By Steve Keating
For weeks the Formula One world has been riveted on a feud between championship contenders Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton but after the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday the Mercedes team mates have another rivalry to worry about.
After a difficult start to the season, Red Bull returned to the top of the podium when Australian Daniel Ricciardo claimed his maiden F1 win, bringing Mercedes perfect start to the season to an end after six consecutive victories and five straight one-two finishes.
While the buildup to the Canadian Grand Prix was dominated by talk of a spat between the Mercedes drivers, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was warning that his team was not yet ready to throw in the towel and backed up the bravado on Sunday with Ricciardo’s win and third place finish from quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel.
For the first time this campaign Mercedes faced real adversity as Hamilton was forced out after 46 laps with brake problems while Rosberg struggled with power problems half way through the race, then holding on for second place.
“Now we will stick together as a team, analyse and understand what happened and come out of this situation even stronger,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. “First of all, I must say I feel very sorry for Lewis.
“His retirement was not his fault in any way and it is something the team has to take on the chin.
“Both drivers were doing a great job.
“Nico did a sensational job to get the car home, and it was a fantastic piece of damage limitation given how much power he was giving away to the other cars.”
Certainly the weekend was not an entire write off for Mercedes.
The team heads back to Europe for the Austrian Grand Prix on Red Bull’s home track in two weeks with Rosberg perched firmly atop the drivers’ standings on 140 points followed by Hamilton with 118 and Ricciardo a distant 61 points back in third.
Mercedes also remains in firm command of the constructor’s standings leading with 258 points, almost double of Red Bull on 139.
“I did the best that I could out there today and felt like I was having a strong race but unfortunately it just wasn’t our day,” said Hamilton, a three-time winner on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. “Montreal has been a good track for me so to come here and not finish is disappointing but there are plenty more races ahead of us this season so let’s hope for better fortune.
“There was nothing I could do about our issues really.
“It’s great for the team that Nico was able to hold on and get second place today but it’s tough for me. That’s two DNFs (did not finish) now this season and now I have to try and recover the points gap again.
“But these are learning experiences: we’ll learn as a team and get stronger.”