All posts by lssdwils

Trainee Broadcast Journalist at Cardiff University (JOMEC) and F1 junkee blogging about the latest news and biggest talking points in the sport.

HAS HAMILTON LOST HIS WAY?

By Daniel Wilson.

In the near ten years Lewis Hamilton has amazed us in Formula One, his name and the word ‘lost’ have very rarely appeared in the same sentence.

However, that seems to be the only way to describe the world champion right now after a strangely lacklustre performance in Singapore.

In many ways, Lewis was lucky to seal a spot on the podium, even if it was the bottom step, because of an aggressive strategy change from Mercedes – which of course very nearly cost the team victory.

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Nico Rosberg leads the world championship by eight points after winning in Singapore.

Nevertheless, Lewis’ lack of pace was clear as day. Managing his brakes was an issue shared with his teammate yet at times, he was slipping behind his rival by nearly a second a lap.

And in the last stint, the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo was able to pull away comfortably even when on the same tyre.

So, why then has Lewis seemingly lost his way?

Well, the answer isn’t staring anyone in the face. One reason that may explain the Singapore result at least is the fact that Lewis had no long run setup time because of a hydraulic problem which forced him to sit out most of second practice.

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Daniel Ricciardo was arguably one lap away from victory last weekend.

However, with Hamilton’s experience in missing occasional long runs throughout his career and the fact that Nico had completed the session, the loss of track time shouldn’t have affected the Englishman’s form the way it did.

But can ‘lost’ be left in Singapore? Well, when you look at the bigger picture – perhaps so.

Cast your minds back to the race previous. Yes, Nico won, but it was gifted to him by Lewis’ poor start – which he himself is unclear as to why it was so bad. But until the lights went out on Sunday, Hamilton was in total control at Monza – taking pole position by almost half a second.

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Lewis Hamilton fought back from sixth to second at the Italian Grand Prix.

And the week prior to that, Lewis’ determination and some luck saw him climb up from 21st place to third – a result even Nico could hardly believe.

So, maybe all those Hamilton fans shouldn’t be panicking. Yet. Remember, in the last two years, some of the upcoming tracks are circuits where Lewis has outperformed Nico – Malaysia, Japan and Austin.

But two things seem certain – momentum is firmly with Nico and Lewis needs to find an answer fast; and it also seems this title fight will be decided under the lights in Abu Dhabi – no complaints from me!

 

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MAX VERSTAPPEN: DAZZLING OR DANGEROUS?

By Daniel Wilson.

Since making his Formula One debut in Melbourne last year, Max Verstappen has surprised even himself with just how fast he has risen through the ranks, and the sea of Dutch flags in the packed grandstands at Spa on Sunday is all the proof you need of this.

Still a teenager, he has already been promoted to the senior Red Bull team and broken records since doing so.

But in recent races, his star appeal has attracted some criticism from the media and most notably, his fellow drivers.

Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix was the latest race where the Dutchman left as the main talking point. After becoming the youngest driver in 50 years to start a race on the front row of the grid, Verstappen attracted anger from the likes of Kimi Raikkonen after an aggressive move into the first corner, which forced the Finn to collide with teammate Sebastian Vettel.

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Raikkonen also accused Verstappen of dangerous driving for making a late defensive move up the hill from Eau Rouge, when the Ferrari driver had to brake at 200mph to avoid hitting the Red Bull.

 

Spa wasn’t the first time the two drivers had got in each other’s way. Raikkonen criticised the Dutchman for a similar move at the Hungarian Grand Prix last month when he made two direction changes in the braking zone of turn two, which resulted in Kimi damaging his front wing while battling for fifth place.

Nico Rosberg has also been vocal against Verstappen, calling him up on a late change of direction in the braking zone of the hairpin at the German Grand Prix. However, Rosberg was penalised for forcing Max off the track as a result.

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So, is he dangerous? Well, Kimi thinks so. He said on Sunday that Max ‘will’ cause a serious incident in the future. But is that a bad thing?

I personally think Max is brilliant for the sport, and while his driving style is controversial, it’s largely paying dividends. He’s already become the youngest ever race winner and has a few podiums to add to his growing trophy collection.

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Max Verstappen replaced Sebastian Vettel as the youngest ever race winner with victory in Spain this year.

We all know that fortune favours the brave, and Max’s seemingly impossible overtakes around the outside of Blonchimont at Spa and Becketts at Silverstone are no doubt stained into the history books.

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The stewards seem to have the same view on him. He’s avoided penalties and he’s bringing life back into F1, which is exactly what it needs. He’s divisive, dangerous and dazzling – and that quite literally, is a winning combination.

IS NICO STILL THE TITLE FAVOURITE?

By Daniel Wilson.

At the end of April, we were all talking about Nico Rosberg as the man who can’t stop winning, but more recently, it seems he can. From 43 points up after his seventh consecutive race win in Russia, the Mercedes driver has been struggling and has seen his lead wiped out by teammate Lewis Hamilton – who now stands 19 points clear at the top.

In fact, Nico has only won one race in the last seven Grands Prix as his rival took the chequered flag in Monaco, Canada, Austria, Silverstone, Hungary and most recently Rosberg’s home race in Germany. So, is he still the favourite to win this year’s championship?

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Nico won the first four races of the season to open a commanding title lead.

The truth is the answer is more complex than many would think when you glance over the title standings as F1 goes into it’s mid-season summer break.

But nobody would criticise you for saying the odds have shifted in Hamilton’s favour. The defending champion said he has surprised himself by how quickly things have turned around.

It all goes back to Barcelona, and we all know what happened there. The epic first-lap collision between Hamilton and Rosberg was arguably the lowest point of Lewis’ miserable season. But it was here where the reset button was pressed, and psychologically it seems to have affected Nico.

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Nico and Lewis’ collision in Spain was ruled a ‘racing incident’.

In the next race in Monaco, Rosberg played the gentleman role by letting his teammate through to give his team the best chance of winning the race, but the then championship leader continued falling down the order because of a lack of confidence in the car in the changeable conditions.

In Canada, he suffered at the hands of his teammate when Lewis stuck his elbows out at the start, leaving Rosberg to recover once more. But, we saw a rare mistake from the German when trying to pass Max Verstappen in the closing stages – the sign of a driver under increasing pressure?

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Nico Rosberg span at the final chicane after passing Max Verstappen.

If so, that pressure was lifted in Baku as he took his fifth win of the season, but that was handed to him in qualifying when Hamilton crashed into the wall. Up to that point, it was looking close.

Then came a packed July. Four races in five weekends, and no doubt a month to forget for Nico. He’s had every opportunity to eclipse his teammate but has failed. Whether it be a brainless last lap collision in Austria or poor getaways in both Hungary and Germany, he has not carried over his pace from qualifying into the race and has been on the receiving end of stewards penalties too.

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Rosberg made a poor getaway from pole position and finished fourth.

Much of the reason Nico is in this position now is down to human error. Despite a gearbox change and a subsequent grid drop in Austria, reliability hasn’t been an issue but his race-craft has. However, despite trailing his rival by 19 points, all is not lost.

Lewis Hamilton knows he’s still facing a tough fight as a result of his problems at the start of the season. We are expecting him to take two new engines in Spa or Monza, which means he will start at the back of the grid. This will be a golden chance for Rosberg to not only claw back points but swing the momentum back in his court.

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Lewis Hamilton has faced an uphill battle since the first race in Australia.

Add to that the final races in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi that he dominated last year, the Mercedes man is still very much in the hunt for his first world championship.

 

THE FIA ARE DESTROYING FORMULA ONE

By Daniel Wilson.

For as long as we can remember, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) have been at the heart of Formula One’s very existence, and are the source of any rules or regulations that dictate how motorsport works. However, more recently, they have been the subject of criticism and anger from all corners of the F1 world – and I am one of those voices.

Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix was another step in the wrong direction for the sport as the FIA’s new radio communication rules were enacted with relentless force. Before the weekend even began, the subject was a hot topic in the paddock with the FIA’s announcement that drivers would now be required to drive into the pits to sort out a reliability problem during the race.

That ‘return-to-pit’ order meant that if Nico Rosberg were to have a similar gearbox problem that affected him in the British Grand Prix, he would have to take an effective drive through penalty to warrant the team telling him how to fix the problem – even if it’s safety related.

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Nico Rosberg was demoted to third place after the race at Silverstone for banned radio messages.

At Silverstone, Rosberg was handed a ten second timed penalty because the FIA argued the team had given the German driver coaching by telling him to shift through seventh gear, and that is angering fans who say the penalty is robbing them of raw racing.

But now, drivers and fans are noticeably more vocal in their criticisms of the tighter rules after Sunday’s race. Early on, Jenson Button radioed the pit wall, saying the pedals was sticking to the floor of the car, and the team told him how to manage the problem, which eventually fixed itself.

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Jenson Button criticised the FIA’s decision to penalise him in Hungary.

After running eighth from the start, the issue meant Jenson dropped to the back of the field and pitted in line with the FIA’s new rules. However, Button was still penalised for the radio communication and was handed a drive through penalty. This was despite him running last and his race already ruined.

It didn’t take long for the British driver to send a very clear message to the FIA about his frustration, saying over team radio: “So, the pedal sticking to the floor isn’t a safety issue is it?”

On Thursday, teammate Fernando Alonso criticised the new rules, saying the sport was becoming too controlled while his former Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen branded F1’s rules as a ‘joke’.

It wasn’t just radio rules that caused controversy in Budapest. Raikkonen’s anger was a reaction to his battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who Kimi argued had twice made more than change of direction when defending fifth place at the Hungaroring.

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Max Verstappen held off Kimi Raikkonen to finish fifth at the Hungaroring.

Several drivers were also critical of the yellow flags system after Nico Rosberg avoided a penalty for claiming pole position on a lap where double-waved yellow flags were out for Alonso’s spinning McLaren.

Red Bull and Ferrari criticised the FIA for allowing the result to stand. Rosberg did lift off going into turn eight but pushed on and set a purple sector time. Rosberg and the FIA were also criticised by title rival Lewis Hamilton, who lost pole position because of the yellow flags. In the post-race press conference, Hamilton argued the FIA was sending the wrong message to the junior categories of motorsport about what to do when those flags are waved.

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Despite winning in Budapest for a record fifth time, Hamilton was still critical of his teammate’s pole position.

This has been another talking point in the pit lane since Austria, after Nico Hulkenberg set a personal best lap despite yellow flags being out on the first part of the circuit. The German driver was found to only have lifted off by 4km/h but the FIA ruled this to be within the rules.

It seems then, that on a number of issues, the FIA is failing. It is failing to uphold the rules it has and has had for decades now. It’s failing to back down on rules they know are not popular with fans and drivers. It’s failing Formula One and everything it stands for and is loved for – racing.

LEWIS IS IN THE DRIVING SEAT

By Daniel Wilson.

Lewis Hamilton has always been a force to be reckoned with in Formula One, and has dominated it for the last two seasons. However, up until this point, his charge towards a fourth world title has been thwarted by unreliability.

But after his incredible performance at the weekend’s British Grand Prix, he has pretty much pressed the reset button on 2016 and we’re not even halfway.

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Lewis Hamilton pulled out three seconds on Nico Rosberg in the first sector of the race alone.

After taking his fourth win in five races, he has narrowed the deficit to his teammate to a single point – the closest it’s been all season. And let’s not forget the start to the year Hamilton has had. Going into Monaco, the gap was 43 points in Rosberg’s favour.

Lewis’ maturity and mental attitude is plain to see. Despite a rocky road in Baku a few weeks back, his recent form has been unassailable and it’s the championship leader that needs to find a response.

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Hamilton shared his celebrations with his thousands of fans.

Hamilton owned Silverstone this time out, and his race control in both wet and dry conditions was the stuff of champions, managing a healthy enough gap to his teammate while reducing the wear to his limited engine collection.

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Lewis equals Nigel Mansell’s record of four British GP wins.

Crowd surfing is rarely seen at a race track, but it demonstrates Lewis’ confidence and heroism in the eyes of his home fans who believe he can overcome the issues he still faces to claim another championship.

He knows now, as do his supporters, that he will be starting at the back of the field for a race or two later in the season when he goes beyond his engine allowance. But with his teammate dropping points quickly and on the receiving end of steward penalties, the psychological ball is firmly in the Englishman’s court.

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The British sense of humour didn’t go unnoticed.

Don’t forget that in 2014, he was chasing all season long, and that brought out the best in him as he won six of the last seven races that year. There is no denying he has everything possible to give us a repeat performance.

 

WOULD TEAM ORDERS WORK AT MERCEDES?

By Daniel Wilson.

Yes, unfortunately, those two dreaded words have been dragged out the dirt in Formula One again. The latest collision between the two Mercedes drivers at the weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix forced team principal Toto Wolff to slam the possibility of team orders on the table.

Nico Rosberg was held responsible for crashing into Lewis Hamilton on the last lap in Spielberg as the German tried to defend his lead going into Turn 2. But his over-aggressive defence left the championship leader with egg on his face, as he lost his front wing, handing the win to his rival and losing out to the Red Bull and Ferrari of Verstappen and Raikkonen to limp home fourth.

Nico Rosberg’s mistake means his championship lead is down to 11 points.

Despite blaming Hamilton for the accident, who received a frosty reception from fans on the podium, the stewards handed Rosberg a ten second penalty for causing a collision and two points on his licence.

However, the pair’s latest coming together has forced a re-think in Brackley over Mercedes’ decision to let the two race freely.

This is the second time this season that they have clashed. In May, Hamilton and Rosberg took each other out on the first lap of the Spanish Grand Prix. And while Austria wasn’t as bad, the collision and the potential consequences could cast a real cloud over the rest of the season, but will team orders work?

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The double DNF in Barcelona was ruled a racing incident.

My guess is no. Down the years teams have tried to control their drivers for the sake of the constructors title, but they’ve not always listened, and Mercedes are no exception.

At the Hungarian Grand Prix two years ago, Hamilton was asked by the team to move over for Rosberg who was on a different strategy, but he didn’t, and that was crucial to ensure Lewis finished ahead of his teammate.

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Hands tied: Toto Wolff has to decide between the image of his team and the image of the sport.

In 2013, Nico was told not to attack Lewis at the Malaysian Grand Prix, and while the order was obeyed, there was clear frustration from the German and a desire to ignore the instruction.

That race was also memorable for Red Bull. Multi 21-gate exploded here when Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders not to attack Mark Webber in the final stint.

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“Multi 21!” Sebastian Vettel ignores team orders and overtakes Mark Webber to win in Sepang.

The problem Mercedes have, even if, god forbid, team orders are brought in, is that they have such an advantage that more often than not, it’s between their drivers as to who wins and who comes second.

And so, with  both Hamilton and Rosberg competing in their home races over the coming weeks, team orders would both be stupid, unpopular, and in Lewis’ words, would ‘rob’ us of a titanic battle for this year’s championship.

Are team orders a good idea? Let us know below:

FERRARI ARE FALTERING

By Daniel Wilson.

When you speak of Formula One, it’s likely the first team to spring to mind would be Ferrari. Their history is brighter than the red of their Scuderia cars, but recently, the team haven’t converted their huge potential into success.

They have had a golden chance to win three of the first seven races this season, but as yet have faled to stand on the top step of the podium in 2016.

At the first race in Australia, a strategic error from the pit wall ensured Sebastian Vettel lost a likely victory because the team fitted the wrong tyres during the red flag period after Fernando Alonso’s huge accident. He came home third behind the two Mercedes.

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Sebastian Vettel made the perfect getaway in Melbourne.

In Spain, Ferrari could and should have had a one-two finish after the Silver Arrows dramatically crashed out on the first lap. However, an extra pit stop for Vettel took him out of contention and a charging Kimi Raikkonen could not make a move on a newly-promoted Max Verstappen, who became the youngest ever Grand Prix winner. I can’t help but feel had Vettel or another driver been in Kimi’s Ferrari, they would’ve passed the Red Bull.

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Kimi Raikkonen sat behind the Red Bull for nearly 20 laps in Spain.

And then comes this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix. After a disappointing result in Monaco, Ferrari looked to be back on form, qualifying within two tenths of a second off pole position in third. At lights out, Sebastian Vettel powered past the two Merc’s to lead into turn one, just as he did in Australia. And during the first stint, he was able to keep Lewis Hamilton behind.

But then came another risky strategy call. Vettel pitted on lap 11, committing to a two-stop strategy because they believed the tyres wouldn’t last as long as they have in previous races in Montreal.

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Vettel missed the last chicane twice in the final stint of the Canadian Grand Prix.

They were wrong. Lewis Hamilton stayed out and pitted thirteen laps later to fit the soft tyres, which would go to the end. Vettel pitted on lap 37 and set about catching his rival, but Hamilton’s tyres held up and it was the German who made mistakes, missing the last chicane twice on his way to a disappointing second place.

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Ferrari dominated F1 with Michael Schumacher from 2000-2004.

Things need to change at Maranello. Maurizio Arrivabene is certainly full of passion and guided Ferrari to three victories in 2015. But this season, with a car that’s more than a match for Mercedes, they simply haven’t delivered, and under the management running the team in the early 2000’s, those races would’ve been won.