Back in the UK after three weeks in Brazil, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi and it’s not that cold! I usually get back at this time of year and fail to wear enough clothes and get a cold, cough, anything else. But it’s still quite warm and if it hadn’t have rained this morning, I would have given the lawn its last mow of 2015.
Those are the sort of things that occupy the mind after being away five weeks out of the last six. That and sending off those final invoices. I have a great long list of things to do but first of all I have to look back at Formula One last weekend and the slightest whiff of a stink that’s arising.
Excuse me if I just concentrate on the last race rather than look back over the whole year; can’t do that yet and now we’re hearing noises that all is not well at Mercedes, who have just dominated the championship. If you can’t do that in harmony then maybe you need to change the line-up – which is just what some people think might be on the horizon – although not for a year.
So Mercedes dominated again – actually, did they dominate? I think Ferrari were closer than they’ve been for some time and that was with the increasingly curmudgeonly Kimi Raikkonen rather than his more good humoured and normally quicker teammate Sebastian Vettel. He had every reason to be miserable after Ferrari royally stuffed him in qualifying; incredible how these things can happen but it once again just goes to show how tiny the margins are between getting it gloriously right and getting it disastrously wrong. And Formula One teams wear their hearts on their sleeves; it’s all there in the spotlight for all the world to see.
As you’re probably well aware, Kimi finished just 11s behind Lewis Hamilton after 55 laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Sure, Lewis’s teammate Nico Rosberg was another eight seconds ahead, but Mercedes had worked on the best strategy for both of them, and frankly they weren’t that far ahead of Ferrari, and that had been the case in practice as well. But for the moment, we can only imagine what might happen next year. Even if Ferrari are getting closer, Mercedes could pull further away again.
The body language chez Mercedes is what is capturing the attention at the moment, however. It’s totally switched since the throwing of the cap in the cool-down room at Austin. The first corner manoeuvre there seems to have had lasting repercussions following the similar incident in Japan. Is that what has ignited Nico’s fire? Or is there more to it as Lewis has alluded; the possibility of ‘something on the car’ which has just cost Lewis those fragile tenths which exist between first and second on the grid? Six consecutive pole positions and three consecutive wins for Nico have been the result, with Lewis now the aggrieved recipient of dirty air, unstable aerodynamics, the second placed driver’s treatment when it comes to strategy and tactics, just as his teammate has suffered before that.
It was Rosberg who was the man complaining that he couldn’t get close and couldn’t overtake, now it’s Hamilton. Has he relaxed since clinching the World Championship? Those tiny tenths suggest not, I would say. He’s still pushing as hard as he knows; these guys are ultra-competitive, they don’t know how to lose.
But suddenly Lewis is back to being the aggrieved party, just as he was at Monaco earlier this year, questioning his team’s decisions. Is that the right thing to do during a race? Before or after, OK, but during? There are many minds at work formulating the right strategy, working for him on his side of the garage. They are the loyal subjects who have worked to win him his last two World Championships. Should their intelligence, experience, teamwork be questioned so publicly?
I read today that Toto Wolff wants to work with ‘nice people.’ Just who is he suggesting is nice and who isn’t? I would say any racing driver who is losing – especially to his teammate – isn’t necessarily nice so that means both of Toto’s drivers at some stage this season. Even Sebastian Vettel has tried to lighten up Nico, but now it’s Lewis who is playing the little boy lost. See him riding alone, in his own space, during the drivers’ parade, firmly plugged into his music – whatever that may be – doing his Michael Jackson bit. What is it? Sad? I guess there are some parents out there who have similar problems, but not with adult sportsmen!
Oh well, so it will continue. I guess it’s no different to the problems we find off the race track, in the paddock, where there are teams in trouble financially or perhaps managerially. There are teams requesting financial help, others losing their staff, two teams with an engine problem, three more with a loss of identity. There are permanent pleas for a greater financial reward for the participants, thanks to the high cost of this World Championship, but someone out there ‘sold’ the championship for their own gain and now the sport is no longer owned by those who should benefit from it.
The one positive that we did have recently was that there are four specialist companies out there willing to supply competitive but reasonably priced engines. How good would that have been, that we might have had another two or three teams participating and filling up the grid? But no, the offers were rejected because of the usual short-sightedness and self-interest which has come to dominate the paddock. We all know it, the guilty parties all know it, but we just seem to be in a downward spiral.
And so we head into the off-season with those stories ringing in our ears. Teams will be doing phenomenal things to prepare for Melbourne in just 109 days’ time, or testing in Spain considerably earlier. New cars are already planned, build programmes established. We can only look forward to a new season and new excitements. We know it’s going to be good; let’s take a slice of Eric and Ernie and look on the bright side!
By Bob Constanduros