Hamilton has been the one most dogged by difficulties recently, and that continued this weekend. He suffered brake problems in practice and then an engine fire during qualifying, forcing him to start from the Budapest pit lane while his team-mate coasted to pole.
But after a series of crashes on the track, Rosberg found his lead eroding, forced to curtail his speed by the safety car - and pit-stop tactics were quickly juggled to deal with the variable weather forecast.
By Lap 51, Hamilton had edged ahead of his team-mate, into fourth. Rosberg demanded to be allowed to pass; and Mercedes did indeed relay that instruction, reminding Hamilton that they were both on different pit-stop strategies and that Rosberg would be changing his tyres once more before the end.
Hamilton refused. His lead over Rosberg was around three-quarters of a second, enough for him to want to defend it at all costs. He told them if Rosberg could get close enough, then he would let him pass; but he was not going to slow down to allow him to move through the field.
Rosberg reiterated his demand in the following lap. Hamilton still refused to concede any ground.
We love a good rivalry! Hamilton: "I'm not slowing down for Nico. If he gets close he can pass me." #HungarianGP
— 888sport (@888sport) July 27, 2014
The British driver eventually managed to take third, racing to the end on worn tyres, with Rosberg pitting on Lap 57 and securing fourth.
Mercedes clarified during the race that Rosberg's extra pit stop was their sole reason for asking Hamilton to let his team-mate through - but many observers (like Hamilton himself) felt that the championship leader was simply too far back to justify that call.
Rather surprisingly, after the race Rosberg denied requesting to be allowed past, saying that the team had told him that was going to happen.
Hamilton has been obviously discontented for much of this season, and the team orders will have done nothing to reassure him:
"Obviously I am aware that I was in the same race as him; just because he had one more stop than me doesn't mean I am not in same race.
"If I let him past then he could pull away and come back at me later. I was very, very shocked that the team would ask me to do that [move aside].
"He didn't get close enough to overtake, I was not going to lift off and lose ground to Fernando [Alonso] or Daniel [Ricciardo], so it was a bit strange."
'Strange' is a diplomatic choice of word, perhaps. Mercedes said back in April they were happy to let their two drivers race and would not subject them to team orders. That statement was a public affirmation that there is no favoured "number one" driver in the team.
The apparent attempt to impose a team strategy mid-race will be a concern to many - not least Hamilton.
Carrie Dunn | Follow on Twitter @carriesparkle
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