Lewis Hamilton’s win in the British Grand Prix last weekend was the definitive statement he needed to bring his title challenge back to life. Of course, it helped that Nico Rosberg was the victim of mechanical trouble and did not score at all. The gap that now separates the only two realistic title challengers is a mere four points. But has the tide turned in favour of the Englishman as he profits from new confidence? Or will the German be able to contain his maverick team mate?
The debate was in microcosm last time out at Silverstone. Rosberg was serene after qualifying, safe in the knowledge that he had kept going as the third sector dried and had found the time he needed to topple his rival there. His glee was the polar opposite of Hamilton’s ire – but where Rosberg could say fortune and savvy had won him the day, Hamilton could only blame himself for his lowly starting position.
Fast forward to race day and Hamilton rapidly showed that he was the only credible pretender and threat to race leader Rosberg. They swept round, Hamilton finding more pace on the harder compound. Then Rosberg slowed. The argument still rages as to whether Hamilton would have caught and passed Rosberg if the latter had not retired. It’s hard not to think he would have done – spurred on by a wonderful crowd, a sense of duty and a fury fired by his own mistake in qualifying.
However. In that scenario, Rosberg licks his wounds, doffs his hat and comes second – scoring enough points to maintain a healthy lead in the standings. It wasn’t to be and that was none of the fault of the German. Would he have conceded purely as a tactical measure? Post-Austria, there’s a new reading of Rosberg – that he is simply the master technician. In an Alonso-like fashion, he has the ability to read races, set-ups, tracks, rivals, tyres, fuel consumption, etc etc ad infinitum. In this he is superior to, or at the very least unlike, Lewis.
But then there’s the speed, the sheer dynamism and the sense of destiny that wafts around Lewis Hamilton. You simply can’t write him off, because for all the flaws (and there are a few), that speed seems to inexplicably compensate. It allows him to royally cock up qualifying and yet be in distinct contention for the race win. It allows him to suffer slower pitstops (we’ve noticed, Merc) and be on terms. It allows him to have suffered the lion’s share of the reliability issues and still be nearly on a par with Rosberg.
So who will triumph? I have no idea. I suspect it will become clearer as the season progresses; that a trend will emerge that will preface the eventual victory of one over the other. But then you could just see the other coming back…F1 really needed this kind of battle this season, and we are going to have it just about all the way. What a great prospect.