21 September 2016
Revved Up: The Formula 1 Blog – Hamilton’s Torrid Weekend in Singapore
Before this weekend Singapore would’ve been one of Lewis Hamilton’s favourite destinations. Never one to shun the limelight, he’d love the pace and glamour of the shimmering island city-state, and he’s won Formula 1’s original Night Race twice before. But this weekend went wrong from the very beginning. Although he started Friday’s practice sessions quicker than Rosberg, he struggled with locking breaks, was unable to set a quick lap time in Qualifying simulations and then suffered a hydraulic leak. All this meant he was well behind before Saturday’s Qualifying session, and he qualified third, behind his teammate and the Red Bull of Mark Webber.
Sunday’s race was largely uneventful at the front, with the top 3 coming home in Qualifying order, albeit with a little tinkering with strategy to overcome the unwelcome attention from Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. The race had already been won the day before.
What about Rosberg?
Rosberg’s not the easiest guy to like – though that makes him no different from 90% of the drivers in the Paddock. But a combination of that and the fact that he’s head-to-head with the greatest British driver of all-time means that sometimes he doesn’t get the credit he deserves, particularly in these pages! In Singapore Rosberg took his own driving to a brand new level. His Qualifying lap in particular was a genuine scorcher: 0.704 seconds faster than his teammate. One can’t underestimate how draining it must be to be thought of so consistently as the second best driver in the garage. For once this weekend, Nico set the bar so high that he would’ve beaten Lewis even if he’d not had his problems in practice. My statement in the last blog – that all things being equal Hamilton would win every time – has already been proven wrong! It may sound odd when talking about a man who won his 22nd race this weekend, but in Singapore it really felt like he deserved it.
Fight to the Finish
Although 2014 was tight, there was always a feeling that somehow Hamilton would come out on top. This year feels a little different, and as things stand it’s impossible to call. With 6 races left, Nico has climbed back to the top of the driver’s standings for the first time since Silverstone back in early July. His 8-point lead is nothing compared to the 43-point early-season lead that Hamilton already chased down, but the momentum clearly shifted in Belgium, when Lewis started from the back of the grid, paying the price for too many engine alterations since his torrid start to the season when his car was beset with problems. Since then, Nico has won 3 in a row and looked more convincing in Singapore than ever before.
The season is brewing into a perfect storm for Lewis: the mechanical issues at the start of the season still weight heavily in his mind, he and his mechanics could not find the right set-up in Singapore, and perhaps most importantly his teammate is in the form of his life. Fans of Formula 1 – perhaps even Hamilton fans – should rejoice that the Championship is genuinely coming down to the wire. The tension is there, but so too is the narrative: the defending World Champion with a 4th World Championship – and the right to call himself a ‘great’ – tantalisingly out of reach, versus his lifelong rival, always 2nd best, but now finding a new level to his talent.
It’s all too close to call, but it does set the season up for a tremendous finale, and the final race in Abu Dhabi will be winner-take-all.
1 Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes 273
2 Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes 265
3 Daniel Ricciardo AUS Red Bull 179
4 Sebastian Vettel GER Ferrari 153
5 Kimi Räikkönen FIN Ferrari 148
6 Max Verstappen NED Red Bull 129
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