The rivalry between Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has been making headlines, and those present at a fan meeting at Paragon shopping centre on Thursday 18 September got a front-row seat.
Undercurrents of their rivalry peppered the press conference, with them subtly undercutting each other with their answers.
During a rapid fire Q&A session, Rosberg had chosen Monaco as his favourite track, citing it as “the most challenging of all”. When asked the same question, Hamilton promptly replied with Macau, saying "it's a much harder version of Monaco, much longer and just way more exciting". There is no Formula One race in Macau, but the two drivers had raced there before in Formula Three.
Elaborating on the thrills of a street circuit, he said, "Sometimes you just brush the barrier, so your heart is really in your mouth through those circuits."
Speaking about crashes, Hamilton then deadpanned: "We both did it in Formula Three, Nico crashed in front of me and I crashed into him, it's quite funny."
It was a thinly-veiled jibe at his teammate, who earlier in the year at the Belgian Grand Prix, had collided with and punctured Hamilton’s left rear tyre on lap two. Hamilton was forced to quit the race eventually, while Rosberg finished second to extend his title lead.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE RIVALRY
Rosberg now sits at the top of the current Formula One leaderboard with 238 points, while Hamilton is 22 points adrift in second place.
Their fans welcomed them with cheers and screams at the Paragon atrium, including those on higher floors peering down, hoping to get a better look at the superstar drivers.
Both Rosberg and Hamilton spent time signing autographs for fans, albeit on opposite sides of the event venue
Sitting apart on stage, with the emcee between them, Hamilton and Rosberg avoided eye contact with each other throughout the event, but they were all smiles otherwise. While each was answering questions, the other distractedly waved at fans instead, not paying attention to what the other was saying.
Rosberg, the more diplomatic of the two, acknowledged their antagonism towards each other. He said: "It’s a big fight with Lewis at the moment, with six races to go. I’m sure it’s going to be very close. I hope that you enjoy the battle, and that we create some exciting moments. I look forward to the next couple of races.”
RADIO BAN A RETURN TO ‘PURE RACING’
With the season wrapping up, both drivers have larger concerns at hand such as the possibly game-changing ban on team radio communications during the race.
This prevents any efforts from the team to help a driver with his own performance, and was implemented by motorsport’s governing body FIA to take effect at the Singapore Grand Prix.
For Rosberg, it is a chance to go back to pure, instinctual driving. In an interview with inSing, he said: "It used to be that the team would tell us, 'save more fuel, go faster now, save the tyres', and that’s all finished now. It’s going to be a new challenge for me as a driver because now I need to do these things myself. But it’s good, it makes the racing more pure.”
Hamilton, on the other hand, brushed off any concerns. Instead, he is looking forward to racing unaided. “In the past the only information I ever really have is about the engine changes, but that’s normal. But generally, it’s not really an issue. Maybe others might have more trouble with it, but I’m kind of excited about it,” he said.
Either way, it will certainly be a battle worth watching from the sidelines at the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend.