With Silverstone just around the corner, the Formula One world championship is reaching its zenith. Almost halfway into the season, it is clear that Mercedes will wrap up the drivers championship. But the Big Question is, Which Mercedes Will It Be? Lewis Hamilton has dominated the season till date, but teammate Nico Rosberg has started clawing back the lead.
When the season started, first blood went to Hamilton who continued his winning streak until THAT fateful race in Monaco. During the Safety Car period, Hamilton dived into the pitlane much to the surprise of everyone and came out wheel-to-wheel with Sebastian Vettel for second and third; while Rosberg inherited the lead and went on to win. While many believed that Hamilton deserved the win, which he without a doubt did, a scrutiny of the radio conversation between Lewis and his race engineer Peter Bonnington revealed that Hamilton and the team together made the call to pit.
All this was discovered while the team faced a backlash for robbing Lewis and favoring Nico. According to me, if the leading driver makes a mistake, it is up to the closest challenger to exploit that error to his own advantage. In my experience of watching Formula One, no driver will play the “Gentleman” card and allow the leading driver to recover from a mistake. Formula One is supposed to be a ruthless sport and no quarter is given. In the next race in Canada Hamilton was on a mission to avenge his earlier defeat but didn’t have it easy because Rosberg kept him on his toes for majority of the race.
Finally in Austria, Nico Rosberg proved to the world, his critics and to himself that he didn’t need to rely on Lewis’s mistakes to win a race but could beat him in outright pace. But everyone knows that if Hamilton gets bogged down in one race he comes back stronger and more motivated in the next race.
MERCEDES: This week Hamilton will be kicking himself for letting a potential victory slip from his fingers and will be more fired up than usual. Rosberg, on the other hand, knows that he has got under his teammate’s skin and will be looking to continue his fine form. All-in-all we will get a classic Mercedes grudge match. Silverstone is Mercedes’ home turf despite being a German company because their factory is situated in Brackley in the UK.
More importantly Hamilton has the home crowd to back him up in his bid to defend his world title. Mercedes seem to have found the sweet spot, which now makes them unstoppable. In Austria, Rosberg was absolutely sublime while Lewis on the other hand made a few clinical errors in his haste to chase down his teammate, including a 5 second time penalty for crossing the white line at the pit exit.
Another one of Mercedes’ weaknesses is their ability to manage brake temperatures. That issue very nearly cost Hamilton the victory a few races ago as he came under attack from Raikkonen and just about held him off until the chequered flag. If the race had been a couple of laps longer Raikkonen would have caused the biggest upset in the race.
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen have their work cut out for them if they need to hunt down the Mercedes team. Austria was a disappointing outing for the Maranello squad. Sebastian lost out due to a lengthy pitstop as a result of a faulty left rear wheel. The 4-time world champion ended the day in fourth behind a delighted Felipe Massa who was driving for Williams.
Raikkonen on the other end of the spectrum had a torrid Austrian weekend; the Finn lost control of his car and took out former teammate Fernando Alonso. Now the rumors say that the 2007 world champion’s seat is under threat because the Ferrari boss Claudio Marchionne and team principal Maurizio Arrivabene are starting to lose their patience. Candidates include fellow Finnish driver Valterri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, reserve drivers Jean Eric Vergne and Esteban Gutierrez and others.
So Raikkonen needs to pull up his socks to save his career. Silverstone with it changing conditions provides a perfect opportunity for the Ferrari’s to be in an ample position to strike. But Raikkonen needs to improve his qualifying pace and Ferrari needs to scrutinize their pitstop woes.
WILLIAMS: Valterri Bottas and Felipe Massa are starting to establish themselves as serious giant killers. We may be seeing them rediscover the pace they had during their BMW days. Both drivers now have a podium each and are taking the fight to Ferrari to be crowned “Best of the Rest”. However, they have been rather inconsistent this season, especially in qualifying. One advantage they have over the pack is the level of fuel usage, which incidentally is lower than even the Mercedes. Austria ended on a high for both drivers with Massa landing on the podium after a nightmarish pitstop for Vettel’s Ferrari and Bottas in sixth position.
RED BULL: The Milton Keynes team continues to have a dreadful season, from being four-time constructors champions to midfield runners has definitely taken a toll on team owner Dietrich Mateschitz. The Renault engine is the weakest power unit (apart from Honda) and also the least reliable. Throughout this season the team has been involved in a bitter war of words with their engine supplier, even to the point of threatening to QUIT the sport. Another of the latest rumors is that team principal Christian Horner could be shown the door due to the poor results.
Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat are trying their best to stay positive and get a decent result for the team in order to boost their morale ever since the departure of ace aerodynamicist Adrian Newey. Austria was another disappointing affair for the Red Bull team with their only points coming from Daniel Ricciardo with a tenth place finish. So the team needs to keep focusing on the race results instead of a personal vendetta between themselves and Renault
MCLAREN: The Woking team’s torrid season drags on despite heavy optimism coming from the Button and Alonso camps. A non-points finish in all except one race (Button’s 8th place finish in Monaco) means that they have an uphill task if they want to achieve success after almost 3 seasons of no victories and podiums. The once mighty team that produced champions like Prost, Senna, Hakkinen and Hamilton, have been reduced to scrounging for points in the midfield.
Honda is without a doubt pumping upgrade after upgrade and spending token after token but to no avail if the car itself is unreliable and breaks down at the drop of a hat. As McLaren return home, they come into this race with nothing to lose and are treating this season as one big test session to possibly develop the 2016 machine.
Whatever happens during the course of this weekend, the race will be fascinating to watch. With 3 British drivers Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Will Stevens on the grid and as well as 90% of the teams having a factory in UK (With the exception of Ferrari), the English fans will be out in full force to support their favorites. So without further ado, let the battle resume!