Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lewis Hamilton's Canadian Grand Prix

"Hamilton is almost certainly the fastest driver in F1...But then why is that not being translated into results? The answer, like reality, is complex and multi-dimensional. But it's as if Lewis feels he has not got time for that. And every time that frustration butts up against reality, it's tending to find something solid.

"The world at the moment isn't as Lewis would want it. He would like the showbiz rapper and celebrity athlete friends that came to be with him in Montreal to have seen him demonstrate his dazzling skills to leave the rest of the field dazed and confused. He had a show to put on and those other lesser drivers just got in the way."
(Mark Hughes).

Some racing drivers tend towards a Heraclitean approach to the nature of time, accepting the flow of time, and the consequent importance of planning; others favour a more Parmenidean outlook, rejecting the existence of the future, living for the moment. Lewis Hamilton is clearly a Parmenidean racing driver. Unfortunately, just for the moment, he is also beginning to make Juan-Pablo Montoya look like a paragon of calm discretion.

When the Canadian Grand Prix was green-flagged at the beginning of lap 5, Lewis made a move inside Mark Webber at the first corner. Mark tried to give him room, and Lewis took a slice of the inner kerb in avoidance, but the right-front of the McLaren made contact with the left-rear of the Red Bull, tipping the unfortunate Australian into a spin, like a felon being pursued by the LAPD.

Hamilton rejoined, having lost places to Rosberg, Button and Schumacher. Almost immediately, however, Jenson went too deep into turn 6, Schumacher passing him around the outside of turn 7, Hamilton taking him down the inside onto the following straight. Into the hairpin of turn 10, Hamilton was already challenging Schumacher, the Mercedes defending the inside line as Lewis tried an unsuccessful run around the outside.

Onto lap 6, it was Rosberg in fourth, several car lengths ahead of Schumacher in fifth, Hamilton sixth, and Button now taking a familiar watching brief in seventh. On this particular lap, Jenson took a line down the pit-straight which bisected the middle of the track, far more than a car's width available to his left-hand side...

Going into the turn 10 hairpin on lap 6, Schumacher once again went to defend the inside line, and Hamilton duly tried another run down the outside. On this occasion, however, Schumacher veered across towards the McLaren under braking, and Lewis had to take avoiding action, running very wide, letting Button ahead of him once more.

At the end of lap 7, Button outbraked himself into the final corner, and Hamilton was perfectly placed to overtake accelerating onto the pit-straight. At the point that Lewis was in Jenson's wheeltracks, about to pull out from the slipstream, Button could be seen glancing in his mirror. Jenson then moved across towards the pit-wall, as per the racing line in dry conditions, at exactly the same moment that Lewis was drawing alongside his rear wheels. Button kept moving over, but Lewis kept coming, and in an instant the front-right of Lewis's car snagged the left-rear of Jenson's, sending Hamilton into the pitwall at a shallow angle, and inflicting terminal damage to the left rear.

So, does this constitute some sort of crisis in Lewis's career? To some degree, Hamilton's current malaise is merely a consequence of the particular circumstances in which he's found himself in Monaco and Canada this year, endowed with arguably the fastest car in race-trim, but relegated to a poor starting position by team errors. There is, however, also a longer-term trend in his driving tactics which can be traced back to the middle of 2010. Over this period of time, Lewis has developed a habit of sticking the nose of his car down the inside of other drivers, without getting fully alongside and winning the corner.

Lewis actually did this to Alonso last year at the turn 10 hairpin in Canada, when Fernando was momentarily boxed in behind Sebastien Buemi. Alonso saw him, gave him room, and Lewis made the move stick down the following straight. A couple of weeks later, Lewis stuck his nose inside Vettel at the first corner in Valencia, both drivers being fortunate to avoid damage as Lewis's left-front wheel snagged Sebastien's right-rear. Then, at the first corner of the British Grand Prix, Lewis did exactly the same thing, this time puncturing Vettel's tyre, but avoiding damage himself. It was only at Monza that this speculative overtaking tactic finally backfired, Lewis retiring after sticking his front-wheels inside Massa at the second chicane.

Which brings us to Monaco and Canada 2011. The collisions with Massa, Maldonado and Webber at these events all shared a common trait: Lewis took at stab down the inside, failed to get fully alongside, the other driver turned in, Lewis clambered over the inside kerb to avoid contact, and a collision occurred.

There's nothing wrong with being a warrior, and living for the moment, but this type of speculative overtaking attempt seems increasingly to be borne of frustration. If Lewis is to avoid a career in NASCAR, he either needs to take a step back, or to take a step from Woking to Milton Keynes.


Barry said...

He's taking high risks to win. It worked in the past but not anymore

corner1 said...

"like a felon being pursued by the LAPD" - Brilliant! Nobody needs to tell him how to drive, just that it is imperative to finish the next race. Otherwise, this downward spiral is sure to accelerate.