Saturday 21 April 2018

Thunder forecast at Silverstone for the perfect F1 storm

At four wins apiece, an epic battle faces the Mercedes team-mates

Nico Rosberg won his third race of the F1 season with a perfect drive
Nico Rosberg won his third race of the F1 season with a perfect drive

David Kennedy

Lewis Hamilton lost his mojo at the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend, but still he finished second. That just shows the superiority of Mercedes; you can have a bad day at the office yet, by anyone else's standards, second is a brilliant result.

Nico Rosberg, his team-mate, on the other hand, enjoyed a faultless race that began with a good start, vital around the Red Bull Ring. Second on the grid probably helped too because pole position can sometimes be a poisoned chalice. When Hamilton looked threatening, Rosberg upped his game - he's learning rapidly from his team-mate.

When Hamilton overran the pit lane white line, he was handed a five-second penalty, a sort of 'get back in your box' reprimand by the officials. Even without it, Hamilton didn't have the pace to win. The warring team-mates are back to a 10-point gap, in Hamilton's favour.

They say Hamilton is a bad loser. Show me a good loser and I'll show you a fraud. It has to hurt so badly that your face contorts with the brutality of defeat. Post-race, Hamilton definitely debunked Duncan's theory in Macbeth, 'There is no art to find the mind's construction in the face', because writ all over the Englishman's visage was disappointment and anguish. This guy is chasing a third world championship which will put him firmly in the elite and exclusive club of exceptional drivers.

He won titles in 2008 and again last year. He will probably never have a better car or opportunity with which to pull off the triple crown. A new generation is snapping at his heels. Losing concentration for even one race is not an option. That said, consistency could be his saviour. If it comes to a final-race showdown and a few points determine the outcome, my money would be on Hamilton.

Rosberg, a German speaker, won in Austria, a German-speaking country. He drives for Mercedes, a German team. In the post-race anteroom, Rosberg chatted to third-place Felipe Massa in Italian although he's most comfortable speaking English or French. Finnish is a fifth language he learnt because of his father Keke. Rosberg probably gets vicarious pleasure from excluding Hamilton from the conversation.

Hamilton didn't have the privilege of the linguistic diversity that a Monaco international upbringing afforded his team-mate. A council house in Stevenage is as far away as you'll get to a gilded cage, but what Lewis has in spades is a mean streets raw determination that his arch rival could never have experienced on pavements that glisten with gold.

The British Grand Prix is next weekend. Can Hamilton turn the tables at his home race? Or has Rosberg unnerved him?

I think the groundswell of support in Britain will give Hamilton the edge. Silverstone is like a docking station that charges his ambition. He won the race twice - significantly both of those victories were the same year he won a title. Rosberg won it in 2013. Eight grands prix into the 2015 season and it's four wins apiece. Seven poles for Hamilton to Rosberg's one. The perfect storm should deliver a mighty thunder at Silverstone.

The other Nico in F1 is Nico Hulkenberg, the Force India pilot. Like Hamilton and Rosberg before him, he won the GP2 series in his debut year, back in 2009. He also won the A1 championship for Team Germany in 2006/7 (Status GP won it two years later for Team Ireland).

Last weekend, Nico made his debut at the Le Mans 24-hour race for Porsche where he added to his impressive collection of crowns by winning the greatest endurance race in the world. With Nick Tandy from Britain and Earl Bamber from Australia, Hulkenberg, in between F1 race weekend, reigned supreme.

If F1 team owners ever needed proof that the German is worthy of a top-notch seat, it is there in the history books. Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen have had their day and are clinging to the tow-hitch of the sport. It's time they moved on.

F1 team owners suffer their fair share of amaurosis and we are all the poorer for their collective blindness.

A fantastic result at Le Mans in the LMP2 class was achieved by Hong Kong-based KCMG team when Richard Bradley, Nicolas Lapierre and Matt Howson took the class victory in their Oreca 05-Nissan. The team is led by Paul Ip and Naas native John O'Hara, himself a successful former F3 racer. O'Hara is deputy managing director at KCMG. Well done to the team on an outstanding victory and in finishing ninth overall.

The sole Irish entry for this year's Le Mans - Murphy Prototypes - also enjoyed an impressive run, finishing fifth in the LMP2 class and 13th overall in an Oreca 03-Nissan, with drivers Nathanael Berthon, Karun Chandhok and Mark Patterson.

Greg Murphy's team ran Brendon Hartley at Le Mans in 2012 & 2013. Hartley progressed to LMP1 and this year, partnering former Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard, they finished second overall. So Greg can take some of the credit for giving the Aussie a valuable couple of years' experience at the Circuit de La Sarthe.

Fifty-six teams started Le Mans and only 37 were classified; just to cross the finish line after a gruelling and punishing 24 hours is a great accolade in itself.

Roll on Silverstone, the spiritual home of British motorsport. It's the Glastonbury for F1, its rich heritage makes it special. Just before the half-way mark in the season, we have a fantastic battle on our hands.

It looks like a two-horse race, but there's a separate race plus plenty of team-mate wars going on beyond the usual front-row Mercedes lock-out. Hamilton just has to find his mojo next weekend, and the cheering crowd will be even happier.

Sunday Indo Sport

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport