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Okay, Lewis Hamilton

I must seem a miserable old geezer, with my refusal to join the general hubbub over Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton this year. It comes of being hasty in the past, placing too much hope in unproven drivers or teams and disillusionment after disappointment as a result. These days I’m slow to pass judgment, preferring to wait and see long after others have cast their votes.

Lewis

Lewis Hamilton

Even so, my views on Massa are probably fairly obvious through various unguarded phrases and sentences in posts and comments. It has been Hamilton that I’ve been very careful about, watching and waiting to see how this season pans out. I want too much for him to be all that he is trumpeted as, the new British hope that will conquer the world, the one who will out-Schumacher Michael himself. Ever mindful of the crushing disappointments of former years, I hold my dreams close to my chest and put on the poker face.

But it is four races into the season now and Lewis has not put a foot wrong, in the car or out of it. If anyone ever looked a star on the rise, he is it. No-one, not even Michael Schumacher, broke the records for new arrivals as Lewis is doing.

So how good is he really? Never mind the pre-F1 resumé – we have seen those become irrelevant too often in the past – it’s how he races that matters. And thus far he has been very impressive, swapping fastest McLaren laps with his illustrious teammate and taking the fight to Ferrari. In a rookie, that is almost unheard of. The lad can drive, there is no doubt of that.

The detractors point out that he has had the luck to begin his F1 career with a team that has just returned to greatness; which is true – most new drivers start out in the lesser teams and hope to be noticed by those that matter. But how many of them would do as well as Lewis has, given the same circumstances? It didn’t help Alex Zanardi (second attempt, admitedly) or Michael Andretti to be in a top team.

Luck is an important part of a champion’s success anyway; if Lewis has it, that is one more string to his bow. But he has made his own luck, making himself known to Ron Dennis at a very early stage in his career and winning in whatever formula came his way. Everything looks so carefully planned that the only element of luck seems to be that he was available at the moment when McLaren had secured the services of the world champion and were prepared to take a little bit of a chance on the second seat as a result.

Out of the car he is just as good too. He oozes confidence yet retains enough humility for us to warm to him. His statements stick to the McLaren line with precision, yet are delivered with a breezy smile and obvious enthusiasm for his job. In fact, he has been the model of the good team driver and hardly needs the protection from the media that Ron has given him.

So why am I still hedging my bets? Perhaps I am too cautious but I want to see how he behaves when circumstances turn against him. Yes, he has held off both Raikkonen and Massa when challenged for position; how will he fare when someone gets past him? What will he do when the car breaks underneath him three races in a row? How will he handle it if Alonso manages to gain the upper hand in the mid-season?

I suspect that he will sail through such tests with all flags flying. I just want to see it, that’s all…

28 Responses to “Okay, Lewis Hamilton”

  1. He says Adrian Sutil is FASTER than him…

    Massa says himself and Ferrari consider Lewis the biggest rival in the championship fight (NOT Kimi, NOT Alonso). Mind games anyone?

  2. Interesting indeed, Haplo. But, as you say, mind games probably. :)

  3. I think the true test will begin next year, not just for Lewis but for all drives. Driving in Formula1 is no doubt difficult but it is made slightly easier with the use of Traction Control.

    After watching the race this past weekend the producers started to put of telemetry of braking, acceleration and when TC was used. What I found interesting was how smoothly Lewis got off the corners showing almost no use of the TC. Yet when DC went through the same corner his TC was was blaring away. This is most likely due to the car itself and possibly DC pushing harder for a points finish. Still it will be interesting to see how ALL the drivers do with limited aids…. This seems to be Button’s strong suit, low traction racing…

    Lewis will benefit from a TC’less ride, being straight out of a series that does not allow it, some of the vets that have come to rely on it may find it hard to drive without.

    All in all I think Massa takes the prize this year. At some point Alonzo gets frustrated and really start pushing taking points away from Hammy, Dennis’ loyalty will go to Lewis even though he should be backing Alonzo at least this season. On the other hand, if Kimi doesn’t start winning soon, Ferrari will 100% back Massa.

  4. It just goes to show that there’s nowhere to hide for the modern F1 driver – whatever he does shows up on the telemetry and is subject to scrutiny after the race. Lewis’ limited use of TC may be thanks to his being unused to it and therefore putting less trust in such aids – which would figure with DC blasting away with it, totally confident that it will do the job for him. But it does mean that Lewis will be at home immediately next year, whereas other drivers might have to re-learn old skills. An interesting point.

    I agree with your last sentence but I think Dennis will continue to give his drivers equal treatment as long as they don’t push each other off the track. If that happens, someone will have to step in and make decisions…

  5. If Kimi would overcome his Finnish drinking habits, he would probably overcome everything else on the track, and finish better.

  6. But wouldn’t he be even more miserable, Barry? ;)

  7. You have to feel bad for him, even if you hate Ferrari. A championship is all he needs. Anyone that good without a Championship will always consider themselves a failure.

    I cant imagine what he is like at the clubs. He must be manic or something because after Malaysia he looked like he just drove a hearse to a funeral not a top tier race car to a third place finish.

  8. Sorry for the quick repost….

    Clive you have to do more then one of these blogs/discussions a day.
    I’m at work and bored out of my mind, this is the only thing on the internet that stays fresh daily. I understand you have a TON of other blogs but this one is my personal favorite.

  9. I have been a Raikkonen fan for ages, Dan – so you can imagine how torn I am now that he is with the team I dislike most. In my view he deserves the championship, purely thanks to all the entertainment he has given us over the years, dragging sometimes not very good McLarens into podium positions. No matter what anyone says about Kimi’s attitude, he has always raced to win.

    So I suppose my position has to be: if a Ferrari driver is going to be the 2007 champ, please, please, let it be Raikkonen. Not that I dislike Massa, but Kimi deserves this one.

    By all accounts he can be a bit wild in the clubs. But I don’t think that interferes with his driving – he parties after the races, not before. In Malaysia he had been set a task – to bring the car home with an engine that threatened to overheat if pushed too hard. He drove at reduced revs and looked as though he wasn’t interested, therefore. It was perhaps the first time ever that he had driven for points rather than to win…

  10. It’s my favorite too, Dan – the one I look forward to writing every day. But, when you make your living from running a horde of blogs, you can’t afford to concentrate on one to the detriment of the others. However…

    Dang, I’m a sucker for praise, so I have to find some way to repay your kind compliment. What I’ll do is keep going with one opinion post each day but add short news snippets with perhaps a comment or two – something to get the ball rolling.

    I have also been thinking of writing a post about the sites that I read every day. It could be regarded as internet suicide but I believe that quality deserves recognition – and there are some excellent sites out there. I’ll do that today – thanks for the encouragement!

  11. A note about the best ever driver to never become champion – let us not forget Stirling Moss. If I recall correctly (I’m old, and it was a long time ago) Mr. Moss chose to drive only British F1 cars when Italian cars were totally dominant. When he finally consented to drive for Ferrari the following year, he wiped out and forever damaged his vision beyond what F1 requires. He’s still Hell on wheels though, in his ol’ birdcage Masserati.

  12. Well first off, good for you that you can support yourself (or supplement your income) with this site. As for as a daily discussion, well everyone that posts here is so knowledgeable, I learn something new every article. The media in the States does not follow F1 at all so I’m forced to look overseas.

    As far as pulling info from other site being career suicide, CNN did a news story on what they call Web 2.0 (1.0 being the internet boom of the late 90′s). Web 2.0 is based on the fact that anyone can voice there opinion in a blog or youtube or what have you. There are now very successful sites that are simply filtering this information so its not so overwhelming. Who wants to search for a needle in a haystack when someone else can come over with a torch(not a flashlight :) ), burn it all pick up the needle cool it off and hand it to you….. Maybe I’m just lazy.

  13. All correct, Barry – the reason Stirling refused to drive for Ferrari is that they let him down badly very early on in his career. From that time onwards he drove only for British teams and usually chose to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was brilliant, however, and I will never forget that old film of him beating the sharknose Ferraris at Monaco in 1961 – it shouldn’t have been possible.

    Strange that he finally relented and agreed to drive for Ferrari just as the Brit teams were getting the upper hand. But, as you say, it became academic when he had the crash that nearly killed him and put an end to his F1 racing forever. Certainly he has a claim to be the best driver never to be champion.

  14. And then of course, is that incredible bad luck that have seem to followed him to Ferrari.

  15. Ah, the glories of the net. This site does contribute substantially to my income but it’s all of the sites put together that enable me to live off their earnings. It’s hard work and not as well paid as many other jobs but has the advantage of allowing me to work from home – my morning commute consists of falling out of bed, walking three paces and turning the computer on. :D

    It’s true that the net contains so much information that a filter is needed to sort out the worthwhile from the trash – and, if I can perform that service for you, Dan, I am well pleased.

  16. Good point, Haplo – one of the most important requirements to be champion is good luck. Schumacher had bucketloads of it; I’ve seen him spin at Monaco, which would have put anyone else into the barriers and out of the race, but no, Michael does it in the only place where there’s a little bit of run-off area – he gets it pointing the right way again, zooms off and wins the race!

    Raikkonen could definitely do with a bit more of that kind of luck…

  17. I knew it would take an OLD goat like me to remind all my site friends Stirling Moss also drove the W196 Mercedes-Benz which is a German car!
    A theory I once heard offered as to Moss’s failure to win the F1 championship was that he drove too many cars in too many other classes hence wasted a lot of talent elsewhere; that might have some validity. My version of his short-comings…….he was very hard on his equipment, he BROKE a LOT of cars!

  18. They all drove in other classes in those days, so I doubt that Stirling lost anything by it, Number 38. And the cars broke so often that it’s hard to tell whether the driver was to blame or not – you could be right on that score, however.

    What gave me just a teensy bit of doubt about Moss was that he always said that Fangio was a better driver than himself. Now that’s fine humility and so on but I’m not sure that it’s good for a racer to admit things like that. You know what they say about nice guys…

    As regards his drives for Mercedes, yes, you caught me – a slip of the tongue though, I had not forgotten, honest!

  19. Well yes, I remember the german cheating bastard and his team pitting 2 times, 1 time, 3 times… whatever, not to worry, they always managed to win the race. I was really sad to see MS losing the championship because of his own desperation (remember that thing with Heidfeld I think?) to Alphonso, it was his last and it should have been his.

    Kimi is ver hard on his machines too, I think.

  20. Yes, Michael was the master of pitstop strategy, although I think that was really thanks to Ross Brawn. I suppose the other teams have only themselves to blame for not getting their timing right but it became inevitable that Michael would pass in the pitstops. That used to annoy me – I’d much rather have seen how he got on actually having to fight for the position.

    I’ve heard it said that Kimi is hard on the car but not really noticed any evidence of it myself. And one can hardly blame him for the alternator failure that ended his race in Barcelona.

  21. Anyone can hardly blame him for that, or for almost any of his other “car failures” But 2+2=4.

  22. Can’t argue with the math, Haplo. They always used to say of Prost that part of his greatness was that he was easy on the car and so was often in better shape than anyone else towards the end of the races.

  23. We shall see next year, I have a feeling without TC we will see tires play a much larger role in pit stop strategy. The tires are also the easiest way to see if someone is overdriving the car.

    About MS, he may have had luck but he still managed to win when it wasn’t there. To be able to drive a car is only half the skill required, he was a master of manipulation both of the car and other drivers. Most importantly he had a killer instinct when on the track. He had the correct combination of Brains and Ross Brawns.

    Many wont agree with me I’m sure but Hiedfeld appears to have that attitude. When he passed Alonzo in Malaysia he basically gave Alonzo and ultimatum – back off and give me the spot or crash us both out of the race.

  24. LOL Brains and Brawns – I love it! Wish I’d thought of it, in fact…

    I think we’re all looking forward to the end of TC – except maybe some of the drivers (DC said that we wouldn’t notice any difference). I wonder if that’s because they’ve come to depend on it…

    Spot on about MS’s tactics – and that was the cause of the Massa/Alonso coming together in Barcelona, in my opinion. Alonso has become used to muscling other drivers out of the way and he thought he could do the same to Massa – not this time, however. ;)

    Have you noticed that Heidfeld never seems to smile? Every photo of him I’ve seen lately shows him almost scowling, as though deep in thought. Could it be he’s getting serious about winning races?

  25. Well Hiedfeld can do one of two things this year, he can be a decent driver and not push the BMW for all its worth (alot) . And then at the end of the season leave the team and head to some mediocre team for mediocre money. Or he can do what he has been -showing passion get a big contract and stay to continue to develop this car to race with the big boys. Did you see how pissed he was after his DNF last race? Thats what I like to see, passion. Maybe its because his job is on the line, maybe he is just a passionate driver…. I hope the latter.

  26. Agreed, there’s nothing like a bit of passion. I did see how annoyed he was by the BMW fouled up pitstop and his comments on it were, shall we say, very forthright! He’s won me over – wasn’t impressed last year, this year I think he’s going places.

  27. Do you know where he would have been had he had a decent stop. He went in leading but I don’t remember how far back the competition was.

  28. If I remember correctly, he was behind Kubica at the time. The Pole finished in fourth place so Nick would have been fifth, unless he had managed to overtake his teammate. Next up was DC and he was hampered by the loss of a gear in the closing laps – Nick would have stayed ahead of him almost definitely.

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