Reigning F1 champion under-performing!

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Lewis Hamilton, the reigning Formula One (F1) world champion, and his team, Vodafone- McLaren- Mercedes, started the new season with their fingers firmly stuck on the self-destruct bottom, not too dissimilar to the way they conducted themselves in 2007 and 2008.  In 2007 McLaren were excluded from contesting the constructors-title after being accused of obtaining confidential technical data belonging to their arch rival, Ferrari.


In his first season, Lewis Hamilton was on the brink of making history by becoming the first rookie to win the F1 drivers championship.  That year Hamilton departed Japan for the penultimate race in China in buoyant mood, with a jaw dropping 17-point lead over Kimi Raikkonen, of Ferrari, and with his then McLaren team-mate, Fernando Alonso, a further 12-points adrift.  Yet, in one of the worst collapses in sporting history, over the final two races Hamilton managed to beat Alonso only on count-back and allowed the ‘Ice-Man’ Raikkonen to take the title by a single point.    


McLaren-Mercedes, despite the blistering start to the season by Jenson Button and the Brawn GP, who have won four out of the five races so far, still regard Ferrari as their main challenger.  Lewis Hamilton and his crew believe once things settle down and all the teams get to know their new cars better, it will be McLaren and Ferrari fighting for both the drivers and constructors titles just as they did in 2008.


This gives a little insight as to why McLaren-Mercedes felt the need to mislead the race officials after an incident involving the Toyota of Jarno Trulli during the season opening race in Melbourne, Australia.  McLaren wanted to maximise on points while their number one nemesis, Ferrari, were struggling  getting to grips with the new regulations which saw the introduction of  radical changes in the design of the 2009 racing cars. These new designs are intended to make over-taking easier thus making for a more exciting viewing for spectators.


It was very disappointing that McLaren, after the faux pas of the two previous seasons, hadn’t learnt any lessons and were still operating with the same reckless abandon and lied to race officials about whether or not they instructed their driver, Lewis Hamilton, to let through the Toyota of Jarno Trulli under safety car conditions, which a driver should not do unless instructed to by the race controller for the purposes of un-lapping themselves and forming behind the race leader. An audio was played during the ‘liar-gate’ hearing proving they had indeed instructed Hamilton to let Trulli pass, but still, incredibly McLaren were adamant.


The opprobrium was overwhelming and eventually Lewis Hamilton was forced in front of the world press to make a contrite and humiliating apology.   


The ‘liar-gate’ furore has long been (partially) resolved; McLaren were given a suspended three-race ban; we hope their mendacious ways are now behind them, we can look forward to seeing Lewis Hamilton edge his way back up on to the podium; where we’ve all become to expect as a given right after he thrilled us with some of the best drives ever seen in Formula One for a long time during his first two seasons.


McLaren will be hoping for better results in Monaco this weekend-it’s a circuit that they’ve dominated at for the past two seasons. In 2007 Fernando Alonso won the race; Lewis Hamilton thought he was faster than Alonso during the race but was not given any opportunity to pass the Spaniard; afterwards, Lewis and his Dad, Anthony Hamilton, could not hide their frustrations-this set the stage for some of the best duel ever seen between team-mates in F1 since the days of Senna versus Prost, Hakkinen and Schumacker. The following year Hamilton won the race; and this is what he says of the circuit:


Monaco is my favorite circuit. The sensation you get from racing up the hill at 175mph, trying to make as straight a line as possible between the barriers while just shaving them with the walls of the tyres is unbelievable - the best sensation you could ever have in a Formula One car. There’s an expectation that Monaco will be another good circuit for our car package because the combination of low-speed corners and absence of any really fast stuff should suit MP4-24. I really hope so because it would be fantastic to have a competitive car and to be fighting at the front again.”


This time last year Lewis had 28-points going into Monaco, and in 2007 he had 38-points, this year his only managed 9-points thus far.  Lewis Hamilton was on the podium for 9 consecutive races in his rookie season; in his third season after 5 races he is yet to climb up the podium steps.  As if the malfeasance of the past wasn’t enough for McLaren - Lewis now not only has to contend with the rapidly improving Ferrari-he now has to do battle with a car that is powered by the same Mercedes-Benz engine that has propelled him to numerous race victories.


The Brawn GP, made up of the defunct Honda team, and now powered by Mercedes- Benz; are miles-ahead of the chasing pact. Their driver, Jenson Button’s dominance sees him go to his ‘home’ Grand Prix – he lives in the principality – with 41 points.  Brazilian team-mate Rubens barrichello is 14 points in arrears.


It is unlikely that Hamilton will retain his crown this year; the McLaren driver finished ninth in Spain and trails Button by 32 points; but he should, at some point, win a race or two. Either way, one thing for sure is that we will see some fantastic battles through-out the season as all the other drivers chase-down the Brawn GP’s.  If Jenson Button wins 3 more races, he will look good for the drivers title; after that he can settle for 3rd -4th or even 5th positions in other races while the other drivers take points off each other; I just don’t see any other driver winning 7 or more races this season.


Like the current Manchester United line-up, or Michael Jordan’s rampaging Bulls of the 90s’, this should have been Lewis Hamilton’s ‘Three-Peat’ season; but Hamilton fell victim to his own meteoric rise to the top; he believed the hype; the buzz he had created, he let it ‘go-to-his-head’, he disobeyed team orders; crucially his team also believed the hype, they failed to control Lewis and Alonso, eventually the two team-mates destroyed each other.


Lewis Hamilton still has an opportunity to do at McLaren what Michael Schumacker did at Ferrari, especially since he is the undisputed number one driver at the team; his team-mate, Heikki Kovalainen is not in the same league as him.  So, Lewis better pray that they don’t bring in Sebastian Vettel, the Red-Bull driver, as a team-mate any time soon.  Vettel would be the equal of Hamilton and could even get the better of the Brit.







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