfast Telegraph

Lewis Hamilton excels despite clash

By Ian Parkes

Nico Rosberg appreciates his Mercedes bosses have endured a "very difficult" time handling his relationship with Lewis Hamilton this season.

Motorsport boss Toto Wolff, non-executive chairman Niki Lauda and executive technical director Paddy Lowe have been forced to contend with issues between Rosberg and Hamilton.

Things threatened to erupt during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend in late May when Rosberg took pole via a dubious manoeuvre during qualifying that Hamilton believed was deliberate. A one-two followed, with Rosberg taking the chequered flag ahead of a furious Hamilton, resulting in neither acknowledging the other during a tense podium ceremony.

Wolff and Lauda did well to keep the lid on that particular saga, and whilst there have been other niggles along the way, for now there is a peace of sorts.

But with the championship a two-horse race – the duo are separated by just 14 points – there is plenty of opportunity yet for the battle to become truly explosive.

Asked whether he felt there would have been more fireworks by now, Rosberg's cryptic response was: "You don't know, maybe there have been more fireworks. There could have been."

Pressed on the matter, Rosberg added: "Yeah, but I've forgotten.

"It's always the same, it doesn't change. It's neutral, sometimes easier, sometimes with more difficult periods. You just work through the difficult ones and that's it. It hasn't really changed."

Rosberg admitted: "It's difficult, very difficult. We need to find a balance because in the first instance we're racing for Mercedes, representing Mercedes and wanting to do a good job for them.

"We're also representing the thousand-plus people – my colleagues – at the factory who have families and who depend on us.

"So we need to work as a team, but there comes a point where you want to beat the other guy. It's a fine line."

Rosberg's challenge this season is to score his first career podium at the Hungaroring where Hamilton has won four times in seven years.

Hamilton continued his love affair with the track yesterday, finishing quickest at the end of both practice sessions.

Quickest in FP1 when the medium-compound tyre was used throughout, he posted a time of one minute 25.814 seconds, finishing 0.183secs clear of Rosberg.

Come FP2 when the drivers were allowed a run on the soft Pirelli rubber – the faster of the two choices this weekend – Hamilton improved to 1:24.482secs, with Rosberg down by 0.238secs.

But the session was not without its difficulties for Mercedes, with Hamilton at one stage complaining of a loss of braking.

That will likely have sounded a few alarm bells on the pit wall in light of Hamilton's accident during qualifying last Saturday for the German Grand Prix when he suffered a 30g impact into a tyre wall after a right-front brake disc failure.

As for Rosberg, there were engine concerns just over two-thirds of the way through. Neither man seemed overly burdened as long runs were eventually undertaken.

For Hamilton, a lack of grip left him particularly unhappy as he said: "The tyres don't feel very good here. There was very, very poor grip out there. I don't know if that's the tyres or the track, but it was pretty bad.

"You're driving so slow to look after the tyres it feels like you have to slow down too much now to the point it's a bit boring

"So we have some work to do overnight to ensure we get the best set-up for the weekend as we're not fully comfortable with the car just yet."

Meanwhile, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner launched an astonishing tirade against the Formula One media as he attempted to defend Azerbaijan's forthcoming inclusion on the calendar.

Horner, along with Ferrari's Marco Mattiacci, McLaren's Eric Boullier, Vijay Mallya from Force India, Sauber's Monish Kaltenborn and Claire Williams from Williams, faced several tricky questions during the FIA team principals' press conference.

When the human rights record of certain countries, including Azerbaijan, was raised Horner rapped:. "This is becoming a very depressing press conference where we're focused on the negativities."

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