By Daniel Wilson.
There’s no denying that Nico Rosberg is winning the inter-team battle at Mercedes right now. With five consecutive wins under his belt and a best possible start to the season, he seems to have found some much needed form over team-mate Lewis Hamilton in his latest quest for a first world title.
But that form has largely been built on race day – which of course is what counts when you look at the points tally. And after such a dominant season last year, questions are now surfacing about Hamilton’s race day performances. The world champion has been on top of his team-mate in qualifying, taking pole position in both Australia and Bahrain – there beating the lap record set in a V10 engined car.
But its the race starts that have cost Hamilton chances of taking a first win since securing his third championship at the US Grand Prix in October. The Briton went from pole to sixth in the opening lap of the Australian Grand Prix and was down to a similar position a fortnight later when he was hit by Valterri Bottas at the first corner at Sakhir.
And while that collision wasn’t Lewis’ fault, it’s a good example of the consequences some drivers face when they don’t get off the line well and so it needs fixing – quickly. He’s already 17 points behind leader Rosberg, but it’s not just the points gap Hamilton has to bring under control – it’s Rosberg’s mindset.
After equalling Hamilton’s best run of wins in F1, Nico has a psychological advantage he’s probably never had, and that is equally as important as a points advantage in this sport and one he needs to carry forward in the next 19 races if he wants to secure the ultimate prize in motorsport.
The questions over Hamilton’s focus now seem to be being carried over from the end of last season, when Rosberg won in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. At that time, most people put it down to Hamilton taking his foot of the gas after securing his life-ambition of three world titles.
But can his shaky start to the 2016 campaign also be put down to the same reason? Has he now got nothing to aim for because three has always been his magic number? Personally, I don’t buy that. I think Mercedes and Lewis have to address their poor starts because the issue isn’t new – despite only having one clutch this year. Just cast your minds back to Hungary for one example.
Lewis Hamilton simply has to crack Rosberg’s run and if not win, then at least beat him at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix. Otherwise, his season may be over before it barely got going.