Hamilton’s Mistakes, McLaren’s Tough Decision, and Why Third Cars Aren’t The Solution

The Brazilian Grand Prix weekend was for me, one of the best displays of dominance from Nico Rosberg since the German Grand Prix in July earlier this year. Fastest in every Practice and Qualifying session, only to be mugged of the illustrious ‘le grand chelem’ from teammate Lewis Hamilton who set the fastest lap of the race. But one thing that stood out as much as anything this weekend was the phycological edge Rosberg clearly had over Hamilton. We’ve talked about this a lot, mainly due to the fact that Lewis and Nico are like cousins in a family.

They grew up together in their racing careers, and as such they know every one of each others mannerisms on and off the track. Its not like when Alonso plays media trickery on fellow drivers, or when Prost and Senna had their grudge match back in the day. It’s probably one of the more pure aspects of competitive phycological warfare. I don’t claim to be a phycologist and most of what people say is probably not actually going on between the pair, but I think from an observant point of view you can connect the dots between these two.

Going into this weekend you could probably say Rosberg had the edge over Hamilton because of his track record at Sao Paulo; having a complete electrics shutdown in 2007, 2009’s ordeal of a car, the mediocre 2010 and 2011, getting taken out in 2012, and crashing into Bottas last causing him to receive a drive-thru penalty. The only time Lewis has had any shade of luck at this circuit was in 2008, when of course he took his first title. But with recent history playing on his mind, Hamilton’s mentality was surly to finish the race in what isn’t the hardest of circumstances given the dominant pace of his Mercedes.

Hamilton_spin_Brazil_2014_F1WeekendsBut as it stood, Lewis was his own worst enemy. Much like on previous occasions this year, the circuits which demand a lot from car and driver made him overstep the mark. Its rather amateur given his experience in Formula 1 up until this point, but you do have to remember that the new technology in this years cars do make it easier for it to look that way. However even if Lewis was able to be faster than Nico on more than on occasion this weekend, the latter was able to use his serene driving style of ‘demand as much as you can from the car, and nothing more’ to take a crucial win in his title bid.

And this all goes back to what I said in Canada when both Mercedes cars were in trouble. Whilst Hamilton had to retire with his braking problems, Rosberg was able to manage the situation to finish in second place in what he thought was sixth. Whilst for Hamilton it was a case of force majeure that lead to his retirement, it could have easily been the same for Rosberg who was 100bhp down without his ERS system. And its that ability to manage the car and not extract too much from it, that I always said would win this Formula’s championship.

Another driver who exhibited his ability over the weekend was Jenson Button. Amongst all the media speculation of him getting shoved out of McLaren to make way for Alonso next year, he was able to produce what was nearly a podium-taking strategy had it not been for traffic throughout his middle stints. Racing with Raikkonen really showed his craft that has been built up for more than a decade now, and I have to agree with his comments after the race in saying that he “isn’t finished with racing yet.”

I don’t believe he is, but given his slight recognition to the fact that he’s done everything he can do in Formula 1 and that he doesn’t have to prove anything in an interview with Martin Brundle over the weekend, I can’t help but think “Is this the kind of driver that McLaren wants?”

Button_Raikkonen_Brazil_2014_F1WeekendsDo they want to take someone like Kevin Magnussen who has the hunger to win races and achieve in the sport? Or do they want Jenson to help with engine development and consistently score points for the team? Its a hard decision for McLaren, which is perhaps why its taking a long time. But its also quite unusual.

Normally a team would sign an experienced driver alongside an upcoming rookie, thats the way its always worked in Formula 1 unless you’re Ferrari. I can’t blame McLaren wanting to give the Honda project the best driver lineup it can get, but surely for them its in Magnussen if he’s able to be so closely matched to Button in his rookie year?

I’ll stop speculating before we go down an endless rabbit hole, but I will say Button being linked to WEC can only be a good thing for what is an incredibly competitive form of motor racing at the minute. Its just a shame the concept is perhaps something a lot of people may not be familiar with, but someone like Button may be able to boost its likability in the UK with his involvement.

Finally I want to talk about the crisis F1 has gotten itself into. I think we’ve got to the point now where this has all got somewhat boring and confusing, which is dangerous really.

This is the future of the sport on the line, and if we keep getting these accusations and counter-claims from the media and teams alike, we’re going to give up. I for one don’t like the sound of anything being said, but when a solution for it all has yet to be suggested, is it any wonder all this news of teams running third cars next year and private teams thinking the bigger teams want to get rid of them, is emerging in a sport that has DRS as its cure for lack of overtaking?

The biggest thing I’ve learnt from all of this is that the people in charge of this sport are a sucker for short term ideas that damage the long term image of the sport. Whilst in recent years that has been amongst those who are emotionally attached to it, I think the introduction of third car teams will damage the sport beyond repair amongst those who watch Formula 1 as a leisurely activity.

It will be known as a farce if Mercedes are able to take a one-two-three, even if the third car can’t score points and its driver won’t be able to take to the podium. People watching the race won’t know whats going on, and when Formula 1 is already quite a complicated sport as it is now, asking viewers to understand the third-car principle is too much.

Caterham_garage_night_F1WeekendsWhat I also took issue with this weekend was Bernie Ecclestone denying that CVC was going to give teams a greater cut in the revenues the commercial rights generate. Whilst I would normally agree that teams are probably getting a lot as it is, for Marussia and Caterham [and I’m sure others on the grid] its a case of bad business. They were sold an opportunity to come into the sport with a cost cap implemented, and by not honouring that I’m afraid they have been sold a defect product. So like any product you sell in business, they are entitled to compensation.

In my eyes I think Caterham and Marussia should be given second chances, however with the administrators taking control of their operations its out of Formula 1’s hands. And its a shame really. 200 people being made redundant in the UK is bad for our economy and bad for the motorsports business, and the fact that Caterham are having to crowdfund their way to Abu Dhabi to participate in what is supposed to be the pinnacle of open cockpit racing, is just utter stupidity.

Startups use crowdfunding as a platform to kickstart their product/service, you don’t use it to fund an entire Formula 1 operation, however delusional you might be in thinking that it will work and benefit those who work for them.

We’re heading out to Abu Dhabi for the final round of the 2014 season, however I don’t think that we’ll be nearly done with this year heading into the winter break.

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