Depending on who sources it, either Juan Manuel Fangio or Niki Lauda is attributed to have said that ‘the secret’ of Formula One ‘is to win going as slowly as possible.’ To win going as slowly as possible; should this be the philosophy Lewis Hamilton is abiding by as he powers his way through the current Formula One season, leads us to wonder just how dominant he would be if he decided to go as fast as possible. But then, it seems, he really doesn’t need to.
The Formula 1 season may only be four races old, but such is the scale of Lewis Hamilton’s domination, it is hard to see past him winning a second consecutive world title. His sheer pace, and ability to control a race when leading, has been nothing short of fantastic, helping him build up a scarcely believable 33-point margin over Nico Rosberg. By contrast, Rosberg’s discomfort at finding himself unable to match Hamilton’s qualifying or race pace has already led to him speaking out against Hamilton. His accusation that Hamilton deliberately drove slowly in China, the third race of the season, to try to help Vettel overtake him into second place, merely served to highlight the fact that he has no answer to Hamilton’s dominance so far. No pole positions, no race wins says it all for him.
Having won three of the first four races, Hamilton is on a whole different planet to Rosberg. Without the constant need to catch up faced last season after retirement at the first race in Australia, Hamilton seems calmer, more focused, and impervious to any suggestions that he is anything short of the faster driver off the grid at this moment in time. Rosberg’s rather unfortunate brake fault that helped Kimi Raikonnen finish second in Bahrain waxes lyrical about his season so far: quick, but not brilliant.
His accusation that Hamilton deliberately drove slowly in China, the third race of the season, to try to help Vettel overtake him into second place, merely served to highlight the fact that he has no answer to Hamilton’s dominance so far
Ferrari’s resurgence this season has, however, given Mercedes something to think about. Sebastien Vettel’s shock win in Malaysia ruffled a few Mercedes’ feathers, and highlighted both Ferrari’s and Vettel’s intent to push Mercedes all the way this season. Whether that is achievable seems more down to Hamilton’s mood as he steps into the car than anything else. There is no denying, however, that Ferrari are now the only team that can realistically challenge Mercedes consistently, and that Vettel is only a point behind Rosberg, with 65, tells its own story.
Further back, the well-documented struggles of the once imperious Red Bull’s have further strained their relationship with Renault. Hard to drive and slower than both the Ferrari and Mercedes engine, it seems that this year has already slipped them by. Back to the drawing board for 2016, it seems.
2015’s surprise packages have also come from the teams further down the field. Sauber’s Felipe Nasr, in his first season in Formula One, has driven terrifically for his 14 points so far, only 5 less than Daniel Ricciardo, while 17-year old Max Verstappen has only been denied more than his 6 for Toro Rosso by mechanical failures. Verstappen certainly appears to be one to watch for the future, with his youth translating into a fearlessness in throwing his car into overtakes he really should have no right in making.
Spare a thought for McLaren-Honda. Two world champion drivers forced to play it out at the back of the field. Four races gone and no points won. Although the car is said to be getting a sizable upgrade in time for the European season, beginning at the Spanish Grand Prix, their best hope seems of matching the speed of the misfiring Red Bulls. Mercedes and Ferrari are a distant pipe-dream at this moment of time.
Once again, we find ourselves with a Mercedes driver as champion-elect. That we are only four races in speaks volumes of the speed and quality of Hamilton’s driving so far.
Image courtesy of formulaspy.com