Lewis Hamilton has done a short interview in La Gazzetta dello Sport today in which he says a couple of interesting things.
One is about team mate Jenson Button, the other on Felipe Massa.
On Button he says, “Jenson is very fast and has built around himself a very strong team of technicians. I always want to beat him and I’m never happy if I don’t. But psychologically I don’t see it as a problem. He’s an open person who you can get along with.
“It would be great to fight with him for the world title in 2012, it just depends on the McLaren car.”
This is interesting in that Hamilton highlights the way that Button has integrated himself into the McLaren team and made sure to build around him the team he needs. Having the support network around you in a team is such an important part of doing well in F1.
Both men sent out Christmas cards this year and the difference in them was quiet striking; Button’s was a jokey photo of himself in the cockpit of his car surrounded by this “team of technicians”, engineers and mechanics, all wearing santa hats and pulling faces.
Hamilton’s was a simple shot of him driving his car at high speed. (McLaren’s incidentally, was a very even handed shot of the two cars side by side, racing on snow)
Both men had new engineers, incidentally, last season. For 2012 the track operations side will be overseen by Sam Michael, so it will be very interesting to see what changes he makes and how the two drivers operate when seeking to get the best support for themselves.
Hamilton says that the Red Bull will be the car to beat but adds that “the new McLaren seems far superior to last year’s car.”
On Massa, with whom Hamilton had several run-ins last season, he says, “We often found ourselves close together and Massa is a difficult driver to pass because he never gives you any room. But it’s not something to over-dramatize. I have nothing against him.”
To say that another driver doesn’t give you any room, isn’t to accuse him of anything, but it does imply that he doesn’t race fairly. This was a real talking point in 2011, with Michael Schumacher also on the limit of what was correct when covering a position in a battle. And it’s likely to be a talking point again this year as the DRS wing and Pirelli short life tyres create an increasing number of overtaking opportunities.
Yesterday the FIA issued the final technical and sporting regulations for the 2012 F1 season and there is a change of wording about what is permissible when defending a line into a corner.
“More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted,” says article 20.3. “Any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off‐line, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner.”
In other words, as the edge of the track on the entry to the corner is usually where the racing line is to be found, the driver defending cannot move back fully onto the racing line once he’s covered off a dive down the inside.
This is likely to still be problematic this season as we have seen time and again that definitions and interpretations can vary. Judging what constitutes a car’s width when moving sideways, looking in the mirrors and braking from 200 mph for a corner isn’t always going to be clear cut.
It does give the stewards some clear guidelines to work to, but what will be needed in 2012 is consistency from the stewards in applying the rule. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.