Formula 1: Timely return of the prodigal son
Lewis Hamilton's skills have manoeuvred him into contention again, writes David Kennedy
Published 24/04/2011 | 05:00
T he manager of Force India's driver Paul di Resta was chuffed with the result of the Chinese Grand Prix last Sunday. Not so much for Di Resta's 11th place finish, but because his son won the race.
Anthony Hamilton may have reared Lewis to become an F1 world champion but their relationship has since suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous family squabbles. Hamilton wanted freedom and his dad wanted to maintain the same disciplinary standards that got his son into F1 in the first place. They both agreed to disagree.
When the son unceremoniously fired his dad from his job as manager in March of last year, the genial Anthony redirected his skills into securing Di Resta a drive with Force India, aided by Mercedes, for whom the Scot drove in DTM.
The Hamilton familial relationship has since improved and peace has broken out, but Anthony is seldom to be found in the McLaren pit.
It took Lewis a year to find a new management team in the form of Simon Fuller's XIX Entertainment, and the Brit seems to be steering a steadier course since they've come on board.
In fact, McLaren once considered taking on Di Resta and indeed he tested for the team a couple of times. The prospect of Hamilton and his father's charge becoming team-mates was rivetting. The question is, which half of the garage would Anthony stand in.
Hamilton senior's feet were probably somewhere in mid-air as he watched his son drive one of the best races of his F1 career in Shanghai last weekend. It was as fearless as it was fearsome, as measured as it was merciless. It was a reminder of Hamilton at his glorious best and woe betide those in his sights.
Like Sebastian Vettel in 2010, the third race of the season could be a defining first victory for these two propagandists. It's been a long time since Hamilton's last win -- the Belgium Grand Prix in August 2010 to be precise. He had an inauspicious pre-race drama even before he left his garage to take his place on the grid. A fuel flood caused a bit of panic but his mechanics quickly dealt with it and he left with a minute to spare. Maybe that accounted for his blistering start.
If ever a moment defined the supremacy of one team-mate over another, it had to be lap 36 when Hamilton slipstreamed Button on the pit straight only to audaciously dive down the inside of his team-mate in the next corner.
Incredulity was surely written all over Button's face, as Hamilton, risking life, limb and possibly even his McLaren career had Button not acquiesced, went through the semi-conceded gap. Entitlement was written all over Hamilton's manoeuvre. It was sublime.
In contrast, Button was having a day to forget. Maybe he would prefer to revert to the usual form of qualifying lower and finishing higher. In China, he out-qualified his team-mate, for all the good it did him.
Jenson's accidental visit to the Red Bull pits might been a momentary lapse in concentration but by the time he realised his mistake he had lost vital seconds and he drove to his own crew like a Pit Bull with a red face. Vettel grabbed the advantage to exit ahead of him.
The final humiliation came on the last lap when Mark Webber, driving a sensational race from 18th place, robbed the tyres-tired Button of his place on the podium because the Aussie had saved his soft tyres. This produced a humdinger of a finale. It really was a case of 'she'll be right mate' for the man from Queanbeyan in New South Wales.
It would be too simple to say Hamilton's win was down to McLaren's strategy of three stops against Red Bull's two. China was a combination of classic racing wrapped carefully in tyre usage tied with a bow of KERS and DRS (drag reduction system) to produce the perfect gift worthy of a winner. Hamilton earned the victory even though he snatched it only a scintillating four laps from the finish.
Vettel, in trying to keep ahead of his rival, called on his mighty conjuring reserves but to no avail. If the tyres don't stick you run out of tricks. As too did his KERS.
Back to the front page of the papers, and Bernie Ecclestone has been pouring cold water on the rumour mill that suggests Rupert Murdoch wants to take over F1. Bernie might be 80 years old but some say his curve balls are in fine fettle and that he's on the sharp end of publicity-provoking stories to detract from ones he doesn't enjoy, such as having to answer to German state prosecutors about a $50m payment which a German banker was allegedly paid some five years ago when CVC Capital Partners took over the ownership of F1.
A bit like his F1 cars, the story could all be a case of smoke and mirrors, but nonetheless Bernie is confident he will be completely vindicated.
And so the F1 show rolls across continents and on to Turkey for the race on May 8. As the call to pray is heard from the minarets of Istanbul in two weeks, which driver will be grateful their prayers were answered?
Last year it was Hamilton, Button, Webber, Schumacher, Rosberg and Kubica, who occupied the top six places. Vettel and Webber collided, causing the former's retirement.
This year, Kubica won't be amongst the line-up; he's due to be released from hospital within the next few days for some convalescence at his home in Monaco followed by a spell at rehab in Italy. His focus is ultimately on a return to F1 following his horrific accident in a rally car pre-season, though the prospects of that happening are not good.
Turkey will also host the first round of the GP3 series. The 16-race GP3 Series championship, which supports Formula One Grands Prix across Europe, will see Ireland's Status GP team attempting to turn its successful testing programme -- where it either topped or came second in the time-sheets -- into a podium for one or more of its three drivers, namely Alexander Sims from the UK, Antonio Felix da Costa from Portugal and Ivan Lukashevich from Russia.
The Marussia-sponsored car is all geared and ready to go, so 'Yi anslar' as they say in the city that straddles Asia and Europe, 'ádh mór ort' in Irish, "Good luck" in English, 'Boa sorte' In Portuguese and 'Udachi' in Russian -- hopefully that should cover it.
Sunday Indo Sport