Anyone who keeps track of happenings in the world of F1 would be familiar with the many teams, the drivers, the “characters”, the team managements’ hotshots and with the eclectic mix of technical marvels that make each and every F1 car such a spectacle to watch. There are people who can go on for hours discussing chassis design, tyre temperature, downforce etc and if the beautiful new ad from Rolex is to be believed then we can be sure of discussions about the relentless polishing of bodywork too. While all of this is just everyday affair for an F1 fan, the drama that unfolds, more often than not off-track than on-track, is what keeps an element of uncertainty in an otherwise uber mechanical world; and the fans love it hook, line and sinker.
The F1 season this year has reached a stage when it is probably safe to guess the top two places in the drivers’ championship and, it goes without saying, the top spot in the manufacturers’ championship…
Champion & First Runner Up (Drivers): Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton (rank them as you like)
Champion (Manufacturer): Mercedes AMG Petronas.
Such has been the domination of the silver arrows that one simply cannot imagine any other outcome at the end of this season. Starting their ‘merc’urial waltz for the season at Albert Park, the duo in their silver arrows has been relentless in setting the pace for the rest of the pack. They have topped time sheets during every qualifying session for grid positions and have repeated the feat on race day for consecutive one-twos, except for one occasion when Hamilton had to forfeit his race at Albert Park because of a technical glitch while leading the race from pole leaving Rosberg as winner and sole Mercedes man on the podium. More than the wins which Mercedes has enjoyed over this season what has grabbed many eyeballs is the usual margin by which Mercedes seems to be ahead of the pack; not by hundredths or tenths of seconds, but by seconds. A lot of them.
A new era of F1 rules, put into action from this season, brought with it the usual phase of technical migration and along with it the many questions of system reliability, response and adaptability. So, it was natural that the technical failures in pit lane or on the race track weighed equally on media coverage as that of actual race results and other analyses. However, at this point it is fair to assume that many of those issues have been sorted out and the direction of development is well understood. It is also fair to assume that Mercedes will continue to enjoy the luxurious buffer of multiple seconds throughout the season. A direct result of this is that suddenly the race for positions 3 to 10 are bound to be more nail biting and that it would churn out new names with points. It does not mean that the battle for 1-2 is any less interesting. While those positions could very well be painted in silver even before a race start the intense battle between the two Merc drivers makes it hard to predict what the order on podium would be.
Leaving Australian GP out of the picture, where Hamilton’s car stopped his chances of getting any points, every other race has seen a Merc driver winning the race from pole: 4 times for Hamilton and once for Rosberg. Only recently has the rivalry between the Mercs been blown out of proportions by the media when Hamilton did not seem to appreciate losing to Rosberg for the first time this season and made his displeasure quite conspicuous by not talking to Rosberg on the podium. Rosberg has played down any animosity between the drivers and has repeatedly referred to their karting days, when they were equally fierce competitors, and said that such things happen as the level of competition is so high but their mutual respect will make sure that the threads do not snap beyond repair. It is interesting to see how the drivers are handling such a situation and what might happen as the season progresses.
Hamilton is a naturally gifted driver whose basic instinct is to go fast and not what you thought (wink). Rosberg on the other hand is a more systematic driver who reiterates his experiences until he finds his rhythm. While Hamilton’s approach is intuitive, Rosberg’s is methodical. So, while Hamilton enjoys a natural advantage over his rival at all tracks, Rosberg’s approach, thanks to Mercedes’ policy of data sharing between both drivers’ teams, offsets that advantage equally. As comparisons go the obvious question of “who is better?” is bound to arise. Sadly, the answer is yet to come because I believe they have not truly went up against each other yet. They have been close, yes, but not battling for places, not swapping places across a bend or slipstreaming each other down a straight. The pattern is: You get the pole – You win the race. Under such conditions qualifying sessions have virtually become the more important runs. Also, such a situation favours a driver like Rosberg as he can check and recheck data streams to determine exactly where he can improve and how to improve. And he works hard for it. The proof for this would be back to back poles for Rosberg in Monaco and now in Canada when he has been finally out of all sorts of technical mishaps that have been happening to his car since Australian GP. In the Free Practice rounds in Canada, Hamilton has set the pace for others to follow with Rosberg close behind. So the latter made it a point to go through the other’s data to see how his own timings can be improved and Voila! he is on pole now. It is easy to see why Rosberg’s strength is getting the better of Hamilton right now.
If this season is to be believed then Rosberg would go on to win this GP too putting even more pressure on an always emotional Hamilton for the drivers’ championship. While we crave for the outrageous overtaking maneuvers from either of the drivers to see a real battle, the drama that has been set in motion anyways is no less entertaining.
Maybe the balance between too mechanical (Rossy) and too emotional (Hammy) has been achieved by none other than Mercy. Shifu with his teachings of “inner peace” would be proud…