Hamilton’s 7th heaven

SINGAPORE REVIEW

If your title rival, your nearest threat, your intra-team nemesis, your thunder-stealer begins to suffer your share of bad luck will you feel satisfied? Will you feel the world and it’s populace isn’t really on your case? Will you rediscover the real you?

It appears that Lewis Hamilton has begun to rediscover his genius. The genius that brought him into this massive spotlight called F1â„¢. At Singapore a few nights ago his stride had a bounce in it. A proper fashionista swagger. Alighting from his shiny chauffeur-driven AMG he walked unescorted towards the Paddock gates and responded to a fan’s ‘you all right Lewis?’ with a ‘Yeah I’m great, thanks!’.

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Hipster Hamilton arrives at the Marina Bay. Image Copyright © Ajit Devadason

Fresh from the feisty conquest at the temple of speed, Hamilton revelled in another completely dominating weekend leaving Rosberg trailing by 3 points in the Championship.

Rosberg suffered a start-line nightmare when his steering wheel all but failed. He couldn’t engage the clutch and his paddles were double-shifting. While the rest set off on the formation lap Mercedes #6 was wheeled away into pit lane.

When the lights went out, Hamilton floored it to perfection taking T1 well before the chasing pack. Behind him Alonso jumped both Red Bulls from P5 with no real intention of braking to make the corner! He went off but came back onto the racing line holding onto P2. Which he decided to give back to a fast-starting Vettel who in turn capitalised on Rosberg’s empty Mercedes grid slot ahead of him.

On Lap 4, positions 1,2 and 3 were held by champions. All past winners of all the Singapore Grand Prix. Meanwhile the pit-lane-starting Championship leader Rosberg, was making no impression on the Caterhams and Marussias running ahead of him. His MGP W05 was truly in a lot of pain and woefully out of pace. The street circuit notorious for lack of overtaking space wasn’t helping either.

Between him and the leading trio a train of battles ensued between Ricciardo, Raikkonen and Massa, and further back Button, Bottas and Magnussen. The Toro Rosso team mates duelled too – Vergne getting the better of Kvyat while on Lap 10 Rosberg was still in P20. Three laps later Vettel, Alonso and Ricciardo all pitted in succession. Hamilton, by this time had built a large enough gap to Vettel that he exited ahead of the German after his first pit stop.

On Lap 14 Rosberg came in for his pit stop but the steering trouble was terminal.
A big moment for the Championship shoot-out had just unfolded at Singapore! Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff was later quoted as saying “…we have built a missile but we must make it more reliable”.

In the next successive laps Ricciardo, Hamilton and Alonso traded fastest laps with each other and Alonso, closed in rapidly on Vettel. It was soon time for the second round of pit stops and Alonso, Vettel and Raikkonen dived in for fresh rubber. This left Hamilton out in front ahead of Ricciardo by 17 seconds. By the time he and Ricciardo made their second stops the gap to P2 was down to 7 seconds.

An incident between Force India’s Perez and Sauber’s Sutil wrecked the Mexican’s front wing and strewed debris all over the track. Considering how the Pirellis can shred nowadays, the Safety Car was deployed as is inevitable on a street circuit.

The race wasn’t going to remain as straight forward as it initially appeared. The long Safety Car period meant tyre strategies needed re-thinking! Red Bull and Williams believed they could stick with a two-stop strategy to catch Mercedes whose big lead was reduced to nothing. Mercedes however required to pit again for prime tyres! This meant Hamilton had to build a gap of over 27 seconds to Vettel. He did so. Lapping almost 2 seconds faster than anyone else at times, he began a relentless chase to the finish line. He stopped and exited just behind Vettel on fresh tyres. In the space of a lap and a half he overtook the German aggressively through T7 and secured a deserving win for Mercedes amidst spectacular fireworks.

For the seventh time this year.

PODIUM

P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 2hr 00m 04.795s
P2 Vettel  – Red Bull Racing
P3 Ricciardo – Red Bull Racing

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Turn around time

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LH44 is wheeled in for fresh tyres in Q3. Image Copyright © Ajit Devadason

The momentum is firmly back with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Out-qualifying his team-mate after locking up and losing time into Turn 1 Hamilton showed tremendous commitment and self-belief in slicing Rosberg’s potential pole lap by .007 secs!

All through FP3, Q1 and Q2 the Silver Arrows weren’t the fastest cars leading us to believe that Ferrari first and Williams were in with a genuine shout. Felipe Massa hung on to provisional P1 for a while.

Earlier on, in Q1 Nico Rosberg ran straight off and into an escape road in a very similar-to-Monaco incident but it was of little significance. The ultimate trio have taken the top three Qualifying positions. Will they finish like that or will the streets of the gorgeous-by-night Marina Bay, throw up a surprise winner?

The only occasion Hamilton has won here in Singapore was in 2009. And he started on pole. Maybe it’s ‘Hammer time’ once again. Coded or not!

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P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 45.681
P2 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 45.688
P3 Ricciardo –  Red Bull Racing 1m 45.854

 

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Hamilton fights back

MONZA REVIEW

The title contenders celebrate. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

The title contenders celebrate. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

In two consecutive races now, Nico Rosberg has made errors that reveal a weaker side to the German. In an attempt to let Hamilton know that he won’t be bullied on-track, a clumsy first-lap swerve saw both Mercedes AMG cars lose out on a potential one-two at Spa. Last Sunday, he out-braked himself keeping one eye on Hamilton who was closing down the gap to him rapidly.

At the Autodromo di Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton claimed pole position on Saturday with Rosberg second best, sealing the front row for Mercedes. The points gap between the two contenders was 29. It was all for Lewis to claw back into. Track position was crucial for him as Nico ran a lower-downforce set-up, that gave him a higher top speed. Which meant he might be uncatchable.

But at the start the gremlins chose their favourite victim. Car #44 suffered a software glitch that saw it fall backwards down the grid as soon as the lights went off!

To Hamilton’s luck it was only till P4 thanks to an even slower starting Valterri Bottas in the Williams. On Lap 23, Hamilton after overtaking both Kevin Magnussen and Felipe Massa had the gap down to just 1.4s from his teammate. When Rosberg pitted it was ‘Hammer time’. But on Lap 25, after Hamilton had exited the bits with a marginally faster pit stop it wasn’t enough to jump Nico. The gap began to go up to 1.8s. Meanwhile Red Bull star Daniel Ricciardo pitted for fresh rubber and rejoined in P12. Around this time, Mercedes  engineers let Hamilton know where he was losing or gaining to Rosberg. They recommended he cool off and fall back temporarily in order to attack in the closing laps.

Crucially, Hamilton disobeyed!

Later, in the press conference he explained that he learnt from past experience that the Pirellis didn’t really offer a big advantage in the dying laps to mount a massive attack. This was a new-steely and determined Lewis Hamilton that we witnessed. It could be that the DNF in Spa had really charged him up to claim top honours at Monza. A race he’d won before. He charged after Rosberg bringing the gap down to nothing and well inside DRS range. At this point the German must’ve seen Lewis’ white helmet filling up his mirrors. He misjudged his braking point going into T1, locked up and slalomed through the escape road for the second time in the race. Allowing Hamilton to breeze past him on track and build up a a comfortable gap to P2.

The race was lost for Nico. It seemed the safer option rather than running wheel-to-wheel with the Briton and risking the fury of the team – again. It seemed so safe that fans suspected if it was an agreement with Mercedes to ‘gift’ the win to Lewis for the ‘wrong-doing’ of Spa.

But it was Hamilton’s relentless drive ultimately that won him the race, forcing his rival into an error. Fantastic stuff. It will go down as one of his greatest drives of the 28 wins he’s achieved so far in his career.

Behind the closely matched Mercedes AMG cars, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso bowed out of the Italian Grand Prix with a mechanical failure. A big blow to the tifosi. Lap 35 saw Ricciardo sweep past Raikkonen smoothly while between him and his team mate Vettel in P4 was a convoy of Mercedes powered cars. Magnussen lead from Bottas, Perez and Button! Magnussen was penalised for driving off Bottas at T1. Which left Bottas now charging up to catch Vettel, Perez and Button duelling for P6. While Bottas made easy work of the four-time defending world champion, his sensational team mate swallowed both Perez and Button together! Ricciardo has turned out to be the find of the season with an outside chance of even winning the championship should the Mercedes drivers do anything silly.

The RB10 of Ricciardo was clocked at a top speed of 362.1 kph! The highest ever at Monza was 369.9 kph demonstrating the pace at which the Hybrid Formula is catching up.
On Lap 44, the Mercedes car numbered 44 was leading Rosberg by 4.4 seconds!
Thats one for the numerologists!
While Lewis had all but sewn up the Monza win, watching Daniel Ricciardo make up positions in the last few laps has become a thing of habit for fans now. He was 2.5s faster than Sebastian Vettel with 9 laps remaining. He overcame him quickly. And by doing so put the Renault-engined Red Bull up among the Mercedes-powered Williamses of Bottas and Massa in P3 and P4 respectively. Only Hamilton, Rosberg, Massa and Bottas completed all 53 laps of the Italian Grand Prix.
Hamilton now 22 points behind Rosberg in the title hunt is sitting confident. But can the ‘honey badger’ as Ricciardo is fondly known in the paddock, pounce back to win at the Marina Bay circuit in Singapore? It’ll be a brave soul who bets against that!

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PODIUM

P1 Hamilton– Mercedes AMG 1hr 19m 10.236s
P2 Rosberg  – Mercedes AMG
P3 Massa – Williams Martini Racing

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Speed at the temple

Lewis delivers. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

Lewis delivers. Image Copyright © Mercedes AMG

At the Italian Grand Prix Saturday, Lewis Hamilton delivered the precision lap that seemed to have evaded him since Barcelona. Much to the relief of the whole watching Formula 1â„¢ world. Everyone wants the epic intra-team battle to continue. Complete with it’s drama. Nico Rosberg ignored him at the post Qualifying weigh-in. Adding a little more tension to the rivalry.

It is important to note that Rosberg is set-up with a lower-downforce wing angle than Hamilton. This was evident in the speed traps as the Briton’s W05 was 3 kph slower than Rosberg’s 353 kph top speed.

This should make Rosberg faster through the straights and Hamilton sharper through the curves. A super contest is on tomorrow at Monza, the temple of speed.

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P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 1m 24.109s
P2 Rosberg – Mercedes AMG 1m 24.383s
P3 Bottas –  Williams Martini Racing 1m 24.697s

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