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F1 Racing - - 2014 SEASON REVIEW -

was go­ing to say. He’d made a mis­take. He’d mis­judged the mo­ment. He hadn’t in­tended to take Lewis out; he’d just wanted to crowd him. Could he, though, ad­mit that he’d got it wrong? Driv­ers of his cal­i­bre aren’t sup­posed to make th­ese sorts of er­rors; they are pre­sumed to have per­fect judge­ment.

As the race pro­gressed, Nico be­came more con­fused. His mind wan­dered into time-wast­ing, tyre-dam­ag­ing passes down the inside in vain at­tempts to over­take Seb Vet­tel. De­spite driv­ing the fastest car, and be­ing on fresher, softer tyres, he could do noth­ing about Daniel Ric­cia­rdo’s Red Bull in the clos­ing laps. He nished sec­ond – but by then he had com­posed his story. Far from ad­mit­ting a mis­take, he would in­stead tell the team that he’d hit Lewis in­ten­tion­ally. That was the ma­cho thing to do.

And while Nico had to live with that, and with the im­pact it made on the team, his words had an un­ex­pected ef­fect on Lewis. Ini­tially in­censed, by mid-week Lewis had found a new level of condence. It went like this: ‘If Nico has to re­sort to that sort of stuff to beat me, then he’s never go­ing to out­race me or out­drive me. As­sum­ing me­chan­i­cal re­li­a­bil­ity, I’m go­ing to win.’

There­fore it was a new Lewis Hamil­ton who raced at Monza – just as it was a new Nico Ros­berg who raced in front of the Ital­ian crowds. Lewis Mk II (Mercedes era) had never been more condent, more sure of his car, more com­fort­able with his team and his po­si­tion within it. By con­trast, Nico Mk II was less condent, chas­tened by the ne im­posed by the team man­age­ment, and con­fused by his own un­der­stand­ing and ex­pla­na­tion of what had hap­pened at Spa.

Sud­denly it was Nico who was lock­ing-up the front Car­bone In­dus­trie brakes and us­ing sec­ond gear where Lewis would be snick­ing it into third. Sud­denly it was Nico who was us­ing more fuel than Lewis. Sud­denly it was Nico who was mak­ing ma­jor un­forced er­rors in race con­di­tions. The mo­men­tum shift was enor­mous.

Both Mercedes driv­ers strug­gled with brake tem­per­a­tures in Hun­gary, in the wet – and with the po­ten­tial for glazed discs – but it was Lewis who bet­ter man­aged the small-win­dow CIs. He started from the pit­lane in the spare W05 (Ros­berg raced the same chas­sis – 04 – all year; Hamil­ton raced 05 apart from Hun­gary, where he raced the spare chas­sis – 03 – after his race car caught re in Q1), worked his way through the eld, lost time to the lead­ers when Nico be­came trapped be­hind Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso, and then ig­nored ‘in­struc­tions’ when in­formed from the pit­wall that Nico was on an al­ter­nate tyre strat­egy. Although Toto Wolff told the Aus­trian press im­me­di­ately after the Hun­gar­ian GP that Lewis’s lack of re­sponse had cost Nico a win, it’s clear that Lewis was cor­rect to ig­nore the in­struc­tion and that Mercedes were wrong to give it to him: Lewis’s car lost fuel pres­sure over the last six laps in Hun­gary. He would un­doubt­edly have won that race with a healthy en­gine. And his tyres were in good enough shape, con­trary to ex­pla­na­tions given

The turn­ing point: when Nico struck Lewis at Spa, Lewis lost the race but gained the moral high ground that mo­ti­vated him all the way to his sec­ond ti­tle

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