The on-track hostilities might still be more than two months away yet, but it seems that tension may already be in the air at Mercedes Grand Prix - with comments made by Nico Rosberg at the end of the 2009 campaign suggesting that his F1 2010 team-mate Michael Schumacher is responsible for legitimising many of the questionable driving tactics seen in the top flight today.
Rosberg has already expressed his belief that compatriot Schumacher could find things tough on his return to the grand prix grid following a three-year absence when the starting lights go out in Bahrain in mid-March [see separate story - click here], and now it has emerged that the 24-year-old previously pinned the blame for some of the lax driving standards in the modern era firmly at the door of the record-breaking seven-time F1 World Champion's infamous 'win-at-all-costs' approach.
"It is Michael Schumacher who started this, like at Spa, when Mika Hakkinen tried to overtake him and he ran him off the track," the German is quoted as having said by F1 Fanatic shortly after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2009 season finale, alluding to the race ten years ago when the Kerpen native squeezed his Finnish rival virtually onto the grass as they diced for the lead at 200mph, effectively offering him the choice of either backing off or else causing a huge accident. "When the guy behind has made a decision [to pass] and the guy in front then moves over, it is very dangerous. You cannot do that. That was the first time I remember it being a dangerous issue."
Schumacher has ever been a controversial and divisive figure in the paddock, with few in any doubt as to his talent and none disputing his outstanding success - but a good many more dubious about the somewhat devil-may-care manner he has adopted in order to achieve it, as he has run right to the edge of the limits and rules, and occasionally beyond. Governing body the FIA has more often than not turned a blind eye.
Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve have both been on the receiving end of the 40-year-old's decidedly strong-arm tactics when he is determined to get what he wants, and comparisons have been drawn with the sheer, cold-blooded ruthlessness displayed by fellow multiple title-winner Ayrton Senna. Parking his Ferrari in the middle of the track in the dying moments of qualifying at Monaco in 2006 is another example. It is, Rosberg contends, a dangerous precedent - with others having since looked, learned...and emulated.
"[Rubens] Barrichello, [Mark] Webber and [Kamui] Kobayashi did exactly the same thing [at Interlagos]," he continued. "With Webber, [Kimi] Raikkonen lost his front wing, with Kobayashi, [Kazuki] Nakajima had a massive 'off', which could have been much worse - you can really hurt yourself, marshals and others in that sort of accident. With Barrichello, Lewis [Hamilton] ran into the back of his tyre. That was the third time - and it is not allowed to happen."