F1 Racing - - CONTENTS - by Anthony Rowl­in­son

A fraught weekend; a tense grand prix. Ros­berg vs Hamil­ton is shap­ing up to be a clas­sic F1 ri­valry

Some­times it’s not what’s said; it’s what’s not said that mat­ters. So how, then, to in­ter­pret Lewis Hamil­ton’s ‘non­speak’ af­ter a scin­til­lat­ing Monaco GP weekend, in which ten­sion sim­mered be­tween Mercedes’ two aces and reached boil­ing point dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing, and just – just – stopped short of bub­bling over into some­thing messy?

Some con­text: in re­sponse to me­dia ques­tion­ing fol­low­ing a race in which Hamil­ton and team had yet again jug­gled su­perla­tives, his re­sponses were muted to say the least. Quizzed as to whether he and Nico Ros­berg would “share a pizza” and thrash out their dif­fer­ences over Nico’s Satur­day slither up the Mirabeau es­cape road dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing (foul or fum­ble?), Lewis of­fered: “I don’t re­ally have an an­swer for you there.” Ros­berg, for the record, reck­oned: “We al­ways sit down and dis­cuss it and then move on. And that’s what we’re do­ing this weekend also.” Then came a ques­tion about what Lewis had meant on Satur­day, post-qual­i­fy­ing, when he said that he would han­dle any fall-out from Mirabeau-gate “like Senna”.

“I don’t know,” Hamil­ton an­swered. “I can’t re­ally re­mem­ber to be hon­est. I think it was just a joke. Ob­vi­ously I didn’t…” [‘…take Nico off at the first cor­ner,’ one as­sumes is the un­spo­ken im­pli­ca­tion].

A fur­ther probe, this time into whether Monaco, and ear­lier 2014 races, had been

“truly one-to-one”. Lewis replied: “I don’t fully un­der­stand the ques­tion.”

Cu­ri­ouser and cu­ri­ouser. Hamil­ton is a man quite ca­pa­ble of ef­fu­sive elo­quence when things have gone his way. Yet af­ter Monaco, a race in which he was beaten by only the tini­est of mar­gins and might eas­ily have won had it not been for a qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion blighted/ ma­nip­u­lated by a Ros­berg-in­duced yel­low ag, he was lit­tle bet­ter than silent. Who knows what goes through Lewis Hamil­ton’s mind at mo­ments like these; what slights he per­ceives? We’ll prob­a­bly never know, but he does paint him­self as vic­timunder­dog when re­sults have not gone his way.

“Of course he does,” his sup­port­ers will de­clare. “He’s a nat­u­ral-born win­ner, satised only with vic­tory.” And yet by wear­ing his heart so proud on his sleeve, he ex­poses ten­sions of char­ac­ter that may yet be fur­ther ex­ploited by a highly tal­ented and hugely canny team-mate. How­ever hard it might have felt to prof­fer a hand to vic­tor Ros­berg on the podium, would Lewis’s 2014 ti­tle am­bi­tion not have been bet­ter served by just such a mag­nan­i­mous ges­ture? A con­grat­u­la­tion through grit­ted teeth? No, that was a reach too far for a sen­si­tive, com­plex, spir­i­tual soul such as Lewis.

Truly though this pair­ing has echoes of Lauda/Prost and Prost/Senna, as a marginally greater out­right talent meets a ri­val in equal ma­chin­ery, who brings gifts over and above the most sublime wheel­craft.

Lewis and, in­deed, Nico, who wrought a sec­ond straight Monaco mas­ter­class, are lucky to be driv­ing for a team ca­pa­ble not only of de­liv­er­ing the W05 Hy­brid, a ma­chine likely soon to be re­garded as an F1 Meis­ter­stück, but also in­tent on man­ag­ing driver re­la­tions, rather than con­don­ing in­ter­nal war. Mansell/Pi­quet-era Wil­liams this is not. In­stead, with a man­age­ment tri­umvi­rate of Toto Wolff (ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, busi­ness), Paddy Lowe (ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, tech­ni­cal) and Niki Lauda (non-ex­ec­u­tive chair­man), Mercedes are blessed with a team tough enough to ab­sorb blows, yet deft enough to is­sue sooth­ing balm via me­dia chan­nels.

A more con­trol­ling, less em­brac­ing cul­ture might have re­acted de­fen­sively, rst to the con­tested yel­low ag dur­ing qual­i­fy­ing, then to the ex­po­sure-by-me­dia of mu­tual driver an­tipa­thy. In­stead, Wolff was con­tent to ac­knowl­edge that both his driv­ers were “in some ways like teenagers” and there­fore needed, and would con­tinue to need, guid­ance. Con­ced­ing that the ex­plo­ration of bound­aries to which the team could be pushed was “a dy­namic process, still be­ing cal­i­brated,” Wolff ex­plained that his two charges were: “both very dif­fer­ent

and re­quire time to be spent with them to un­der­stand what they need, to func­tion at their best.”

Whether both can be kept happy in what’s be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly fraught ti­tle cam­paign was, Wolf ad­mit­ted, less clear. “But over the long term I think we can – al­though there will be peaks in ei­ther di­rec­tion.” Peaks and, in­evitably, troughs, for with just four points be­tween these gifted pro­tag­o­nists af­ter six races (Nico’s 122 to Lewis’ 118) the chase should go all the way to Abu Dhabi, leav­ing the ‘loser’ doubt­less bereft.

Such lofty con­cerns will not, this year, trou­ble Marussia’s Jules Bianchi, but af­ter a pol­ished race that net­ted the team’s first ever points (two, for P9), he could hold his head high among com­pany blessed with far more lav­ishly re­sourced ma­chin­ery. “At dif­fer­ent times,” he said, “I had both Jean-Eric Vergne and Ro­main Gros­jean be­hind, and they weren’t re­ally able to catch me. I felt I drove a good race with good pace, but this is all thanks to the team.”

There was no dan­ger of this plucky band get­ting above them­selves af­ter their long­sought break­through and sport­ing di­rec­tor Graeme Low­don caught the mood per­fectly as he quipped: “Of all the places to score our first points – Monaco. We can’t af­ford to cel­e­brate!”

There was al­ways the Red Bull En­ergy Sta­tion to re­pair to for a can of some­thing cold, and the chance to rub shoul­ders with the man who’s ren­dered his four-time cham­pion team-mate anony­mous: Daniel Ric­cia­rdo. There he was, not gloat­ing, just smil­ing, af­ter an­other stel­lar drive – this time to P3. That said it all

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