Tag Archives: Lewis Hamilton

The Home Stretch

As we approach the final race of the 2011 season, the F1 circus is now focused on what holds in store for 2012, and the rumor mill is aplenty with talking points.

– Texas F1 Massacre

It was just weeks ago that Bernie proudly announced the addition of a second grand prix to be raced here in the States, with the US Grand Prix set to debut next season in Austin, followed by the Grand Prix of America to be raced in the streets of New York and New Jersey beginning in 2013.  For US based F1 fans the prospect of two races held here in the States sounded too good to be true, considering the shameful plight of the previous iteration of the US Grand Prix at the legendary Indy Motor Speedway.  Turns out our guarded skepticism was justified, and unless Bernie and the USGP heads work out a deal before this week’s Brazilian GP, the USGP will be axed without a foot tarmac being laid down.

To be quite honest, if I was forced to choose between the Austin and New Jersey races, I’d go with the latter.  While  the Austin venue would likely provide a better show from a pure racing perspective, the prospect of F1 cars racing through the streets of West New York and Jersey could be our equivalent to the street circuit races of Monaco and Singapore.  And I have a hunch that the teams’ principals and sponsors will have no quarrels with sacrificing the USGP for a potentially more lucrative New York based race.  Let’s just hope the Occupy Protesters and Greenpeace don’t band together in a joint faction to rob us of the next great F1 spectacle.

– Petrov slams Lotus Renault

It seems the Russian has had enough of the consistently poor decisions made by his team this season, and it spoiled over in a heated tirade during an interview with Russian media.  Considering the amount of criticism team principal Eric Boullier lobbed at his drivers this season, it was just a matter of time before they hit back, and quite frankly Petrov hit the nail on the head.  The R31’s radical forward facing blown exhaust diffuser system proved to be a engineering blunder, and despite their early season pace, the car pretty much failed to keep up with the rest of the pack for the rest of the season.  The lack of any in-season development of the R31 coupled with numerous pit stop and race strategy bungles, and one could only wonder if management intentionally threw this season away, and consequently threw their drivers under the bus.

Of all the team driver lineups, Lotus’ for next season is the most up in the air, with former number one driver Robert Kubica looking to make his comeback from a near fatal rally car race accident, mid-season replacement driver Bruno Senna having impressed for the majority of his shortened season, reserve driver and GP2 champion Romain Grosjean itching to secure a race seat, and the now under fire Petrov.  Boullier recently proclaimed he wants “big name” drivers, but quite honestly his team needs to get their act together and first develop a car that can compete with the top teams before they can sign a driver the likes of Vettel, Hamilton, or Alonso.  For a team that as recently as 2006 was the dominant force on the grid, Lotus have tailspinned into a mid-tier team, and it doesn’t look like things are going to change anytime soon.

– Mercedes, Lewis out at McLaren?

Two of the more sensational rumors both involve McLaren unsurprisingly, with one having real legs and other being pure hogwash.  The former is that the Woking team will switch from Mercedes engines which they have used since 1995 and return to Honda power, which was used from 1988 to 1992 in one of the most storied and successful periods in the team’s history.  Anytime an automotive giant like Honda decides to re-enter F1, it’s a good thing, and the reunion of the two partners would be a nostalgic throwback to the golden age of F1.  The timing of this headliner is somewhat uncanny given the parallels of makeup of McLaren’s team today and that of twenty years ago; Lewis Hamilton most mirrors the driving style and persona of the late great Ayrton Senna, who won three championships with McLaren-Honda,  and Jenson Button being one of the most consistent and cerebral drivers on the grid is much like the Professor and four time world champion Alain Prost.  Honda departed F1 after the 2008 season after three disappointing seasons as a factory race team.  But as an engine provider, they have historically been a tour de force, and with a switch to turbo V6 engines beginning in 2014, they have plenty of time to develop their powerplants and hopefully make a big splash in their return.

The other rumor is one of the most ludicrous in recent memory, it being according to the British tabloid Daily Star that Hamilton is unhappy at McLaren and ready to jump ship to arch rivals Ferrari, replacing Felipe Massa.  Despite this season being the most tumultuous in his young career, Hamilton has the chance to finish the season on a high note with back to back wins, and there’s no reason to think he’s unhappy with his team, except for his own performance.  This eye-roller probably has more to do with Ferrari’s discontent with Felipe Massa’s career drop off, and all signs point to next season being his last as a Ferrari driver.  With two of the most entangled racing histories among all the current drivers, one can only wonder how Hamilton’s and Massa’s careers arcs would have changed if the Brazilian won the 2008 Drivers championship instead of the Brit.

– Jean-Eric Vergne, the next Sebastian Vettel?

After posting lap times in a Young Drivers test at Abu Dhabi that were just four tenths off of double reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel’s pole position lap, the young Frenchmen could be in line for a race seat at sister B-team Toro Rosso.  If he does displace either Jaime Alguersuari or Sebastian Buemi and impresses management, he would be perfectly situated to follow Vettel’s career progression, with a potential seat at Red Bull as early as 2013.  Vergne himself stated he could “no worse” than Webber if given a chance at Red Bull.  Oof, that’s quite a zinger, maybe that sound bite alone will reignite Webber’s fire for next season.

MP

Leave a comment

Filed under Formula 1

A Tale of Two Drivers

So much for Sebastian Vettel letting up after securing his second straight Drivers championship.  Seven days after his title clinching 3rd place finish at Suzuka, Sebastian Vettel kept his foot firmly on the accelerator, adding yet another accolade to his sparkling season resume with a dominant win at the Korean Grand Prix.  Despite Jenson Button’s best effort to steal the spotlight with his third win of the season at Suzuka and teammate Lewis Hamilton’s pole position at Korea, which ended Red Bull’s streak at 16, the focus of the F1 universe for the past two weeks has rightfully been on Vettel.

If you asked a knowledgeable F1 fan to name the top three drivers on the grid, it’s likely that Vettel and Hamilton would be on their list.  Before Vettel became the youngest world champion last year, it was Hamilton who owned the distinction.  While the two have had slightly different career arcs, they are essentially at the same stage in their F1 careers: both are past(or current) world champions, both are firmly cemented at top tier teams, and at 26 and 24 years of age for Hamilton and Vettel respectively, they have yet to enter their prime.

In his rookie season back in 2007, Hamilton nearly pulled off the improbable, coming a point within winning the Drivers championship, and quite honestly should have won the title if not for a few ill fated driving errors and his highly volatile and ultimately destructive relationship with teammate and at the time reigning double world champion Fernando Alonso.  Alonso subsequently left McLaren after just one season, which left Hamilton free to assume #1 status within McLaren, who were understandably quite ecstatic to see their prized protege deliver immediate dividends on a decade’s worth of support and tutelage. Hamilton followed up his scintillating inaugural season with a more consistent performance in 2008, and in one of the most dramatic finishes in an F1 season, won his first Drivers championship at final race of the season(and literally final corner) at the Brazilian Grand Prix.  At the time it seemed all but certain that Hamilton would eventually displace Alonso as the youngest double world champion, but the only true certainty in F1 is if you stop moving forward, you’ll be left behind.

It was also in 2008 that Vettel announced his arrival as a force on the grid when he secured the first pole position and race win of his young career at Monza.  While his race result came as a surprise, it was clear that his sheer talent and speed was more than hype, and the higher ups at Red Bull promptly promoted Vettel from Toro Rosso to the senior Red Bull team at the end of the season. While 2009 was largely dominated in the first half by Jenson Button and Brawn GP, Vettel and the Red Bull RB5 was the faster combination in the second half of the season, foreshadowing their future success.  2010 was a season of peaks and valleys for Vettel, but ultimately he was the star of the final act, securing the DC with a pole position/win double at a yawner in Abu Dhabi.  Fast forward to today, and 2011 has been the Vettel show, with everyone else playing a supporting role.

While Vettel largely robbed the 2011 season DC race of any drama, his dominance has made this season one for the ages.  His 10 race wins and 12 positions are still within striking distance of Michael Schumacher and Nigel Mansell’s records respectively of 13 wins and 14 pole positions.  But what really distinguishes Vettel’s season as one of the greatest ever has been his consistency.  With no retirements and race finishes lower than 4th place, Vettel unofficially is on pace for the greatest season ever in terms of average race results.

In contrast, British racing hero(and hoon) Hamilton’s season has been one characterized mostly by moments of inconsistency and impatience.  Racing incidents at Malaysia, Monaco, Canada, Hungary, Belgium, Singapore, and Japan all negatively affected his race outcomes, and it’s likely that for the first time in his career he will be outscored by his teammate in the DC.  Hamilton went so far as to admit his career path has “driven off a cliff.”

One of the neverending points of debate in F1 is who is the fastest driver of their era.  The reason for this phenomenon is the inherent nature of F1 competition: the unique design of a car by a manufacturer.  Unlike other forms of motorsport, every F1 car is different, from manufacturer to manufacturer, and season to season.  An old adage in F1 is a driver’s primary competitor is his teammate, because they are the only ones with identical equipment.  So while the Vettel/RB7 combination has been undisputably faster than the Hamilton/MP4-26 pairing, it’s not an apples to apples comparison.  F1 fans were painfully teased earlier this season with a potential Vettel/Hamilton union after Hamilton met with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, but it’s unlikely that the two will be teammates in the foreseeable future.

Somewhat prematurely looking forward to 2012, it’s highly probable that next year’s world champion will be a repeat champion, with Vettel, Hamilton, Button, and Alonso as the candidates.  Alonso and Ferrari have written off 2011, having already declared they are focusing on developing their car for 2012.  Alonso as the previous youngest double world champion will be keen on challenging Vettel for the title of youngest triple world champion, and despite his comprehensive skill and speed, el Matador faces an uphill battle to reel in Vettel’s snarling Red Bull.  Button took a step forward this season with his pace and consistency, and his confidence seems to be greater than ever.  But at 30 and 31, Alonso and Button are in the twilight of their careers, and they now face a different race in the one against Father Time.

Vettel and Hamilton are the present and future of F1, and their budding rivalry could end up being the greatest ever.  For one driver this season has been the best of times, for the other the worst of times.  In an age of wisdom and foolishness, in a season of light and darkness, both drivers now look forward to the future, as will always F1.

MP

Leave a comment

Filed under Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton: Hoon or Hero?

Surprise, surprise, our favorite boy racer Lewis Hamilton was yet again involved in a race incident at the Canadian GP, and this time it involved his teammate and fellow Brit Jenson Button.  Getting into a crash with your teammate is a cardinal sin in motorsport, so it follows that Hamilton should’ve offered penance for his wrongdoings.  Problem is, according to Lewis Hamilton, Lewis Hamilton did nothing absolutely wrong.  Well then…

Button went on to win the race in spectacular fashion while Hamilton had to retire from the contact.  Canada wasn’t the greatest weekend for the dynamic duo, but judging from this bit, despite its commercial intentions, their cameraderie and friendship seems genuine, and they’ll get over their little mishap.

I admit I’ll never be the president of the Hamilton Fan Club, but as a racing fan I have to say he is one of the most magnetic personalities on and off the track.  It’s pretty much guaranteed regardless of the circumstances, Hamilton will drive the wheels off his car to the ragged edge, which is what you want in a driver.  But the flip side is he places himself in precarious situations where conflict is inevitable, and as a result he makes himself a target for criticism from other drivers, race officials, and the media.  Hamilton recently spoke out on the brewing controversy over his racing mentality, and was adamant that he “liked” his racing style and had no intention of changing.

More so than any of the current drivers on the grid, Hamilton channels the spirit of the late Ayrton Senna, the greatest driver of all time.  They are pure racers, they drive with at times reckless abandon, and they are capable of putting on spectacular demonstrations of racing at the absolute limit.  Which embodies what F1 at its heart is all about.  On second thought, deep down I am a fan of Hamilton, I think any fan of motorsport has to be.  Just stay away from my boy Alonso and his Prancing Horse.

MP

Leave a comment

Filed under Formula 1