Friday, November 26, 2010

Lewis Hamilton 2010

A curious year for Lewis, this one. Until the Italian Grand Prix, he was the driver of the season, performing as flawlessly as he performed for the first fifteen races of 2007. Moreover, he was doing so when the lack of front-end bite from the 2010 Bridgestone tyres should have hampered his natural driving style. Whilst Michael Schumacher spent the year explaining away his under-performance in these conditions, Lewis uttered not a single complaint, and comprehensively out-qualified team-mate Jenson Button.

As such, Lewis now appears to be a highly adaptable driver, in the same league as Fernando Alonso. By contrast, Robert Kubica, another driver touted as being the best in Formula 1, disappears off the radar whenever the balance of his car tends towards oversteer. This was most clearly evident in Korea, where, after looking like a pole position contender on Friday, Robert was restricted to eighth on the grid on Saturday after the Renault duly developed oversteer.

However, despite Hamilton's versatility, when the championship pressure ramped up, he suffered a series of accidents at Monza, Singapore, and Suzuka. These incidents had the nature of a chain reaction, and Lewis's subsequent errors in Korea and Brazil were also telling. On both occasions he was defending from Fernando Alonso, and doing so in a car with inferior handling. In such circumstances, it's fairly well understood that the priority is to avoid a mistake which gifts the position to the following car. The defending driver needs to give himself a margin under braking, concentrate on hitting every apex, and concentrate on getting the power down cleanly coming out of the corners, rather than trying to extract more speed from the car. Yet on both occasions, Lewis over-committed on corner entry, and let Fernando past. One might even be tempted to think that Alonso still has the capability to scramble Hamilton's mind a little.

Lewis, then, still seems to suffer from spikes of emotion in the cockpit, and this clearly detracts from his performance. In the wake of a McLaren strategy blunder, it is not unusual for him to issue a somewhat testy car-to-pit communique, and these microbursts provide an insight into Lewis's emotional flammability. It's also clear that in terms of race strategy, Hamilton's interaction with the McLaren team still has the nature of a server-client transaction, with Lewis as the slightly aggrieved customer. If he were to become more of a strategic partner with the team in this respect, examining all the strategic options before the race, and fully understanding all the pros and cons, then he might have no-one else to blame when small mistakes are made, or opportunities missed.

So not a bad year, then, but a year in which past vulnerabilities under pressure were exposed again. I still think he'll become the best, but there's a little work to be done yet, smoothing away those little spikes...


Anonymous said...

Great post. It would be nice to see Hamilton pick up a few more wins and championships, but he is more than delivering on spectacle. He must be worth a fortune to Bernie Ecclestone!

Unknown said...

Is there a single driver where the same argument doesn't go? Alonso just follows his engineer’s orders, Massa obviously does too, Button does, Webber does, Vettel does. Who doesn't? Why else would these teams have their “mission control”? And they all complain afterwards when a dumb decision was made.

Similarly they all seem to get hot under the helmet now and then. Alonso was fuming in Valencia so much that he wasn’t able to overtake a Torro Rosso and in the end he even got humiliated by Kobayashi. Same thing in Silverstone when he felt unfairly punished for overtaking Kubica by cutting a corner. Vettel is known for driving into people when he doesn’t get his way (pushing Hamilton into the pit area in China, running into Webber in Turkey and into Button in Spa)

Gordon McCabe said...

Drivers will rarely disobey a team strategy instruction, but some clearly take the initiative more than others. Look at Jenson Button's decision to switch to slicks in Melbourne this year.

Unknown said...

Button destroyed his intermediates and had no other choice. He came in while the weathermen where still trying to decide if it was going to rain or not.