By Carol M. Creasey
Ever since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last weekend, when Max Verstappen had a tyre blow out, and Sir Lewis Hamilton found himself in sixteenth place after accidentally hitting the ‘brake magic’ button, while passing Sergio Perez to take P1, the armchair critics have had a field day.
They have referred to it as a “rookie error”, and poured scorn on the seven-time world champion’s hard fought achievements. However, before all that we saw Toto Wolff reminding everyone that Sir Lewis does not make mistakes, and he would not want anyone else in that car. This is a reminder to Verstappen who has stated, with the exuberance of youth, that he ‘would be two tenths faster than Hamilton in a Mercedes’. Mercedes have also stated that this magic button has failed before as George Russell did the same thing when pulling in for a pit stop in Sakhir, and they are currently working on improving the mechanism.
So far Verstappen has just four pole positions under his belt, in six or seven years, whereas Sir Lewis has one hundred, and even Charles Leclerc, who made his Formula 1 debut in 2018, has five more than him. Maybe Verstappen should wait until he achieves more before he makes these sorts of statements.
As for being faster in a Mercedes than Sir Lewis, Valtteri Bottas has been his team mate since 2017, and his struggles this year are apparent, so why Verstappen thinks he could just get in the car and be faster is beyond me! The reason why Toto would not want anyone else in the car is because Sir Lewis makes the difference, as he proved last week. He put his all into last weekend, fighting with a less than competitive car, and he does not deserve all the criticism that has been levelled at him!
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But there is one driver who has history with Sir Lewis, Felipe Massa, who fought against him many times, and was in fact denied a world championship in 2008 when Sir Lewis overtook Timo Glock on the last bend in Brazil, to claim it by one point. Although I was delighted that Sir Lewis had won his first championship in not the fastest car, as they did not win the constructors title that year, I had a lot of sympathy for Massa, who came first and was celebrating with his team before the overtake. I can only imagine how gutting that must have been for him.
But such is the character of this man. He has lauded Sir Lewis for his achievements, stating that, ”he is a perfect driver“, no doubt in response to all the negativity that has been aired since last Sunday. He is excited about the rivalry between Sir Lewis and Verstappen, and feels it is so good for the sport, which is indeed what the Briton has already said. It is nice to see someone who raced our champion back in the day, before Verstappen came into Formula One extolling his virtues, exhibiting no signs of jealousy at losing out on the championship. I thank Felipe for his honesty and loyalty towards Sir Lewis, when there are some fair weather fans and the media who don’t know one end of the car from the other, who have made it their business to criticise from the comfort of their armchair.
Next week we are back in France, and as we speak, Mercedes are working hard to rectify their “poor performance”, in Toto’s words, driven on and motivated by Sir Lewis and Toto. The 2021 car is a “small diva”, as described by Toto Wolff in the early days of the season, but Sir Lewis will continue to make the difference as he has been doing since joining Formula One in 2007.
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