Reading about Toto Wolff's recent worries over dealing with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, I was reminded of the legendary Jim Bamber and his cartoons. One of my favourites depicted the rivalry between Riccardo Patrese and Eddie Cheever when they raced for Alfa Romeo. Actually, 'rivalry' hardly covers it; they hated each other. Bamber produced a drawing showing them in wheeled cages, trying to get at each other through the bars. It was painfully close to the truth.
On the opening lap of the 1985 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, they managed to collide and spin off at the first turn. Cheever and Patrese then proceeded to entertain and bemuse the audience at Crowthorne corner by standing on the grass bank above their abandoned cars, arguing and gesticulating furiously over who was at fault. I recall another occasion when, talking to Cheever, I happened to mention his team-mate. "What team-mate?" snapped the American. "D'you mean that asshole in the other green car?"
In such instances, the influence on Cheever's early childhood spent in Rome would flash to the surface, Patrese having a more thoroughbred Italian background to account for a similar combustible nature when the occasion demanded it.
The irony here is that both drivers, individually, could be charming and extremely likeable; exactly the sort of 'nice guy' I imagine Wolff appears to be referring to when talking about how he would like the Mercedes drivers to behave. But as Patrese and Cheever were to prove in extremis, such a wish is as naïve as it is impractical if you want top racers in the same team. Sir Frank Williams put it best when describing friction between Alan Jones and Carlos Reutemann in 1981: "It's what happens when you put two bulls in a field."
Wolff has this week been continuing to voice concerns about the tension between his superstars spilling over and affecting the team. With the greatest of respect, Rosberg and Hamilton are pussycats compared to, say, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, particularly the latter. That relationship was so bad that neither spoke directly to the other during debriefs, communication becoming so ridiculous that one would ask the other's engineer about his driver's views on something when they were cramped in a small room, inches apart. It was as if the other driver didn't exist.
But here's the point. The majority of McLaren mechanics had absolutely no idea this was going on. They were unaware of the true depth of animosity between the two drivers. Good management by Ron Dennis and crew chief Dave Ryan ensured that the tension did not invade the garage at any point during 1989.
It's up to Wolff to ensure the same applies within his team. Either that or employ a couple of 'nice guys' who don't spur each other on to new levels of achievement. Surely Mercedes AMG F1 is out to win races, not awards for being leaders in the Happy Workplace League?
Deal with it. Others wish they had the same problem.