By Carol M. Creasey
Both Britons were delighted to find that in practice their cars were much closer to Red Bull and Ferrari. It got even better in qualifying, and by the time they reached Q3, it was so close between the top three teams. It looked as if Lewis could challenge for either the front row, or even pole position. But in the final moments of his last flying lap, Sergio Perez crashed, so Lewis had to abort. It was particularly frustrating, as it had been noted that he had been a tenth up on Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc. In the end Lewis had to settle for P4 and George for P6.
The Orange Army were out in force to support Verstappen, but unfortunately some of them just didn’t know how to behave, they were throwing flares, and one person was removed when a flare landed on the track. One has to wonder why security even allows the fans to bring flares into the circuits, as the smoke can impede a driver’s view, and as for people in the stands, if anyone has any sort of respiratory problems, they would really suffer from the fumes.
When the Dutch Grand Prix started, Lewis made a good start, although Sainz made contact with him in the fight for third place. Luckily neither of their cars sustained any damage. It was pleasing to see that Lewis on his medium tyres was maintaining pace with the drivers around him, who were on soft tyres. He later switched to hard tyres, and the plan was to go until the end, but then following Yuki Tsunoda’s retirement, a Virtual Safety Car came out.
Lewis then switched to mediums, and was running in P2, before another full Safety Car was deployed, due to Valtteri Bottas’ DNF. Max Verstappen, who was running in P1 at the time, came in to switch to soft tyres. This left Lewis and George in P1 and P2 respectively, but after Lewis had passed the pit entrance, George asked to switch to softs, leaving Lewis on older tyres like a sitting duck at the restart. Naturally, he was easily passed by Verstappen and George, and then Leclerc, meaning that he was off the podium and in 4th place.
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Many fans were unhappy that George did not hold up Verstappen and act as a rear gunner for Lewis, but instead opted to put on his new tyres and focus on his own race. Some said he was not a team player, but others felt he had a perfect right to do his own race, and steal second place from Lewis. At the time Lewis was very angry and frustrated with his team, but when he was being interviewed afterwards, he calmed down and spoke positively about Mercedes’ improved pace.
It is very noticeable that Perez has been sacrificed this year to aid Verstappen’s world championship, he has had to hand the race lead over to Verstappen on at least three occasions, because Red Bull does not allow them to race. Mercedes does not operate in this way, their drivers have equal chances, and they are allowed to race each other. So, when Lewis won his seven world championships, he did it with team-mates who were allowed to challenge him. Much has been made of the fact that Russell is 30 points ahead of Lewis in the championship, but those figures do not reflect the truth about this season. Lewis sacrificed his own chances by testing out different set-ups from the start of the season, in an effort to improve Mercedes’ troubled car. Once Lewis stopped running experimental set-ups, he beat his team-mate in 5 consecutive races until his retirement last week.
What matters the most to Lewis is to see the team get closer to their rival teams, and he has played a big part in this by working closely with the mechanics to improve the car. He is a very stoic person, no matter what is thrown at him, he will not buckle. Toto Wolff has said that when the team was shaken up, due to a terrible start to the season, it was Lewis who did everything he could to keep their spirits up and keep them motivated. I am sure that with the determination and strength of character that he has, he will get to stand on the top step of the podium this year. I wish him the best of luck, he certainly deserves it. George Russell is lucky to have a mentor like him, it bodes well for his future.
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