Tag Archives: Lewis Hamilton

The speculation surrounding Lewis Hamilton

Let us firstly put this into perspective. Lewis Hamilton is contracted to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes until the end of this current season. That is highly unlikely to change.

He has entered into talks, and is in ‘advanced stages of negotiations’ with the team to move forward and negotiate an ongoing contract. Which, one would suspect, would be similar to the ‘multi-year’ contract teammate Jenson Button is currently enjoying with the team.

‘Silly season’ really does seem to have got out of hand once again this year; the two main ‘victims’ appear to be Hamilton and Schumacher. The latter appears to be the victim of a Freudian slip of the tongue from Bernie Ecclestone, the former; it appears, is the victim of sensationalistic comments coming from someone who is not necessarily regarded as the most credible.

The common denominator between the two ‘stories of the season’? Ladies and Gentleman, I give you, the one and only, Eddie Jordan.

Everyone in Formula One regards him as the ‘Paddock Jester’, his colleagues never miss an opportunity to either discredit his theories, nor mock him in front of millions on the TV.

Asked about comments Jordan had been making in the lead up to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza this weekend, McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh said “I’ve heard a range of speculation this week but any sentence that begins ‘Eddie Jordan understands’ is immediately questionable, isn’t it?”

In addition, it is apparent that Whitmarsh himself is not even involved in the seemingly ongoing process himself. ‘My understanding is that we are in talks with him [Hamilton]’.

Eager to jump on the bandwagon, many journalists of questioning ability, and credibility for that matter; have continued to blow the story out of all proportion, despite all involved (understandably) refusing to add fuel to the fire. In a statement, Mercedes said that they “do not comment on speculation”, but added “Until we are in a position to confirm our full driver line-up for next season, it is inevitable that there will be speculation around this topic.”

Whilst some of the points made by certain journalists do seem to make some logical sense, I would point out that this is nothing more than conjecture and have absolutely no factual basis whatsoever.

Predominantly, none of these sensationalistic stories have even touched upon the amount of time, effort and money that has been expended during the development of Hamilton himself, from his career in Karting through to his rise to the upper echelons of the sport he loves; Formula One.

From a commercial standpoint, McLaren will almost certainly be reviewing the return on investment in Hamilton. Admittedly, he has delivered a World Championship, along with twenty wins, forty eight podiums and a total of 865 points during his F1 career.

This suggests that both parties are merely trying to negotiate a mutually beneficial value for what each brings to the table, and have yet to agree what this is.

During questioning this weekend, Hamilton made it abundantly obvious that he was not even involved in the talks himself. This was being left to his Management Team, XIX Entertainment and Simon Fuller.

This itself begs a question. If a company who is more used to managing the likes of the Spice Girls and David Beckham is managing the process, they are bound to be as creative as they possibly can be, in order to not only increase the profile of their client, but to get the maximum value from negotiations for their own commercial and financial gain.

Admittedly, I am a fan of both Lewis Hamilton and the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, but what has annoyed me about this so-called story, is the lack of factual or evidential material to support any of the claims being made.

Speculation is bound to continue and could potentially escalate, but there is one thing that is certain; until negotiations are complete and either the ink is drying on the contract, or both parties have agreed it is no longer beneficial to continue; speculation is all that it will ever be.

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German Grand Prix – Hockenheim – Race

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso yesterday became the first driver to win three times this season.

It was an incident filled day, which began even a couple of hours before the race got underway, when Red Bull were reported to the Stewards following FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer’s report surrounding the legality of the teams’ engine maps.

Bauer was of the opinion that the engine torque maps of the RB8’s were in breach of Article 5.5.3 of the Technical Regulations, the thought being that the engines were able to deliver more torque at a given engine speed in the mid RPM range, thus potentially altering the aerodynamic characteristics of both cars, in direct contravention of Technical Directive 036-11.

Horner, being chased by a pack of journalists through the paddock area into the pit-lane, was clearly annoyed by the interest the investigation was generating, taking the unusual stance of challenging the media’s ability to be in the pit-lane whilst a support race was underway. A clear indication, in your author’s eyes, that there was something amiss.

Following meetings with representatives of both Red Bull and Renault however, examinations of ECU (Engine Control Unit) data, stewards said that “while they did not accept all the arguments of the team, they concluded that as the regulation is written, the map presented does not breach the text of Article 5.5.3.”

In effect, the stewards say the rules are as clear as mud. It is widely expected that clarification will be issued by the FIA in the near future.

Horner’s McLaren counterpart, Martin Whitmarsh refused to be drawn to make a comment in the run up to the decision, but said that he hoped “the FIA would take advantage of a meeting of the sport’s Technical Working Group on Monday to issue a clarification that banned what Red Bull were doing.” He went on to state “It’s an advantage. You don’t do things like that which are challengeable unless there is a performance advantage.”

With the decision being delivered close to the start of the race, the Red Bull’s were allowed to start from their qualifying positions, Webber however being relegated to eighth on the grid, following a gearbox change on Saturday.

It was an eventful first lap, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, starting in a very disappointing 13th, collided with the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo. Massa’s front wing was seen to fly through the air and debris was all over the track at turn one. We have seen Safety Cars deployed for less, but unusually Charlie Whiting decided against sending out the Mercedes SLS AMG.

Grosjean and Senna would suffer front wing damage, Senna also suffering a puncture to his front left tyre. Another victim of a puncture on lap 3 was Lewis Hamilton; he struggled to get the car round to the pits, even reporting to the team on his way round that he should retire. The team changed the tyres and sent him on his way, despite being way down the field, ultimately his pace was reasonable.

Jenson Button in the sister McLaren was proving that the upgrades they had bought this weekend were working well, overtaking both Hulkenberg and Schumacher, promoting himself to third by the 11th lap.

With Vettel stopping one lap later than Button, he was able to come out in front of the McLaren driver, but the pace of the MP4-27 finally proved to be good and he closed in on the German and second place during their second stints.

As the halfway stage of the race approached, Vettel began to catch Alonso with just under a second between them. But the out of position McLaren of Hamilton was on fresher tyres and he was determined to unlap himself into the inside of the hairpin, which he was well within his rights to do, much to the annoyance of the German.

Button would then take the race to Vettel, pitting on Lap 41 to what would seem to have been the quickest pit-stop of the season so far at 2.31 seconds. With Vettel’s tyres ‘falling off’, he would pit for tyres on lap 42 at the same time as Alonso.

Approaching the pit exit as the Red Bull of Vettel was still building speed, Button made the pass stick and moved into second place behind Alonso. Button’s race engineer heard saying over the radio ‘that was perfect Jenson, let’s have Alonso’.

Button continued to catch Alonso in the closing laps, while behind him, Vettel seemed to be nursing his tyres. With ten laps remaining, Button had closed the gap to Alonso to just half a second. Meanwhile, teammate Hamilton had retired with what is thought to have been a gearbox issue, the only retirement of the race.

In the final five laps however, Vettel seemed to have benefited from nursing the tyres and by this time was around 0.2 of a second faster than that of Button, who appeared to be struggling for grip, Alonso increasing his lead at the front.

On lap 66 however, Vettel was able to benefit from using DRS into the hairpin and managed to make the pass, but Button and his engineer were quick to complain that the pass was made outside the circuit, his engineer confirming they had already made a complaint to Race Director, Charlie Whiting.

Annoyingly, Vettel said after the race in several interviews that Button didn’t tell him that he thought he would be handed second place back, despite us clearly hearing that conversation take place before the podium celebrations began.

A stewards inquiry ensued, and some time after the race was over, the stewards agreed that Vettel had indeed made his pass outside the limits of the circuit and he was handed a 20 second penalty, demoting him back to fifth and handing Button back his rightful second place. Raikkonen and Kobayashi also benefiting from the German being penalised.

With the McLarens showing an improvement in pace, despite Hamilton’s difficult outing, the upcoming weekend in Hungary; a track where the team are not only competitive, but with 10 wins they are the most successful Constructors. The McLaren pair are also multiple winners at the Hugaroring; Hamilton winning in 2007 & 2009, Button in 2006 & 2011.

Canadian Grand Prix – Race

The 2012 Canadian Grand Prix was eagerly anticipated. Of the six races so far this season, each has seen a different winner. There have been five different constructors winning races up until Monaco, with only Red Bull scoring more than one win.

Of those six drivers to have each won a race so far, perhaps the surprises have come from Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonaldo in China and Spain respectively; Button, Alonso, Vettel and Webber make up the remainder.

The hype surrounding the build up to the race was that we might see a seventh winner, we were not to be disappointed. What is being referred to as the most unpredictable season in years lined up in Montreal with Vettel on Pole after a 1:13.784 beat Hamilton in to second with a 1:14.087 around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Alonso, Webber and Rosberg made up the rest of the top five, but it was Button that would be the biggest loser on the day. Having started his Q3 session on the Prime (or harder of the two compound tyres available), he opted to sit out the remainder of the session and settle for 10th on the grid.

Hamilton commented, as did Webber, that they had struggled through Qualifying and were surprised to have finished so high up on the grid; Webber citing problems with the car, Hamilton struggling to ‘switch the tyres on’.

As the race got underway, Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso went into a three way battle. Vettel led the way for the first 16 laps until the tyres started to fall off the proverbial cliff and he was forced to pit for a fresh set.

Hamilton was next to blink a lap later with Alonso managing to last one still further. Alonso rejoined in front of Hamilton and Vettel, but the Brit managed a pass which allowed him to create a three second gap before he was forced to stop again on lap 50.

Still struggling with pit stops, Hamilton later attributed the mistakes as his own, exonerating the team of any blame. Whilst not as detrimental as the stops in Bahrain, he rejoined after his second stop in third place.

Red Bull and Ferrari gambled on one stop strategies for the race, their pace was good, but with 20 laps still remaining in the race, the gamble appeared not to have paid off and their pace quickly diminished. Hamilton seized the opportunity of closing in on Vettel for second, whilst the German was also closing in on Alonso, who was also struggling with tyre degradation.

After passing Vettel with relative ease on lap 62, Alonso would give Hamilton more of a fight however, managing to hold him off until the inevitable happened on lap 65 allowing the Brit to push on in the final laps to secure his first victory of the season. He later said that this was “a phenomenal sensation to come back to Canada and put on a performance like we did today. This win feels as good as my first Formula One victory back in 2007. In fact I’d say it was one of the best races I have had for a very long time.”

Whilst Hamilton was pushing for the finish line however, Alonso and Vettel were falling further off the pace. Behind them, also one-stopping was Grosjean in the Lotus. Perez was also pushing hard, both he and Grosjean had managed their tyres well and were closing on the flailing Ferrari and Red Bull respectively.

Hamilton’s victory hands him back the lead in the Championship by a mere two points from Alonso. Hamilton was later quoted as saying “Every win is different. Every victory is new, special and fresh. And to see the team all wearing their Vodafone ‘rocket red’ victory T-shirts, knowing the guys back at the factory are doing the same, makes everything feel even more special. Finally, the support from the fans has been amazing – this victory is dedicated to them. I’m so grateful to be here today.”

Teammate Button however had a miserable day on the circuit. Being one of the first to stop on the harder compound tyres, he ended up being lapped and left totally mystified as to the poor performance of his own McLaren; surely questions will be being asked at the McLaren Technology Centre as to why there should be such a gulf of difference between the two cars.

Title sponsors Mobil 1, Mercedes Benz and Enkei celebrated their 300th Grand Prix with the marque from Woking, which also saw Hamilton near equal his hero Ayrton Senna’s number of drives in Formula One for the team and further solidifies his standing as a key player in the team going forward.

It remains to be seen what will happen in the remaining outings this season. Whilst it is refreshing to see Hamilton returning to winning ways, your author is keen to see the revival of not just one, but both of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes drivers and I hope they can both be competitive in the remaining races.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if we will see yet another driver atop the podium throughout the rest of the season, but one thing is certain; 2012 so far appears to be one of the most entertaining and unpredictable seasons for many a year. Long may it continue!

2011 Australian Grand Prix – Race

The curtain-opener to the 2011 Formula One World Championship finally got underway early this morning. The testing, speculation and hype was put to one side as the Class of 2011 went head to head in Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel dominated the race throughout, and took the win from McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, the surprise package of the day being Lotus Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who commendably finished in third place.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day though was Christian Horner’s revelation that neither of the Red Bull’s had been running KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) for the entire weekend. “We felt Kers was a potential risk, and we made a decision not to run it. It didn’t look like we needed it.” And he was right, Vettel had built a lead of 2.6 seconds over Hamilton by the end of the first lap, and Hamilton WAS running KERS.

Hamilton was able to match Vettel’s pace for a period however, the McLaren driver was also better on his tyres than Vettel, who was heard on the radio to be complaining of a loss of grip on several occasions. Both drivers ran two-stop strategies in a race where the hype was that as many as four stops could be expected from the front-runners.

Lotus-Renault’s Vitaly Petrov had an astounding start to the race, he was the beneficiary of Jenson Button in the other McLaren hanging out Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso into turn one at the start of the lap. Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber, driving in his home Grand Prix, had managed to maintain third off the grid, but he was first to blink and change tyres, Petrov then moved into third and maintained that to the finish.

“I’m very happy to be alongside Sebastian and Lewis on the podium, but from first practice the car has looked very strong, we focused on the race, and the team did everything perfectly,” said Petrov.

With the race developing, Jenson Button was having a battle of his very own with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. He was heard over the radio asking “How’s he getting away from me?”, despite Button using the new DRS (Drag Reduction System). But the nightmares did not end there, in trying to pass Massa, Button had used a run-off area and was adjudged to have gained an advantage, a move that was penalised by a drive-through penalty.

After emerging from the pit-lane in twelfth, Button drove well and managed to bring his MP4-26 home in sixth. The McLaren team will be happy that the hard work they had put in back at the MTC in Woking has paid off. It was abundantly clear that the MP4-26 was not all that had been expected of it, testing showed it was way off the pace, but the updates they bought to Melbourne, a new floor and exhaust system, seemed to have done the trick.

There were losers in the race too. Michael Schumacher suffered a puncture at the start, and was eventually retired from the race as a precaution. His teammate Nico Rosberg had a coming together with Rubens Barrichello, for which Barrichello was punished with a drive through penalty. Unfortunately for Rosberg, it proved fatal and neither Mercedes finished. For me, Barrichello had a terrible weekend, spinning out of control during Qualifying, and driving terribly during the race, to me, someone who has driven in 307 Grands Prix, should know better.

Sauber were the other talking point of the day. Having only made one stop throughout the race, Sergio Perez managed to raise a few eyebrows. However, it was shortlived. Scrutineering highlighted some technical infringements with both Sauber cars, unfortunately they were stripped of seventh and eighth places, which promoted Felipe Massa into seventh, Adrian Sutil in to eighth, Sebastian Buemi into ninth and debutant Paul di Resta into tenth and a final points paying position.

With Perez and Kobayashi disqualified, Timo Glock not classified, Barichello, Rossberg, Kovalainen, Schumacher and Maldonado made up the long list of retirees from todays race. Next stop Sepang in Malaysia.

Malaysian Grand Prix – Race

Malaysia’s Sepang circuit was host to Round Three of the Formula One 2010 World Championship; an exciting race in prospect with the threat of the rain that saw both McLaren’s and both Ferrari’s making catastrophic errors with regard to their Qualifying strategies, all four cars not making the Q2 session of Qualifying on Saturday.

That aside, Hamilton had a dream start to the race, flying down the inside of the track leaving most of the pack in his wake, catapulting himself from a starting position of 20th to 12th before the end of the first lap. He pitted for tyres on lap 31, changing from the Prime to the Option tyre (harder to softer), but struggled to pass Sutil.

“I had a great start, went down the inside and got past a lot of cars on the first lap. I was able to keep going for much of the race on my first set of tyres, and even nearly got past Vettel after his pitstop. After my stop, I tried my best to get past Sutil, but he was very smart at getting clean exits and was simply too fast down the straights. He drove a fantastic race, actually; faultless, in fact.

“From 20th on the grid, I think sixth was a brilliant result. I reckon we showed today that we were fast enough to compete with the guys at the very front – and, that being the case, if we’d started farther up we could’ve had an even better result this afternoon.”

Reigning World Champion Jenson Button’s approach however was very different. Beginning the race on the Option tyre; from the start he decided to take the direct opposite approach to Hamilton by taking the outside route through the pack; the dirtier side.

Button had decided that his Option tyres had gone off sufficiently to force him to pit on Lap 9, changing to the Prime tyres. This again seemed an inspired choice, as he began to hunt down his rivals with a string of fastest laps. Into Lap 55, Button was being hounded by Alonso and was briefly overtaken by the Spaniard. But Alonso had been struggling with downshifts; his Ferrari was sounding very ill indeed. Alonso late-braked into Turn One and slid wide, allowing Button to retake the place. Immediately Alonso’s engine let go, demoting the Spaniard to a 13th position finish; just.

Button’s view: “My first stint was very tough. I went for the outside at the first corner – and as things turned out it wasn’t the right place to be. So I fell back, and was then stuck behind Fernando, who I just couldn’t overtake. I found the Option tyres quite difficult in the early laps – I had no rear grip in the high-speed stuff. I couldn’t overtake, and lost lots of time, so I took the gamble to pit early and drop back into a clear track.

I made up a lot of ground, but I was on the Primes for so long that it became difficult to hold back cars that were two seconds a lap quicker than me. Massa eventually got past. Alonso tried a couple of times – the last time he went really deep into Turn One, but I managed to repass him on the exit – and then suddenly his engine was gone. I don’t know what happened to him, but we had a good fight.”

With Webber’s poor start from pole allowing teammate Vettel to take P1 from the Australian, one eye was on the weather, the other on Red Bull’s reliability. Apart from a brief challenge from Hamilton before his pitstop, the Red Bull’s remained out front, relatively unchallenged, and it ‘seems’ they have rid themselves of the reliability issues that has affected their title challenge thus far. The rain never showed it’s hand.

Of the other notable drives of the day, Nico Hulkenberg scored a point finishing tenth; Lucas di Grassi finished the best of the newcomers in 14th, and Karun Chandhok; a driver who has impressed many so far; brought the HRT car home in 15th. But I think my driver of the day award goes to Alguersuari, finishing ninth and scoring two World Championship points as a reward; a solid performance.

So far this season; three races in, we have had three different winners, from three different teams. That result leaves the top eight in the Drivers Championship covered by just fifteen points; the same difference covering the top three Constructors’. Who said Formula One in 2010 was going to be boring?

Photgraphs courtesy www.mclaren.com with thanks to the McLaren Media Centre

Australian Grand Prix – Race

McLaren Media Centre

Jenson Button bought his MP4-25 home to win in Australia,  moving within six points of the Championship leader Fernando Alonso. With the media and fans bemoaning the boring race in Bahrain, Melbourne’s Albert Park had much to live up to. And we were not disappointed.

The elements had their say at the start of the race, and the whole grid started on intermediate tyres. Alonso had a poor start falling from third on the grid and managed to tag Button into the first corner and found himself pointing the wrong way. Kamui Kobayashi, Sebastian Buemi and Nico Hulkenberg had a heavy crash, and inevitably, the safety car was deployed.

Lap five saw the safety car come in, and a lap later Button made an inspired choice to pit for slicks. His decision seemed premature as he had an off after rejoining the race, but just two laps later the whole field seemed to think it a good idea to join Button on dry-weather tyres, by now running a second behind race leader Sebastian Vettel.

But on lap 20, Vettel’s Red Bull went off into the gravel at turn 13 with a ‘wheel related failure’, after looking as though he was comfortably going to win the race. So two races, two pole positions and, unfortunately a failure to win both times for Red Bull’s Vettel; hardly the start he would have wanted to his season.

Lewis Hamilton was being held off in fourth by Kubica’s Renault, but Hamilton would have to stop again for tyres and would need to fight through the field again, catching Massa and Alonso. But it was Webber that was pushing behind Hamilton, so much so that he ran into Hamilton and took them both off into the gravel. Webber later apologised to Hamilton for the ‘racing incident’.

Jenson Button’s call to change to slicks before anyone else, had clearly won him the race, a gamble that had paid off. Robert Kubica’s Renault eventually came in second, with Massa third and Alonso in fourth. Nico Rosberg finished fifth, with Hamilton recovering from his off with Webber to finish sixth.

Australia - Jenson and Team

Lewis Hamilton was publicly critical of the team’s choice of strategy, bringing him in a second time for tyres; but Whitmarsh defended the action, saying that Lewis’ tyres were graining and he would not make it to the end of the race. Would his tyres have lasted? Who knows. Had he stayed out on the tyres, with his pace he would have probably caught Kubica’s Renault and secured a McLaren one-two, but again, we will never know.

I was impressed with McLaren’s performance in Australia. Jenson Button proved that he could win with McLaren and, despite suffering a forced crash from Webber, and the team’s decision to two stop him clearly stopped him from taking a step on the podium, Lewis Hamilton drove the race of his life, making him my driver of the day.

So the World Championship, after a thrilling race, is lead by Fernando Alonso on 37, Massa on 33, Button on 31, Hamilton 23 and Rosberg on 20. In the constructors’, Ferrari lead with 70 from McLaren on 54, Mercedes 29 and Renault and Red Bull on 18.

And so the Formula One circus moves on to Malaysia this week. Early reports suggest that we may well see more of the wet stuff come race day on Sunday. That will surely make for an interesting race. Some big questions for me this weekend; will Vettel be able to finish a race? Can McLaren win again? Will Lewis recover from the situation in Australia?

Pictures courtesy www.mclaren.com with thanks to the McLaren Media Centre

Keep the Faith

The 2010 Formula One World Championship was probably the most anticipated season of all to date. There are several reasons for this; the main one that most will quote is the change in FIA Regulations. A change in the way points are awarded to drivers finishing in the top ten; a ban on in-race re-fuelling, tyres, the list goes on.

The other reason for the hype, in my opinion, is the eruption of social networking. I myself am party to this; after all, had it not been for Twitter, I would not be writing this blog right now. I have had more conversations via Twitter about F1 than any other single topic, the weather included!

Social Networking mediums, like Twitter, bring people like us, together. People who are passionate about their sport; their beliefs hopes and dreams; the support for their chosen team and/or driver. This was pretty well unheard of a decade ago. This is where some of the hype has come from.

Many say, if it aint broke, don’t fix it. 2009 was a fairytale season for Brawn, one of the greatest stories in F1 for a long time. There were some fantastic events on and off the field, and despite recent changes to proceedings; I am sure 2010 will be no exception.

We must remember, F1 is a global phenomenon; the pinnacle of all motorsport, a multi-billion pound circus that sweeps around the world in an effort to not only entertain the most avid motorsport fans like us, but to entertain some of the biggest of global corporate names.

Let’s not forget; it is these big corporate organisations that fund the sport we are all so very passionate about. If it wasn’t for the likes of Vodafone, Red Bull, and all the other big names involved in our great sport; we perhaps would not have anything to argue, or be passionate about, discuss and vent our anger at.

David Coulthard has this week poked his head above the parapet blaming ex-FIA chief Max Mosley as the culprit for the detrimental things that have been said since the chequered flag was waved in Sakhir on Sunday.

Max was definitely instrumental in bringing in to force the limitations the sport is now experiencing. Now I am absolutely not one of Max or Bernie’s biggest fans, far from it; but I am a realist and understand the corporate way to some extent; so I can see where they were coming from.

Those that pay the way for the likes of Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso et al, FOUR World Champions, to participate in this fine sport are, unfortunately, those that are being paid lip-service to; the corporates.

That said; I absolutely do not agree with some decisions from a sporting point of view. And there lies the problem. If this sport is to maintain it’s position at the forefront, then it needs someone who can see the sport from the Driver’s, Team’s and Fan’s viewpoint; but they need to also have the ability and foresight to see the corporate side, and marry them together successfully.

In a perfect world, we would have a happy medium between Constructor, Driver, fan and corporate sponsor. Alas, we do not live in a perfect world, we have what we have and we should be grateful for that. We are after all, only one race into the season. As I said earlier, keep the faith, it will come good.