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Mercedes rivalry: Nico Rosberg vs. Lewis Hamilton

By Sarah Holt, CNN
updated 12:04 PM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
It's been a nail biting rollercoaster ride but Lewis Hamilton edges out his Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg to win the 2014 Formula One World Championship. It's been a nail biting rollercoaster ride but Lewis Hamilton edges out his Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg to win the 2014 Formula One World Championship.
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How Hamilton beat Rosberg
How Hamilton beat Rosberg
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How Hamilton beat Rosberg
How Hamilton beat Rosberg
How Hamilton beat Rosberg
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How Hamilton beat Rosberg
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are battling for the F1 world championship
  • The two collided at the Belgian Grand Prix, with Rosberg being heavily criticized
  • Rosberg leads the drivers' standings, 29 points ahead of Hamilton in second
  • Briton Hamilton won the title in 2008, while Rosberg is bidding for his first crown

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Monza, Italy (CNN) -- Mercedes has the fastest two cars in Formula One this season but there is just one problem -- there can only be one world champion.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg arrive at the Italian Grand Prix this weekend with the title fight distilled into a thrillingly intense duel.

Mercedes is desperate to keep a lid on the seething tensions spilling over from a Belgian bust-up as the German team chases its first world title since 1955.

But is it too late to mend the poisoned relationship between the star drivers?

Where did it go wrong?

In the dry desert heat of Bahrain, rivalries between the Mercedes teammates began to sizzle.

Rosberg complained over the team radio when Hamilton cut across him to retake the lead, saying the move was "not on."

Mercedes then warned the drivers "to bring both cars home" as they vied for victory until the checkered flag.

Speeding through Monza circuit
Spinning through Spa-Francorchamps

Monaco was not exactly home sweet home for Rosberg, who lives in the principality.

After setting the fastest time in qualifying, the German went off track -- denying Hamilton, who was behind him, a chance to set his potential quickest time.

There was more drama in Hungary when Mercedes asked Hamilton to allow Rosberg, who was on a different tire strategy, to pass.

The 2008 world champion, who was second at the time, refused to obey the team order and finished third, one place ahead of Rosberg.

The pair's duel was short but by no means sweet in Belgium two weeks ago.

In an ill-judged attempt to take the lead on lap two, Rosberg gave Hamilton's car a punctured tire and effectively put him out of the race.

The German finished second but was greeted by a chorus of boos on the podium from fans who saw his pass as a deliberately cynical move.

Read: Mercedes asks Twitter to solve driver puzzle

Who's to blame?

Rosberg increasingly finds himself cast as the bad guy, akin to Dick Dastardly in cartoon caper "Wacky Races."

After admitting the Spa clash was his fault, Mercedes handed him a hefty fine -- although not by F1 driver salary standards.

Spa through the lens
Ricciardo: Disqualification didn't stop me

But the 29-year-old, who is always polite and affable in person, has since apologized to Hamilton and told the media melee in Monza this week he was not proud of his behavior.

Rosberg may not be Machiavellian but one thing is for sure, Hamilton has had his share of bad luck in 2014.

Whether it was brake failures or engine fires, fate has been a fickle friend.

But is Hamilton entirely blameless? Well, the Briton has arguably brought some hard luck on himself.

There have, in particular, been misjudgments in qualifying, most notably in Canada, Austria and Britain, when he chose not to set a final lap when the damp track conditions were improving.

Interactive: Take a tour of the Monza circuit

Who's refereeing the fight?

Mercedes wants to calm tensions between its racers as it attempts to win both the driver and constructor titles.

Five days after the Belgium bust-up, the team issued a statement warning "another such incident will not be tolerated."

It added: "Lewis and Nico understand and accept the team's number one rule: there must be no contact between the team's cars on track."

The wind in Sauber's sails
Turning McLaren into a cartoon

Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff said in Italy he was not ruling out changing a driver lineup if "we are not able to manage the two of them."

Rosberg recently signed a new contract, which will keep him at the team until the end of 2016, while Hamilton has a deal until 2015.

F1's governing body, the FIA, decided not to investigate the Spa clash, even after Rosberg admitted his culpability.

There has been debate among F1 experts about whether the FIA should be more proactive in refereeing the heavyweight title bout or whether it should stand by and let the drivers slug it out.

Asked by CNN in Italy whether the FIA should have investigated the Spa incident more closely, Hamilton responded: "That's a very good question because how do we move forward?

"Does that mean we can race a lot closer and if the guy in front comes off and is out of the race, nothing's going to happen? Or does it mean if it happens again there will be a penalty?

"We're always asking to be able to race ... but there's a fine line."

Who's in pole position for the title?

With seven races left to go, Rosberg has a 29-point lead over Hamilton.

He is on course to win his first world title and follow in the footsteps of his father Keke, the 1982 champion.

Hamilton knows this is his best chance of winning a second world title since his triumph with McLaren in 2008.

Jenson Button's triathlon training
The reality of being a Formula One driver

The British racer has to keep out of trouble on track and hope his luck turns.

There is, however, a new twist to the 2014 season, which could be decisive.

The final race in Abu Dhabi will reward the drivers with double points, which means a win is worth 50 points and second place 36 points.

But if Rosberg takes a 15-point advantage to the desert finale he can afford to finish second to Hamilton and still win the title.

While the two Mercedes drivers are locked in an intense fight, Daniel Ricciardo is sneaking up on the rails.

The Red Bull racer has the momentum after winning the last two races in Hungary and Belgium and is now 64 points behind Rosberg in the standings.

Could the Australian snatch the title?

"Yeah I can," Ricciardo said in Italy. "But it obviously is going to take more than just winning the next seven races. It is going to have to take a bit of luck as well.

"If they crash into each other at every race this year that will probably hand me the championship on a platter!"

Read: "It's great to be beating Sebastian Vettel"

Who can handle the heat?

There is a feeling in the F1 paddock that the intense 2014 championship is turning into a psychological battle between the Mercedes men.

"Your mental state is always important in sport," Rosberg chirpily agreed in Italy.

The Mercedes rivals are very different characters and very different racers.

On one side of the garage is the ice-cool calm and consistency of Rosberg and on the other side is Hamilton's fiery passion and blistering pace.

Keeping a cool head, as well as a steady hand on the wheel, could decide which of the contenders wins the 2014 world title.

Read: Greece keen on Mediterranean Grand Prix

Read: Teen to make F1 history

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