By Carol M. Creasey
The problems started during 2021 pre-season testing, mainly because the FIA, in an effort to shake the field up, changed the regulations to favour high-rake concept cars. It’s a concept that Red Bull has used for some time and it severely penalised Mercedes with their low-rake design philosophy. It affected balance, set up, even tyre balance, and the car became a “monster diva”, as Lewis put it recently. However, Mercedes accepted the challenge, and did everything in their power to understand the car more.
Lewis is not in the habit of complaining, the more formidable the challenge, the more he rises to the occasion, and he has done that, somehow managing to stay in touch with Verstappen in the championship. To his credit, Verstappen is the first driver to challenge the Briton since Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari, from 2017-2019. People seem to forget how the Ferrari went well on every track, but the Mercedes did not, it is not an easy car to understand, set up, or to drive, but when the sweet spot is found, then it performs admirably.
For most of the season, the Red Bull, by Max Verstappen’s own admission, has been great to drive, and has showed its dominant speed. The Austrian team has thrown everything into the 2021 car in an attempt to help Max win them another championship. There is no doubt he is a very fast driver, and I am sure, as he matures, he will realise he can win races through his sheer speed, and overtaking ability, without needing to resort to harsher measures. So where has that left our Briton?
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He has fought as he always does, but there have been times that he has got out of the car looking exhausted. He almost fainted on the podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix, and because so many fans were concerned about him, he explained he might be suffering from long COVID. With a car that is not dominant as well, it made his job twice as hard.
As if that was not enough, recently at the Brazilian Grand Prix, after doing a stunning pole lap, the FIA disqualified him because of a rule infringement on his rear wing. And it was the best thing they ever did, because it fired him up in an extraordinary way. Against all odds Lewis fought back from last on the grid to P5 at the Sprint Race, and went on to win back-to-back races in Brazil and Qatar, bringing down his deficit to Verstappen from 21 points to only 8. With two races to go he has also announced that his long COVID has gone, and he feels better than ever, in part thanks to Angela Cullen, his physiotherapist. Toto Wolff has described his current form as that of a woken up “lion” and a “superhero”.
With the championship so close, and the unpredictability of motorsport, it’s hard to know who will prevail, but I want to pay tribute to Sir Lewis, for conquering all his demons with his car and his health, and staying in the fight in this hard-fought championship.
Although by his own admission he has made mistakes this year, Lewis has show that he is in a league of his own when the going gets tough. When the odds are against him, Lewis fights back, and his results are proof of that. So, good luck Sir Lewis, stay safe in the last 2 races and win this championship, against all odds!
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