F1 2014 is shap­ing up very nicely

“In Bahrain, it seemed as if driv­ers from ev­ery team were dic­ing with one an­other”


The dou­ble world cham­pion writes ex­clu­sively for F1 Rac­ing

Not ev­ery grand prix can be a thriller. The rac­ing in China was not as ex­cit­ing as it had been in 2012 and 2013, but Bahrain was one of the best grands prix I’ve watched in the past 20 years. It seemed as if driv­ers from ev­ery team were dic­ing with one other: Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren, Fer­rari, Force In­dia, Wil­liams... an­other demon­stra­tion of how the new rules pro­duce more ex­cit­ing grands prix. To see Ser­gio Pérez on the podium was a plea­sure. I’ve known him since he was in karts in Mex­ico. He has a tremen­dous talent and that per­for­mance was one of his best. Beat­ing Nico Hülken­berg – who I be­lieve is one of the most un­der­es­ti­mated driv­ers in F1 – in the same car was a great achieve­ment. Ser­gio re­ally showed his po­ten­tial and it was an ex­cit­ing, open race be­tween the two Force In­dia team-mates.

The dy­namic at Fer­rari is dif­fer­ent at the mo­ment; some­times Kimi Räikkö­nen is very close to Fer­nando Alonso, some­times he is a lit­tle way off. To my mind Fer­nando is among the most com­plete driv­ers out there. He can get the max­i­mum out of the car un­der any cir­cum­stances. He’ll be there at the end of the race, even if it means car­ry­ing the car on his back. And he knows how the team works. Kimi, hav­ing been away from them for sev­eral sea­sons, needs some time to adapt – and I’m sure he will, no doubt about it. The talent is still there.

There has also been a big change in team man­age­ment at Fer­rari, with Marco Mat­ti­acci ar­riv­ing at short no­tice to re­place Ste­fano Domeni­cali. When you’re out­side a team look­ing in, it’s hard to know ex­actly what’s hap­pen­ing in a sit­u­a­tion like this. It’s like com­ment­ing on some­body’s mar­riage – you can give an opin­ion but you don’t know what’s hap­pen­ing in­side the house!

I have great re­spect for Ste­fano, and al­though I haven’t spo­ken with him since he left, I wish him all the best. I also know Marco very well. He’s a great guy and a very suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man, with a great track record at Fer­rari North Amer­ica. Why do this now? Only Luca Di Mon­teze­molo can an­swer that. But when a team needs re­sults, or a pub­lic ex­pla­na­tion, or some pos­i­tive PR, some­times you have to pro­voke a re­ac­tion within the team. This has sent a clear mes­sage, from the very top, that changes have to be made. McLaren are also not quite where they need to be af­ter a pos­i­tive start to the sea­son. And once again, with­out ac­cess to in­side in­for­ma­tion it’s hard to say whether they have lost per­for­mance or just been over­taken in the de­vel­op­ment race. But they have the re­sources, the ex­pe­ri­ence and the people to re­turn to the front. As I write, we’re com­ing to the end of the three­week gap be­tween the Chi­nese and Span­ish Grands Prix, and they will have been busy lter­ing all the data to see where they’ve been los­ing out, and what they need to do to re­cover.

Of course, all their ri­vals will have been try­ing to do the same thing, and it was in­ter­est­ing to see that Red Bull’s Adrian Newey stayed away from the Chi­nese GP so he would have more time to drive de­vel­op­ment back at the fac­tory. The RB10 has a lot of down­force – you can see it in the cor­ners and un­der brak­ing – but it lacks speed on the straight. So there’s a com­pro­mise there that is per­haps not the best. Still, it seems Re­nault are nd­ing the tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions to the sys­tem-in­te­gra­tion prob­lems that held them back at the start of the year. When you have a team-mate who’s giv­ing you a hard time, it’s a real in­cen­tive to raise your own driv­ing to a higher level. Daniel Ric­cia­rdo has been do­ing a fan­tas­tic job of chal­leng­ing Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and re­ally mak­ing him work hard. It must be difcult af­ter four con­sec­u­tive ti­tle wins to face this kind of pres­sure, but Se­bas­tian is men­tally strong and he will cope. And this com­pe­ti­tion will drive the team for­ward as well.

At Mercedes, there is a fas­ci­nat­ing con­trast be­tween the two driv­ers. Nico Ros­berg is cool and tech­ni­cal, while Lewis Hamil­ton is a very emo­tional driver. Yet it was Nico who made the mis­takes un­der pres­sure dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing in China. Lewis has a vi­sion that he can be world cham­pion again and this has given him great strength and mo­ti­va­tion. You see him giv­ing 110 per cent ev­ery time.

That’s be­cause Lewis knows you don’t al­ways get all the right cir­cum­stances to win the ti­tle – hav­ing the best car and a great team run­ning it – and when you do, it’s up to you to per­form. Nico knows this too. That’s why they’ll ght over ev­ery inch, ev­ery hun­dredth of a sec­ond over the races to come, and it’s look­ing like Mercedes are go­ing to let them do it. That’s very good for the fans and for the sport.

“To see Ser­gio Pérez on the podium in China was a great plea­sure”

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