SINGAPORE AIRLINES • SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX 2014

All eyes on Mercedes pair

Hamilton and Rosberg's feuding set to give S'pore race an added spark

AS FORMULA One's elite gather in Singapore for the sport's latest pit stop, the talk of the Marina Bay Street Circuit is not so much who will win the night race.

After all, with Mercedes claiming victories in all but three of the 13 races so far, the smart money is again on the German racing outfit being on top of the podium on Sunday.

Rather, the chatter on the track is very much on the rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, whose feuding is surely set to be magnified under Marina Bay's floodlights.

An epic battle, pockmarked by taunts and aggressive driving between the once childhood friends, has Mercedes Motorsport chief Toto Wolff now describing them as "enemies".

Only 22 points separate the pair at the top of the drivers' standings and six races remain in what is the closest fight between team-mates since the late Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost disputed the title while at McLaren a quarter of a century ago.

The Mercedes duo put on perfunctory smiles before sponsors and adoring fans during a promotional event at Marina Bay Sands yesterday.

Inwardly, Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, was perhaps considering the latest verbal volley from his feisty foe.

"It's not a concern for me," Rosberg, 29, said about the Englishman's experience in three previous title run-ins.

"I'm focused on my own thing. He is a strong competitor, he has his strengths and weaknesses, but I concentrate on doing my job with my team and getting the most out of it."

The pressure of inching closer to a maiden championship is a legitimate worry for fans of Rosberg, who uncharacteristically erred on a turn at the recent Italian Grand Prix to allow Hamilton to pounce for victory and close the points gap.

It was the perfect morale booster for the 29-year-old Hamilton, who holds a better record in Singapore, where he won in 2009.

He said: "Despite the highs and lows, I'm still well and truly in the hunt for the championship and that is something that gives me huge motivation for the final six races, starting in Singapore."

While the pair's testy relationship may be a cause of concern for Mercedes, fellow drivers seem to be happy to just enjoy the show.

Sauber's Adrian Sutil, a close friend of Hamilton until he failed to turn up as a witness for the German at an F1 disciplinary hearing last year, said it was interesting to see a "real fight" within a team.

"This is what people want to see. They've got the best package and the best team - whoever is better between the two will deserve the title."

The gloves have clearly come off, with Rosberg insisting that he is in Singapore "not just to get some points".

"I am enjoying the moment more than I ever have in the sport because I get to a race and I have a car where I know I can be on pole and I can win."

nsanjay@sph.com.sg