Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton Thrive on Pressure and Emotion of 2014 Monaco GP

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2014

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 25:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP leads teammate Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 25, 2014 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The 2014 Monaco Grand Prix will in the coming years be recalled as the weekend which saw the relationship between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton take a turn for the worse.

The friction that has developed between the Mercedes drivers, following the latter's apparent accusation that Rosberg sabotaged his final qualifying lap, has unquestionably added greater intrigue to a highly tense title battle.

The human element of supposed best friends becoming the greatest of rivals in the blink of an eye is a subplot which all can relate to, meaning everyone has an opinion and everyone cannot help but take a side of the argument.

Just as it should, however, the behind-the-scenes business took a back seat for the majority of the 78-lap race, allowing the athletic and psychological qualities of both Hamilton and Rosberg to take prominence.

Luca Bruno/Associated Press

To those unfamiliar with Formula One, it is frequently called into question whether drivers can be classed as athletes.

After all, they just sit in a car and go around in circles for two hours, don't they?

The performances of both Mercedes drivers on the roads of Monte Carlo, Monaco, though—in a street fight which felt more like a war of attrition—left little doubt that F1 drivers are elite sportsmen—even if F1 itself for much of the weekend seemed more like a school playground than the very summit of motorsport.

Both Rosberg and Hamilton entered the race under very different pressures yet discounted those with great expertise to arguably produce a more exciting battle than they did in April's Bahrain Grand Prix, when they crossed the finish line within one second of each other.

The former began the day with the sorry label of a cheat still hanging over his head—despite being cleared by the FIA stewards on Saturday evening—while the latter was determined to gain revenge after he was, in his view, wronged in the dying minutes of Q3 by his teammate's underhand tactics.

Hamilton's intention to "do a Senna," as recorded by Byron Young of the Mirror, would have planted a seed of doubt in Rosberg's mind ahead of the grand prix start, with the 2008 world champion presumably referring to the title-deciding first-corner clash between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, his biggest rival, at the beginning of the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix.

The presence of a new clutch on Rosberg's Mercedes W05 car would have only added to the German's potential concerns ahead of the illumination of the five red lights, before which Hamilton made the effort of shaking his hand through gritted teeth on the grid in an act of respect.

The scrutiny, with those factors as well as his recent problems with starts and a three-point deficit to his teammate in the drivers' standings, weighed heavily on Rosberg as he pulled away from that No. 1 grid slot—but he executed his getaway with perfection.

On every lap that Rosberg passed the Mirabeau corner, he would have been reminded of the controversial events of qualifying, perhaps praying that the wheel lockup which came close to tarnishing his unblemished reputation the previous day would not reoccur.

With the knowledge that only an unforced error would give Hamilton a genuine chance to overtake, Rosberg was faced with the challenge of hitting every apex, and apart from a couple of wheel lockups, did so.

In addition, Rosberg managed his pace during his fuel-saving period in the early stages expertly, morphing his car into a carrot on a stick for the chasing Hamilton.

Hamilton himself, meanwhile, was faced with the task of balancing his emotions with the job in hand—something which he has struggled to do throughout his eight-year Formula One career.

And although the former world champion appeared flustered over team radio, frequently berating race engineer Peter Bonnington, Hamilton performed admirably, remaining within touching distance of Rosberg.

A common problem when drivers follow others for long periods of time is that they become so transfixed with the behaviour of the car ahead that they can lose awareness of the movement of their own cars.

When the leading car makes a mistake and runs wide, for instance, the driver behind can find themselves literally following their lead and running wide themselves, which carries huge risks around a circuit such as Monaco.

Hamilton, though, kept himself to himself and lurked around his teammate's gearbox, maintaining constant, wearying levels of pressure.

His frustration with Bonnington and the Mercedes strategists via team radio for failing to invite him to the pit lane in the immediate aftermath of Adrian Sutil's race-ending shunt at the Nouvelle Chicane, which led to a safety car period, displayed the traits of a thinking driver that have rarely been associated with Hamilton in the past.

The nature of the Circuit de Monaco, with its tight corners and unforgiving crash barriers, meant that the chances of a race-long battle between Rosberg and Hamilton, who were both operating under the influence of so much emotion, were small.

But for Hamilton's significant drop in pace in the latter stages of the grand prix when his vision was hindered—causing a disappointing anti-climax—there is no reason to suggest that the Mercedes drivers would not have hassled one another until the chequered flag and all the way up to the steps of the Royal box of Prince Albert II.

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 25:  (L-R) Lewis Hamilton (2nd place) of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, Nico Rosberg (1st place) of Germany and Mercedes GP and Daniel Ricciardo (3rd place) of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing pose on the podium following
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Drivers often claim that the track gets tighter and tighter as they edge ever closer to glory on the streets of the principality, but the skill and concentration levels possessed by the responsible Rosberg and Hamilton ensured a clean, compelling and enjoyable fight took place, making the streets of Monaco feel like a purpose-built race venue.

And whichever side you've taken following the antics of the third and final qualifying segment on Saturday, it is impossible to deny that either of these men would make a worthy world champion when the chequered flag falls in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in November.