Can you get it back on track, Lewis?
Oh, Lewis, what can the matter be? You haven’t won a race since the German GP in July and now, for the first time in your four F1 seasons as team-mates, Nico Rosberg looks as if he might win the title – and he’s driving like a man who believes he can. Your triumphant crowd-surfing at Silverstone, where you blitzed the British GP to close to within a point of Nico at the top of the drivers’ table, already seems a lifetime ago.
To be fair, an almost-certain victory in Malaysia was snatched from you by a crankshaft big-end bearing failure, and comeback drives in Spa and Suzuka showed you’ve lost none of your speed, elan, or gift for theatre.
In Singapore, though, you were bested by a Rosberg who joined up probably his most seamless race weekend ever after outqualifying you by 0.7s – a huge margin, given the usually fine slivers of time that separate you on Saturdays. Then, in Japan, you had provisional pole snatched away by Nico; the kind of morale-sapping trick we’re used to seeing from you, Lewis. And in both Japan and Monza, start-line woes of some kind compromised your getaways, to leave you playing catch-up.
In isolation, the odd instance of bad luck or imperfect judgement can be seen as nothing more than statistical outliers. Taken together, particularly when you have a team-mate on the form of his life, they begin to describe the tale of a championship slipping from your grasp.
But more than this, Lewis, there’s the suspicion that you may in fact be the author of your own misfortune; that the absolute intensity and focus needed to beat a team-mate as hungry, indomitable and, yes, as talented as Nico Rosberg, has wavered.
It’s not a great idea to use Snapchat in the FIA press conference, Lewis. Sorry if you’ve started to find them dull in your tenth season as an elite sportsman, but you’re paid tens of millions of dollars a year in part to put up with these moments of tedium and, believe it or not, we actually do want to hear what you have to say. (Not so interested in your sketches of Carlos Sainz as a rabbit, though.) A previous FIA regime would, I am certain, have fined or one-race-banned you for such behaviour under the handily all-inclusive article 151(c) of the International Sporting Code. That’s the section that takes exception to anyone deemed to have brought the sport into disrepute.
The media reaction to your e-doodling was predictably hysterical in some quarters, prompting you into the retaliatory barb of cutting short your own post-qualifying press conference in the Mercedes motorhome, in a gesture of blatant payback.
The thing is, Lewis, this is all a bit unnecessary and decidedly infra the dig of a three-time world champion who has the ability to become, perhaps, the greatest driver of all time.
Nico Rosberg, meanwhile – nine-wins-this-seasonand-counting Nico Rosberg – keeps tapping out his title-chasing rhythm ‘one race at a time’.
It’s not too late, Lewis. How much do you want it?