Only three races into the new Formula One season and already tensions between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are threatening to boil over.

As Hamilton happily took the plaudits after a race weekend where he was top of the leaderboard in every session, Rosberg could barely muster a smile at his 2nd place finish.

In the post-race press conference, the German driver bemoaned his team-mate’s driving, claiming Hamilton - the 2014 world champion - had selfishly compromised his afternoon by going slowly and putting him within catching distance of Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari.

Hamilton said: “I wasn’t controlling his race, I was controlling my own race. My goal was to look after my car. I had no real threat from Nico [Rosberg] throughout the whole race.”

An aggrieved Rosberg replied: “It’s just now interesting to hear from you Lewis, you were just thinking about yourself with the pace in front when that was compromising my race.

“Driving slower than was maybe necessary in the beginning of the stint meant Sebastian [Vettel] was close to me, and it opened up the opportunity for Sebastian to try an early pit stop to try to jump me, and then I had to cover him.

“It was unnecessarily close with Sebastian as a result, and also it cost me a lot of race time because I had to cover him. Then my tires died at the end of the race because my stint was just so much longer, so I’m unhappy about that.”

But quite rightly, Hamilton had little sympathy for Rosberg’s grievances.

“It’s not my job to look after Nico’s race, it’s my job to manage the car and bring the car home as healthy and as fast as possible,” said Hamilton.
“I didn’t do anything intentionally to slow any of the cars up, I was just focused on myself. If Nico wanted to get by he could have tried but he didn’t.”
Unfortunately for Rosberg, his comments smack of a man psychologically damaged at playing second fiddle to Hamilton, with no answer to the campion’s speed.

Rosberg’s complaints seem only to be making Hamilton stronger, with the German clearly fearing he cannot reverse his fortunes as the number two Mercedes driver. He has never been able to beat Hamilton in wheel-to-wheel action and the usually unflappable German has lost his composure.

He is already 17 points behind Hamilton and has won just one race in the last 12 compared to the world champion who has eight victories in 10 races.

To make matters worse for Rosberg, next weekend’s race is in Bahrain, which is the circuit you could argue was where last year Hamilton established his alpha male like superiority.

The pair’s duel under the lights was an enthralling contest with both drivers driving at the absolute limit of their cars’ ability.

Rosberg did everything possible, overtaking Hamilton on several occasions but the British driver refused to give up and each time regained his position with clean but aggressive driving.

At the end of that race, both men knew they had been part of a sensational battle and greeted each other warmly.

But as the season went on, the relationship between the pair gradually deteriorated as the intensity of fighting for a championship took its toll.

It was thought that the winter break would bring an end to the hostility and a degree of civility would return, but those old wounds have clearly been reopened and the hierarchy at Mercedes face the difficult task appeasing their drivers.