Lewis Hamilton v. 2011

To tide us over during the F1 summer break VivaF1 set up another of their great Swap Shops, whereby a group of volunteers write for each others blogs in an exchange of ideas.

In this post, Robyn from RookieF1 writes about Lewis Hamilton’s up and down 2011 season.

* *

Lewis Hamilton v. 2011

One thing that is sure about the 2011 season, it will go down in history as one of the most chaotic in recent times. This years we’ve had tyres that have forced the teams to reconsider the merits of qualifying, a flap that has a mind of its own and a boost button that has caused some major headaches for a particular Austrian outfit (although it seems to be contagious). There’s been the odd mid-season regulation change to halt the Bull ruining it for everyone (vehemently denied by the FIA of course), and then we have the newest batch of rookies putting their twist on respecting the old guard.

The rookie year of any driver is crucial; it’s all about creating performances that have teams knocking on the door for next year, or perhaps more importantly, to stop their current team giving them a premature P45. A quick perusal over recent Formula One history has Lewis Hamilton down as one of the most successful rookie drivers, coming within one tantalising point of winning motor sports biggest accolade on his first try in 2007. The second time around he got the job done on the last lap and since then the British driver has been left chasing another title. As it was in 2009 that Brawn and now team mate Jenson Button wrote the ultimate fairytale, and then in 2010 the Wunderkind stole it out from underneath everyone.

So what has Hamilton done this year to keep himself in contention? Until his second win of the season in Germany, Hamilton’s exploits have been prime journalistic fodder. Not to say his season has been an unmitigated disaster, he started the year in Australia by proving the car was more competitive than first thought from testing. He then went on to claim the first non-Vettel victory of the year, teasing us with a glimmer of hope. A fierce fight kept Vettel honest in Spain, around a track Red Bull was considered the strong favourites, so what has gone wrong? Not able to keep his aggression in check around two tricky circuits brought his unrelenting desire to win, at almost any cost, into the spotlight. In Monaco, the most globally exposed race of the year, he collided with Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado ending the latter’s race. But it was his poorly chosen comments to the world’s media and subsequent tête à tête with the stewards (he’s been involved with the stewards 8/11 races so far) brought the heat to his naturally aggressive driving style. Compounding the situation further in Canada, he spun Mark Webber and crashed into his team mate, this time ending his own race prematurely.

It was during the visit to Canada that an impromptu meeting with the ‘energy drinks’ company sent the media into a frenzy. Despite a win in Malaysia, Hamilton was faced with a surge of criticism from experts, past drivers and fans. Lewis Hamilton’s brief visit to the Red Bull energy station to talk with team principal Christian Horner is still circulating, and will continue to do so until the ink dries on a new contract. A 15 minute get together outside the McLaren bubble threw the F1 world, Hamilton is a McLaren man through and through, cut him and you’ll see he runs on rocket red and chrome. He certainly wasn’t there to congratulate Red Bull on their success, so was he there to build a safety net for his ‘get out’ clause? Whatever the reason rumours abound regarding his future, some cautioned against a rash decision, although after Monaco his pit crew may have wanted a break from their starring role in the blame game. Others have taken it upon themselves to fuel the fire; Red Bull apparently can’t cope with two ‘world class’ drivers, but Ferrari is open to a Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton reunion. Could Hamilton be tempted to switch his shade of red for something more Italian?

Until such time that multi-million Euro question is answered we can appreciate the post-Canadian Hamilton instead. Since his Canadian escapade a new version has emerged, one with a more positive outlook due to a rather intensive PR lesson perhaps? But he hasn’t strayed far from his inimitable driving style, still keeping in touch with the stewards and literally in touch with some of his fellow drivers. It is no secret that the 2011 version of Lewis Hamilton is as divisive as ever, providing the twitterati with endlessly retweetable quotes and the press with countless ‘exclusive’ articles. It may be borne out of frustration from not repeating the euphoric 2008 campaign again, or it could be the continuing rise and dominance of a certain German that echoes his own career. Both Vettel and Hamilton were spotted early and brought through the ranks into a team that has subtly moulded itself around them.

Either way, with an 88 point deficit to consider over the summer break, lessened PR responsibilities and a sunnier disposition could make his second half altogether more rewarding.

* *

Do check out RookieF1, and you can find all of the Summer Swap Shop posts in this bundle!

Mercedes Grand Prix

Yet more big changes among the F1 teams for 2010! Not only do we get get a raft of new teams, the departure of BMW (who may yet come back in a new form) and Toyota, now we also have Mercedes completely restructuring their involvement after a long unbroken run with McLaren.

McLaren
Mercedes presently own 40% of the McLaren F1 team (not the group as a whole though). The problem Mercedes faced is that while they are the largest single shareholder, the others hold an agreement by which they vote as a single block, thus having the power to veto Mercedes. There is also the new supercar which is the first McLaren-built road car in years not to feature a Mercedes engine.

Plan: The 40% shareholding will be reduced gradually over the next 18 months or so and for the 2010 season (and beyond??) the team will still be called Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. The engine supply agreement remains and, for now, so does the colour scheme.

BrawnGP
After Honda departed F1 the team has had to cut back somewhat in personnel, and it still seemed to suffer the same problem as it always had under every incarnation, that of not being able to attract long-term sponsors. With benefactors like BAT and Honda it was never necessary only desired, indeed Honda effectively bankrolled the 2009 season. It was anyone’s guess what would happen in 2010 and beyond. Yet amazingly the came from nowhere to dominate the first half of the season, and while it went south after that they managed to battle on to secure both championships.

Plan: Mercedes have bought 75.1% of the team in an agreement with a Middle Eastern investment company. The team will henceforth be known as Mercedes GP and the cars branded as ‘Silver Arrows’, harking back to the famous cars of the 1930s and 1950s. Ross Brawn remains in charge but will liaise with Norbert Haug.

Drivers:
Rubens Barrichello left Brawn last month and had already signed for Williams to replace Nico Rosberg, who was looking to leave that team. Nico had therefore been linked with the vacant Brawn seat in a straight swap and now Mercedes have a greater involvement the deal appears as good as done.

The big question is over the future of Jenson Button. There are strong reports placing him at McLaren with a pay rise, doing nothing to quell his reputation as a money-chaser. At least this time he’s earned it. I am not sure what placing himself in what is Lewis Hamilton’s personal team is going to acheive for Button other than damaging his career, he must be confident in his ablility to beat him. It will be interesting to see him try!
At this stage it could still be an elaborate bluff and Kimi Raikkonen could still get that seat, though you have to say that possibility is shrinking daily. In fact just this evening Kimi’s manager has stated any chance with McLaren has now disappeared.

That leaves a space at MercGP. Will Kimi end up there? Are the Heidfeld rumours a ploy by the Kimi or Jenson to get more money (either take us for mega $$ or end up with Nick), and is that how he gets himself hired? What is the fate of Heikki Kovalainen?

Lots of questions still need answering. One thing’s for sure, this is a much bigger deal for the ex-Brawn team than the Virgin deal suggested a while back and perhaps that’s why Virgin are now hooking up with Manor.

One final point I saw mentioned:
Among entrants this makes BrawnGP the most successful team in history, in terms of strike rate.
Years entered: 1
Drivers titles: 1
Constructors titles: 1
Maximum score.

UOWWB: Hamilton & Dixon

United Open Wheel Word Butchers Question of the Week:

If Lewis Hamilton and Scott Dixon switched places for the 2009 season, how would each driver fare in the other’s league? Who would be more successful in 2009?

Dixon would have a year much like Raikkonen’s 2008. F1 cars are not easy to get your head around because they are much more ‘knife-edge’ in terms of setup and driving style than any other car. I’m not doubting he has the talent to be a successful F1 driver because he clearly does, I’m just saying it’ll take time and F1 cars can be notoriously finicky things to learn. If you don’t get the car right or it inherently doesn’t suit your driving style you’re nowhere – again see Bourdais who was driving better in the STR2 early in the season than he was in the STR3 for most of the rest of the year. And how else do you explain Kimi’s lacklustre season?
So if he dials it in, and the car suits him, he would do very well. I think he’d end up on the middle road with an ‘average’ but respectable first season before stepping up in performance in 2010. He’d probably win a race in that first season. This assumes McLaren are still a top team in 2009!

The same would be true of Hamilton in the Dallara, he’d have the same kind of year as Dixon in F1. But he wouldn’t be properly up to a Ganassi-level of performance until after the huge mileage they do at Indy over those few weeks. Jumping directly into two street fights at St Pete and Long Beach is going to be a challenge for all the newcomers this year! And then on to the ovals. There isn’t what he’d know as a ‘normal’ track until the Glen in July, so he’d have to completely relearn how to race. And I include the street races on purpose here, American street tracks are not like Monaco, Melbourne or even Montreal, they have to be treated differently.
Again he’s with a top team so a win isn’t out of the question. Ganassi’s guys certainly know how to use strategy to get him there and you have to assume they and Penske will remain top dogs in ’09.

I do think the Dallara would be the easier car to learn but the tracks the IRL races on are a lot tougher, more rough and ready, more physical. F1 drivers are quite pampered when it comes to race track surfaces and run-off areas, so Hamilton would have to mentally adjust himself. Meanwhile Dixon could let it all hang out without fear of hitting much of anything.

There are so many variables which could affect the performances, not least of which is how much pre-season testing they do. There isn’t any doubt though – they’d both get there eventually.

Lewis Hamilton , World Champion

Congratulations once again to Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 FIA Formula One World Champion.

In Britain an audience of 8.75 million watched this race (average taken over the 3 hours of coverage), that’s 41.3% of the total viewing audience during that period. It reached a peak of 13.05 million (50.9%) although the article doesn’t state when this was (I think we can guess!).

These percentage figures are absolutely brilliant! Brazil always gets good figures due to it being one of only a few prime time races and it being the season closer – yet this is unheard of. It usually gets 6 mil and the afternoon European races get 3.5m. This race recorded the highest figures of ITV’s entire 12-year tenure as broadcaster of F1 in this country.

A few other notables, and this is where I go unashamedly patriotic since we don’t often get the chance in sport.. Hamilton is:

– the youngest ever F1 champion at 23 years, 9 months and 26 days. This beats the record set in 2005 by Fernando Alonso at 24 years, 2 months and 17 days, I seem to recall Alonso beat Emerson Fittipaldi’s long-standing record which had held firm for thirty years or so.

– I believe he is the first black champion of any major motorsport series globally.

– the 30th F1 champion.

– the 9th British champion, and this is the 13th championship won by a British driver.
– the 7th English champion, the 8th won by an Englishman (okay so he’s only half-English).
(for completeness the other 5 titles were won by Stewart and Clark, both Scotsmen)

– the 6th champion to win it in a McLaren (others: Hunt, Lauda, Prost (x3), Senna (x3), Hakkinen (x2)).

– the 8th champion to win it by a single point (others: Hawthorn 1958, P.Hill 1961, Surtees 1964, Hunt 1976, Piquet (Sr) 1981, M.Schumacher 1994, Raikkonen 2007). The 1984 title was decided by 0.5 points which is the smallest margin in F1 history, it came about after a race was aborted and half the available points were awarded.

– the 2nd driver to win the title in only his 2nd season, the other was Jacques Villeneuve.

– this was the lowest winning total since 2003, which was the last time it was won with less than 100 points.

This was Ferrari’s 16th Constructors title, their 8th in the last decade! That’s how dominant they were with Schumacher. Note that this title has ‘only’ been awarded since 1958, eight years after the Drivers title.

With thanks to Michele Merlino’s stats review at Autosport.com. Check it out, although you may need a subscription, I’m not sure as I get the full website free as a subscriber to the print mag.

Ping America
Make sure you vote tomorrow! Stand in line all day if you have to. I’ve heard forecasts of a 90% turnout in some places which is just crazy. They are worried about getting everyone done before closing time so don’t leave it late unless you have to. Take it from someone who’s just had Tony Blair’s replacement foisted upon him with no election – VOTE! I might have voted for Brown if I’d had the chance, I’d just like the chance. Our system sucks sometimes.

I’m not going to tell you which way to vote, or which way I would vote if were American. I’d love to but can’t and won’t.

Good Luck. I’m convinced this is closer than the media is making out – anything can happen.

EDIT – yay 🙂