MONTMELO, Spain (AP) — Given how dominant the two Mercedes cars have been in Formula One this season, it seems the only thing that could stop the Silver Arrows at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix might be another outbreak of infighting.
Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton have swept the top two spots at the first four races of the year, and Mercedes has also won the Spanish GP in all but one of the last five seasons. The only time it didn’t happen during that span was in 2016, when Hamilton and then-teammate Nico Rosberg collided on the opening lap on the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit – one of several incidents during a season-long feud between the two.
Bottas now looks like the only real threat to Hamilton winning a sixth F1 title, as he leads his British teammate by one point after the two earned two wins each so far. Hamilton, though, said the two are determined to avoid another flare-up of in-house rivalry and have agreed to not put the team at risk.
“There are things that happen in the background that you won’t know and I don’t really feel this is the place to talk about it,” Hamilton said Thursday at the Mercedes motorhome. “But what is really important is that we have pulled together as a team. We’ve discussed it and hopefully rectified it. … As for what happened before (with Rosberg), an individual just continued to go down that route. But that is not we have here. We have a great energy with the team, the respect is there. We have an agreed rule set so that we do finish the race one two.”
Even so, Hamilton said if Bottas wanted to overtake him, he would have to earn it.
“Yes. It is going to be close and tight, and there is always tension when you want to beat someone else,” Hamilton said. “We will not be touching, that’s for sure. But in terms of giving up positions, that will not happen again.”
And at age 34, Hamilton said his maturity is also helping create more harmony within the team.
“Naturally it is three years later so I have grown a lot since then,” Hamilton said. “I am a lot stronger person standalone outside the car, as well as inside the car. I am much better at knowing how to manage personal relationships, and understanding how to work with people. I think I am a much better team player than I have ever been in my career.”
Hamilton won here in 2014 and the past two years, while Rosberg took it in 2015. Ferrari may have to break that streak, though, if it wants to get involved in the title race. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is already 35 points behind in the standings but is hoping a new engine could help close the gap.
The Ferraris were the fastest cars at preseason testing on this same track in the winter, only to see Mercedes jump ahead once the real racing began.
“I know we are behind, but at this point of the year it doesn’t matter by how much. It’s quite straight forward: we need to start scoring more points,” Vettel said. “The latter we start doing that the worse it looks.”