Formula One: ‘Hamilton v Rosberg? Vettel v Webber was worse’, says Red Bull boss Christian Horner

Daimler AG chief Dieter Zetsche with Lewis Hamilton (centre) and Nico Rosberg at a news conference about the Mercedes' 'Motorsport Kickoff 2016'. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has labelled the Mercedes duo's rivalry "extremely mild" compar
Daimler AG chief Dieter Zetsche with Lewis Hamilton (centre) and Nico Rosberg at a news conference about the Mercedes' 'Motorsport Kickoff 2016'. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has labelled the Mercedes duo's rivalry "extremely mild" compared to that between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.PHOTO: REUTERS

MELBOURNE • Christian Horner wants to see more aggressive rivalry between team-mates in Formula One, and says Lewis Hamilton's jousting with Nico Rosberg at Mercedes is extremely mild when placed beside the enmity that existed between his former drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber a few years ago.

As the Red Bull team principal prepared for the opening race of the season in Australia this weekend, he said: "In sport we need more that's taking it to an extreme. One of the reasons for watching Ayrton Senna against Alain Prost was because you knew those two guys hated each other.

"Likewise when Nigel Mansell was racing, and the battles he had with Nelson Piquet. There was real needle there."

However, Horner has not been impressed by the internecine warring at Mercedes. "We have seen just one cap thrown in three years. That's it," he said.

There is clearly more friction between Hamilton and Rosberg than Horner concedes.

Their rivalry reached its low point at Spa in 2014 when Rosberg ran into the back of Hamilton's car, ending the British driver's race.

Rosberg had appeared even more culpable in Monaco that year when he won pole after blocking Hamilton's attempt to improve on his time.

After that, Hamilton, speaking about his once close friend, said: "I can count my friends on one hand. I am sure Nico can do the same. I am not in his five and he is not in my five."

The relationship appeared to be smoother last year but the feud was reignited in Austin, where Hamilton won his third world title after an aggressive move on Rosberg.

This year, according to Mercedes, the drivers will have more freedom to race each other.

The friction between Vettel and Webber at Red Bull a few years ago was much, much worse, according to Horner.

He said: "There was intense rivalry between the two of them. Probably less with Sebastian because he had the upper hand over Mark. Anything Mark could do to get under Sebastian's skin, he would try and do. That was part of the gamesmanship of two competitive guys."

Vettel won in Malaysia in 2013 after ignoring team orders not to pass Webber. And there was worse in Istanbul in 2010 when a furious Horner opened an inquest after his drivers crashed into each other when set for a one-two finish.

But now, asked whether he would tolerate one of his drivers punching his team-mate, Horner replied: "As long as they keep their helmets on. It depends on which one it is. I would either congratulate him or reprimand him, depending on who it was!"

Many people think Hamilton will move to Ferrari at the end of his Mercedes career. But Horner believes fans will be denied what they really want to see - a head-to-head between Hamilton and Vettel in the same team.

"I would be amazed to see the two of them both sitting in the same team," he said.

"From a team point of view it is difficult to envisage that scenario. You would have one driver who is elated and one who is pissed off."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline ''Hamilton v Rosberg? Vettel v Webber was worse''. Print Edition | Subscribe