Can you get it back on track, Lewis?

F1 Racing - - NEWS - Fol­low An­thony on Twit­ter: @Rowl­in­son_F1

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?

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