By Carol M. Creasey
At pre-season testing this year it was apparent that Red Bull had the fastest car on the grid, while Mercedes were struggling in many areas, including balance and grip. Despite this, Sir Lewis Hamilton showed his faith in the team by saying he knew they would work day and night to try and understand the car more.
Team boss Toto Wolff also said that after many years of leading the way, there were several issues to sort, especially considering how the new regulations have affected Mercedes. The team’s car has had a low-rake design for years, while the new rules favour a high-rake design, used by Red Bull. Adding to that, their flapping rear wing, which may or may not be legal, it seems that Red Bull have a huge advantage. So at the time it looked like it was possible for Red bull to run away with the championship because, if Max Verstappen is to be believed, ‘anyone who has the fastest car can win the championship’.
Verstappen should have won the first race in Bahrain, indeed he overtook Sir Lewis, but in doing so, he exceeded track limits, so he had to give the position back, and he had worn out his tyres by then, so Sir Lewis was able to prevail.
Toto Wolff recently pointed out that Verstappen also made mistakes in qualifying, and lost a pole position, again for exceeding track limits. He made an error in Spain, which allowed Sir Lewis to overtake him. He was extremely lucky to inherit pole position at the Monaco Grand Prix, after Charles Leclerc wasn’t able to start the race. This meant he could just drive away and win, as overtaking is almost impossible in Monaco. Having said that, he deserves praise for a faultless drive on that occasion.
Verstappen has two wins, while Sir Lewis has three, but even Toto Wolff agrees Mercedes shouldn’t have won some of those races. No matter how much Verstappen says his car is not fast enough when he doesn’t win, the car is not really the problem, instead it’s the way he handles it.
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Sir Lewis knows that in Baku, the track will again suit Red Bull more than Mercedes, as it’s another street circuit. He knows he has to find a way of outwitting the fastest car, either by a great strategy, or his superb tyre and brake management. All throughout this season, Sir Lewis has had to make up for the fact that Red Bull has such a fast car, and he will fight tooth and nail to come out on top.
Back in 2017 – 2018 Ferrari had a car that went well on every track, while Mercedes did not, so Sir Lewis is used to doing the impossible, especially in the rain. It was patently obvious in Turkey in 2020 that nobody could match Sir Lewis on a weekend where he didn’t have the fastest car. What he did have was courage, grit and determination to stay on the track. I hope we see more dancing in the rain from Sir Lewis this season, as its all about the skill of the driver to be at one with his car.
For me, he will always go down in history as the Rain Master. I have seen so many courageous drives from him, and I know even Toto would say there is no room for any mistakes in that situation. Good luck Mercedes, you are still the best team, you treat your drivers fairly, and they are great team-mates. And that counts for a lot!
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