Formula’s silly season is in full swing and news of late has turned to the top drivers in the circus who have yet to confirm their teams for 2015.
We all know Sebastian Vettel has announced his departure from Red Bull Racing, but where he’ll go is still not known. The best informed opinion is – and team boss Christian Horner alluded to it before the ill-fated Japanese Grand Prix – that the four-time champion will occupy the seat vacated by Fernando Alonso.
Now-retired Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo this week said the Spaniard was leaving the Scuderia for two reasons: “One, he wants another environment. Two, because he is an age when he cannot wait to win again.”
While Mercedes may have just clinched the constructor’s title, for the first time as a standalone team, we shouldn’t forget that the driver’s crown for 2014 is yet to be decided. That honour will fall to one of the men driving the Silver Arrows as the W05 has proven the class of the field this year.
Thanks to an innovative turbocharger solution and the performance advantage the Brackley-based team gained from the W05’s optimised packaging, Mercedes AMG has dominated this season. In fact the silver cars have only failed to win on three occasions this year, when Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo was happy to take the spoils, judging by that huge grin of his…
Nico Rosberg must have been quite happy when his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, didn’t finish the season-opening grand prix in Australia as it made him the early points leader. But Hamilton showed why he is already a world champion by bouncing back with four successive victories.
Fun und games, ja?
This included a thrilling, wheel-to-wheel duel in Bahrain where Rosberg claimed pole position but the German was beaten into Turn One by his team-mate. Hamilton claimed that victory with a brilliant display of driving that saw him lead his team-mate by ten seconds, only to have his advantage whittled down to nothing when a Safety Car period was called.
At the time, the Englishman thought he was just have a bit of fun and Rosberg felt that the duel was a little too close at some points in the race. The son of the 1982 F1 world champion reportedly said: “I strongly dislike finishing second to Lewis but on the other hand it was the most exciting race I have ever had in my whole career. Today was a day for the sport. I hope you all had a lot of fun. ”
Frosty conditions at Merc
Since that day in April the team dynamics have changed significantly. There was that controversial first lap incident at Spa when Rosberg tried to make an ambitious pass on Hamilton, puncturing the race leader’s rear tyre and effectively handing the race to Red Bull Racing.
More telling was the mistake Rosberg made in Italy. At a track that favours high speed bravery the 2008 Champion reeled in the race leader. With Nico occupied by what was going on behind him he made a braking error into the first chicane and Lewis took the lead – then the win.
In atrocious conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix Lewis pulled off, what must be, one of the bravest and most spectacular overtaking manoeuvres of all time. In equally-matched machinery, which should make overtaking even more difficult on a track renowned for processional racing, Hamilton went around the outside of race leader, Rosberg, in the pouring raining and made the pass stick.
Even though the post-race scenes were quite subdued, in part to an early halt to proceedings due to the nasty accident experienced by Jules Bianchi, you could tell from the body language of the protagonists that Hamilton was in the ascendency and Rosberg was dejected.
Rosberg’s nerve started to unravel even further when, at the most recent Russian Grand Prix, he made a rookie error by trying to win the race at the first corner. Despite having a better run up from the start line to T1, Rosberg snatched the Mercedes-Benz’s brakes entering T1 and flat-spotted his tyres so badly that he had to stop for fresh rubber at the end of that lap.
He would recover and drive well through the field to claim second place, but the German demonstrated – not for the first time this season – that while he may have the pace when given his own piece of track, he does not like battling head-to-head with his team-mate.
Again on the podium, while Mercedes was busy celebrating its maiden title, the body language of the two men spoke volumes. Hamilton seemed to be mentally planning where he would place his 2014 trophy, to match his 2008 version, and Rosberg must be wondering how he is going to deal with the Briton for another full season.
With three rounds to go, but double points on offer at the season finale in Abu Dhabi, there is all to play for and a non-finish for either driver will be extremely costly. Judging on from, however, only cruel luck can deprive Hamilton of a second driver’s championship title.