Formula One is a sport for the individual, only one man can emerge from a season with the Drivers’ Championship – more often than not it has been Lewis Hamilton in recent times.
The Constructors’ Championship still holds some esteem especially for the people behind the scenes, although it does not quite hold the grandeur of the drivers’ prize. Unity is a key factor for Formula One teams, although it hard to keep emotions in check when victories and prize money is on the line.
It’s not always a thrilling job to play second fiddle to the leading driver and Sebastian Vettel is finding that to be a tough transition at Ferrari as Charles Leclerc is manoeuvring into position to become the Italian outfit’s top man. To highlight that fact, Leclerc is being backed in the F1 betting odds at 9/2 behind only Hamilton to win the Drivers’ Championship next year, displaying a passing of the torch at Ferrari. There are examples of the secondary man, pulling off a major surprise to buck the trend to become the leading man for a season or beyond – including one of Northern Ireland’s famous sons, Eddie Irvine.
Irvine was never a superstar driver, but he always managed to get the best out of his car and his potential behind the wheel. It did not take him long to get a move to Ferrari, driving for three seasons in the sport for Jordan before the Italian outfit came calling to sit him alongside Schumacher. He was unspectacular in his opening two seasons, but Irvine made huge strides in 1998 appearing on the podium eight times in support of Schumacher, taking points off his team-mate as well as others.
It resulted in Schumacher failing to take the crown, while Irvine finished fourth as Mika Hakkinen won the title. The following season Schumacher suffered a broken leg, leaving Irvine in a strong position to make a charge as Ferrari’s number one. Indeed he did, winning four races over the course of the campaign, only to be denied the crown by Hakkinen in the final race of the term, while Schumacher’s second-place finish on his return denied him the crown. It did not help Ferrari and both drivers were frustrated by their lack of success, although it would eventually come in droves for the German.
Rosberg was forced into the role of support man behind Hamilton following the Briton’s arrival in 2013, despite being at Mercedes for three seasons before the Brit. However, he and his teammate both benefited from the improvements that the team made to the vehicle for the 2014 campaign. Hamilton blew away the competition with a brilliant performance to win his second Drivers’ Championship, while Rosberg enjoyed a fine season himself, notching his first race triumph in Australia before adding another four to finish second in the standings.
It was the same story in 2015 as Hamilton was dominant once more to claim successive crowns. The German did his role for the team, which allowed Mercedes to clean up with back-to-back Constructors’ Championships. In his quest to become the leading man, Rosberg set the tone from the off in 2016, winning the opening four races of the season. It allowed him to surge to the crown, beating out Hamilton in the final race even though he finished second in Abu Dhabi, going one further than Irvine.