Andy Hollis · Friday June 7, 2013
I’m sure the fanatical, or even mildly interested, amongst you will have read by now about Mercedes’ seemingly illegal tire test they conducted recently at the behest of Pirelli. If you haven’t, then please do go and have a nose around, because to be perfectly honest, the whole kerfuffle is beginning to bore me to tears (though the recent admission that the drivers wore anonymous helmets to hide their identity is a juicy twist). As a result we won’t go into any more detail about it here. Instead we’re going to look at another angle that’s developing beautifully at Mercedes – have they gone and hired the quickest (and most expensive) Number 2 driver in F1 history?
When Lewis Hamilton burst onto the F1 scene in 2007, there were all sorts of Senna-esque comparisons being floated around by a slightly over-enthusiastic media. His immediate impact on the sport was spectacular however – just ask one Fernando Alonso – but since those heady days and a sole championship win, Hamilton’s stock (and confidence) has fallen a little. With that being said, the primary reason behind the early excitement, his outright speed, has never been questioned. Until now.
When Hamilton made the decision to move to Mercedes at the end of last season, many observers (including yours truly) questioned whether it was the right move for him. However, with McLaren again producing a car in 2013 that could at best be described as ‘a challenge,’ on the face of it the move may have paid off. The one thing NOBODY predicted was that Hamilton would be shown the way by his widely liked, and clearly wildly underestimated, teammate Nico Rosberg. As Hamilton himself has said, “I expected Nico to be competitive, I just expected myself to be more competitive.” So Lewis feels the problem lies in his own driving currently, rather than the prowess of Rosberg. There may well be some credence to this – in Monaco the differences between the two were actually marginal, but Hamilton’s more aggressive style lends itself to imprecision (particularly in what is still a relatively unfamiliar car), something that is highlighted to a huge degree around the Principality. Hamilton’s style is also perhaps less suited to the rapidly degrading tire issues, than the smoother Rosberg.
The fact of the matter is, it’s likely far too early to be drawing significant conclusions as to the relative abilities of the pair, but suffice to say that Keke’s son may be that little bit better than either we, or Lewis, have been led to believe.
There’s also been a lot of tittle-tattle amongst the drivers regarding the perceived over-aggression of Sergio Perez during the Monaco race. Some of the loudest moans again came from Fernando Alonso who claimed that Perez had virtually parked his car on the Rascasse but the final word again we have to give with Kimi who suggested that Perez should be “punched in the face” to help him understand where he was going wrong. Now the young Mexican may have been a little over-ambitious with his move on Raikkonen, but his passes on Button and Alonso going into the swimming pool chicane were, for me (and many people watching) precisely the type of aggressive, ballsy moves that the race desperately needed. They were ‘get out of your seat cheering’ type moves. I said whilst watching “all power to his elbow” (yes, as a Brit, I do still talk in a Victorian manner, of course). Had it been the aforementioned Hamilton at the beginning of his career, that aggression would have been lauded as “a breath of fresh air” within the sport.
Good on you Sergio, good on you McLaren for supporting him ‘getting his elbows out.’ More of the same please.
So off we go to the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal this weekend, and a race that tends to be packed full of drama. By way of reference to our previous points of discussion, it’s a track that historically both Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez have gone very well at. It’s also a track where brakes are critical – another reason there may be a current disparity between Hamilton and Rosberg is that they use different brake manufacturers. Mercedes are in the process of getting used to the Carbone Industrie discs favored by Hamilton. Perhaps they’ll be up to speed this weekend.
Other things to look out for – Montreal has a low grip surface so expect the Lotuses to run well there. Pirelli have decided to take the super-soft compound again, so there will also be plenty of tire wear, and plenty more talk about whether or not it’s gone too far this season.
Expect to see Bernd Maylander as well – driver of the F1 Safety Car – statistically you’re only marginally less likely to get a safety car period in Montreal than you are in Monaco. And you always get one at Monaco! It’s also a track that lends itself to plenty of overtaking (thankfully) even before the advent of DRS.
High speeds, hard braking corners, iffy weather, walls in close proximity. What’s not to like.
Enjoy the race……
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