Should teammates be best friends?

Only four of the ten teams have an unchanged driver line-up this year (Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Alfa Romeo), meaning the other six have spent the better part of the winter perfecting the integration of their new recruits. Pilots donning new colors must familiarize themselves not only with a new environment, but also with a new co-worker.

Relationships between teammates often make headlines in F1, especially when they deteriorate. The row between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez over team bookings at the São Paulo GP was one of the best examples of this last year, although Red Bull have since ensured that things are back to normal. Two of the new 2023 squads will be particularly interesting to watch in this regard: Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon at Alpine and Nico Hülkenberg and Kevin Magnussen at Haas.

Even if these electrifying cohabitations contribute to modern F1’s desire for drama, much of it inspired by the Netflix series Drive to Survive, isn’t it realistic to expect all teammates to be good friends off the track?

However, this is not possible. There have been many examples of good team-mate relationships between Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz at McLaren in the past. The duo brought a touch of fresh air and good humor to the stable, sparking a true friendship. The “Carlando” couple has even become a real phenomenon on social networks.

So when Daniel Ricciardo and his big smile arrived in Woking to replace Sainz, expectations were particularly high among fans. But these were quickly disappointed. That’s not to say there was friction between Norris and Ricciardo, but their relationship was different from that between the Briton and Sainz.

Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo

Norris recently addressed this topic in an interview with GQ: “Carlos and I get along really well. I kind of grew up with him. I got on well with Daniel. He and I were perfect rivals: we hated fighting as much as we hated being beaten by each other. We hated each other off the track. We had a lot of respect for each other. I do, I keep things separate, I can be the biggest competitor I need to be on the road, but I can also respect other people and be a good friend.”

This duality may be difficult to understand, but it provides a glimpse into the competitive spirit of these pilots. It’s possible that they’ll turn this burning fire on and off when it’s time to keep their friendship on track.

Ocon and Gasly are sure to receive what is known as the “Drive to Survive treatment” given their past strain. But both said they’ve since moved on, with the source of the friction going back many years. Alpini wasn’t worried when the team turned to Gasly to replace Fernando Alonso anyway. What the team wanted was the best driver pairing.

Gasly and Okon also admitted how frustrating it was to return to old arguments. “We’re not best friends, but we’re together”Gaslin assured in an interview End of 2022. “We held several events [ensemble], we talk to each other and when I look at the rest of the paddock, the relationships between the other team members, I think there are obviously worse ones than ours. “If you want to talk about Esteban and me, you should probably talk about the relationship between 60% of the guys in the paddock.”

Not long ago, Gasly and Ocon joined Charles Leclerc (the trio were close in karting) to attend the NBA Paris Games. It’s encouraging to see them spending time together, and it may disappoint some gossipers looking to stoke the embers. But you can be sure that, as with all teammates, the story of their old estrangement will emerge when the first tensions emerge.

Magnussen and Hülkenberg at Haas went back to their spat at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix, with Magnussen’s response becoming one of F1’s most famous blows. The two men exchanged little in the following years, but the ice was broken at last year’s Bahrain GP. Obviously, there was no enmity between them.

“I don’t think we need to be best friends. Maybe we will be, who knows!” Magnussen launched. “But there is no pressure for construction [une relation amicale] off the track. i respect [Hülkenberg] as a driver and I think that’s the only thing that matters. I will know him as a person. I was never close to him or knew him as a person, but that didn’t matter. I’m sure we’ll work well together as teammates both on and off the road.”

A lot has changed since Magnussen and Hülkenberg last crossed swords. They both became fathers and thought they were spending their days in Formula 1 before receiving a surprise offer. This has allowed the Danish driver in particular to mature, with boss Gunther Steiner believing his mentality has strengthened. It could be the same for Hulkenberg.

Undoubtedly, these relationships between teammates will be given special attention this year, especially on platforms like Netflix and Twitter, where the search for theatrics is high. But just because a team can’t recreate the Norris-Sainz chemistry doesn’t mean its drivers hate each other. In the end, what matters is that they do what is expected of them by achieving good results.

If the drivers are close, it’s a bonus for their team. But they will not try to create a friendship that does not exist, especially if tensions arise later, an uncertain relationship will make the situation worse.

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