The Hamilton/Red Bull affair
Take a large dose of Lewis Hamilton, a pinch of Red Bull, a sprinkling of Sebastian Vettel and plenty of McLaren. The result is a great recipe for rumours.
Actually, it's not such a big issue, but the Formula One rumour-mongers did their best to make one of it: Lewis Hamilton flirts with Red Bull or – depending on the version you hear – Christian Horner and Helmut Marko flirt with Lewis Hamilton.
After some thrust and counterthrust in recent days and weeks, the topic seemed to have died a death, but now it's reared its head in Malaysia again, because Red Bull have suddenly expressed doubts that Hamilton and Vettel would make a good team and because Hamilton for his part asserts that two great world champion racing drivers such as Sebastian and himself would not be incompatible after all.
"It could work," says Hamilton. "You saw that with Fernando and me: we were very competitive. And you can see the same now with Jenson and me. So two world champions can most definitely drive for the same team, providing they are both treated equally."
Fernando Alonso may have different recollections of the year together with Lewis (2007), whether real or imagined.
Anticipating this objection, Hamilton adds in oblique reference to Maranello: "There are clearly outfits where this is not the case. But my team is probably the best example of equal treatment in practice."
In any case, he is under contract to McLaren for the next two years and has no intention of leaving them at the moment.
"But who knows what the future holds?" he adds enigmatically, but then we get an insight into the heart of the matter with this comment: "The only reason why Christian Horner would say that [i.e. Vettel and Hamilton would not make good team-mates] is because some people simply refuse to lose. There are good and bad losers." Hamilton claims to be a good loser.
This appears to be part of the McLaren campaign to psyche out the opposition. For example, Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh revived his complaint in recent weeks about the allegedly flexible front wing used by Red Bull, a cracked record from the 2010 season that Whitmarsh has dusted off and put back on the turntable.
Helmut Marko's riposte was to link Hamilton's name with other teams when things weren't going too well for McLaren in the winter tests. Now Hamilton has played the 'sore loser' card. Let's see what these two warring factions come up with next...