You have to admit that Nico Rosberg is on a roll at the moment: five consecutive pole positions, second consecutive win and his second consecutive win in Brazil. He doesn’t have an explanation for how it’s turned out that way and Lewis Hamilton really doesn’t have one for being beaten by his teammate, but one’s tempted to suggest that the pressure is off Lewis and he’s relaxed a little too much.
That’s not something any racing driver will admit to, and you only have to see his demeanour to realise that he’s upset to be losing these races. It’s almost as though it’s something that he doesn’t have any control over. He can’t work it out either, he doesn’t feel that he’s relaxed, so why is he losing out to his teammate?
Actually his answers after Brazil were kind of odd. The complaint that you can’t follow anyone around the circuit; surely it’s been the same for years; indeed I remember seeing a quote saying that it’s the third easiest circuit on the calendar on which to overtake. Sebastian Vettel said that ‘on paper, this is one of the easiest tracks to overtake.’ What happened there, then? And I longed for Nico to reply ‘well, now you know how I’ve been feeling this year.’
To be honest, we’re not used to seeing Nico defeating Lewis; it had happened three times this year before the last two races. Is it coincidence that it’s happened since Lewis clinched the championship? Coincidence since changes were made to the car at Singapore? Coincidence that it has happened since the new rule on tyre pressures which came into force in Monza? No one can really tell us – including the drivers – so we’re in the dark.
But Lewis was adamant that he was there to race Nico and could have done so. Nico kept mentioning that Lewis was never really close enough – over seven seconds back at the end – and Lewis kept reiterating that it could have been much closer if you could follow another car. It was quite funny to listen to really, almost the closest they’ve come to having a public argument all year.
As I mentioned, Interlagos is meant to be a relatively easy circuit on which to overtake and there were two DRS zones. The one on what is referred to as the main straight actually didn’t start until halfway along that section coming up the hill and it was mentioned by Lewis that the DRS zone could have been longer, which might have had more effect.
Lewis was also eager to chose another strategy, to change the plan in order to try and get past his teammate, something which came out during and after the race, but even Nico – who might have benefitted from something like this earlier in the season – suggested it wasn’t the best strategy for the team, which is why you had to stick to the plan.
After the race, Vettel didn’t mince his words when asked what was wrong with the sport that you couldn’t overtake, and it’s worth repeating here. ‘ Sure, if you’re behind you always want the DRS to be longer because artificially it helps you get closer. Naturally, if you are only a tenth or two quicker then it’s very difficult to pass – whereas if you’re a second quicker it becomes more easy.
‘I think in general what we need to follow another car closer in medium speed, high speed, slow speed corners is more mechanical grip. So shift the percentage between aero-mechanical more towards mechanical. How to do that? I think we need better tyres that allow us to go quicker. Drivers want to be quicker so I think the solution is very simple.
‘Unfortunately the sport is very political with different interests from different people. Yeah, I think it’s fair enough to give whoever tyre manufacturer – in this case Pirelli – the chance to improve their tyres, but we need to run.
‘But since the responsible people, the teams, whoever, can’t agree on something, it will be difficult to make progress. Unfortunately, the people who are literally paying for that are sitting on the grandstands. So we would love to go quicker. I think they would love us to go quicker and have more excitement, but the bottom line is, if you look at ten years ago, 20 years ago, it wasn’t like there was a lot more overtaking in the race. So it’s not a disaster, what we saw now…’
There are some pretty wise words in there and some interesting knocking of the ‘responsible people’, those responsible for the situation to explain it in more detail and pointing out that everyone has their agenda. Once again, it is a case of the sport not being ruled by the governing body, but allowing everyone to have their self-interests. But the words of a multi-World Champion should be heeded; well done to Sebastian for expressing them in public.
Just a word about Pirelli in Brazil; I was expecting very early pit stops as the soft tyres really didn’t last longer than about five laps last year but they’ve been changed since then, and were rather more durable. Even so, the pit stops came earlier than even Pirelli thought they would and once again, we had a multi-strategy race .
We also saw one particular driver having a fantastic race. Once again, Max Verstappen impressed mightily. What a driver he is, overtaking around the outside of the first corner. And when he admitted that he had been influenced by a manoeuvre some years ago, it just goes to show that he’s still at school, still learning and still willing to do his homework. He deserved better than ninth place.
And it was good to see Hulkenberg, Kvyat and Grosjean in the points too. Amazing that both McLarens finished; they were expecting a very early bath, especially after their practice problems.
I am already in the Middle East for the finale of the World Endurance championship this weekend in Bahrain. I came through a very grey Frankfurt yesterday, to be greeted by clear blue skies today. Don’t even know what the temperature is, but I’m sure we’re going to have a very settled Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi as the finale to the Formula One World Championship. Two days after it, Pirelli are having a very secretive but thorough test with all the teams to determine tyres for next year. We won’t have the results of that test for several weeks, if not months, but while Pirelli’s initiative is to be admired, I fear that other interests might influence the eventual outcome.
By Bob Constanduros