Strike one to Lewis Hamilton as in-house Mercedes battle hots up
Mercedes
Posted By: James Allen  |  31 Mar 2014   |  2:58 pm GMT  |  334 comments

[Updated] “Strike one to Lewis,” said Hamilton’s former team mate Jenson Button, after the Malaysian Grand Prix, where the Briton beat his current team mate Nico Rosberg by almost 20 seconds.

It was an important psychological blow for Hamilton, but Rosberg seemed calm, knowing that he had extended his lead in the world championship.

“I can’t remember the last time in my career I had a gap like that, with a team mate, in the same car,” said Hamilton to a small group of reporters after the race. According to some quotes in the British newspapers, Hamilton claims he “blew him away”, meaning Rosberg.

In fact his quote was “I was pulling away” – it was misquoted from an audio recording which has been heard by this website.

“Lewis was out of my reach,” admitted Rosberg after the race. “I was just trying to chase him but he was a bit too quick today. It was a bit difficult out there because the track was really poor, it seemed, sliding so much, and just struggling with the rear tyres especially. That made it a bit difficult.”


There is no question that the in-house battle between the two old friends, Hamilton and Rosberg, is going to provide great entertainment and interest this season, with both knowing that they have a car capable of making them world champion, but only one of them able to take it.

For all Rosberg’s pace in practice and in qualifying, Hamilton has taken pole twice this season when it’s mattered; the Malaysia one being particularly impressive given the wet conditions. Rosberg had the edge on intermediate tyres early in the session, Hamilton was faster on full wets in the deluge.

Hamilton had a significant edge in the race and was able to enhance his reputation for managing these complex new cars with ERS and fuel management to be considered as well as tyre management.

But it was noticeable that Rosberg’s handling issues, which had not shown up in practice and appeared from nowhere in the race were a concern for the team, taking a little of the shine off the first Mercedes 1-2 of the modern era.

In the back-stabby world of F1 paddock gossip, senior figures in rival teams are convinced that Mercedes would like the German (Rosberg) to win the championship, in the same way as the received wisdom in 2009/10 was that Red Bull’s bosses wanted their own graduate Vettel to be champion rather than the “outsider” driver Mark Webber.

There is no sense of that at close quarters from Mercedes. They know Hamilton is the greater talent, which is why he is paid the big bucks, but they also have huge respect for Rosberg and see no limit to what he can achieve. It doesn’t feel pre-ordained from a close study of the operation.

Next stop Bahrain: Hamilton has never had pole or a win there, but has scored podiums. Rosberg was on pole last year and it is a track which suits his style, so the competition between them will be intense once more.

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1

Will be interesting to see if LH can maintain consistency for a full season, he historically has been up and down at different times.

2

Lewis has shown many, many times that he is capable of performances like this. He has left no doubt during his career of how fast he is, especially how fast he is when he is really on it on days like in Malaysia.

The question for Lewis is whether or not he can start consistently delivering performances like this. If so, it’s going to be a long season for everyone else with Lewis sailing into the distance in an unstoppable car. Much like the last seasons have been with Vettel behind the wheel in an unstoppable Red Bull.

Also, I think a lot of people were really off the mark when they said that Lewis would be lost with the new car. He’s clearly better at mastering the subtleties of new technology. You can’t not be good at this and succeed to the level that he has in this sport. But more than that, I think these cars really suit his driving style. They seem to be a bit naturally tail happy, with the loss in rear downforce and the amount of torque that the engines are producing. That’s Lewis’ style: get the front end planted in the apex, have a square car with a lot of power on the exit or for the second part of a complex of corners. It may not be theh only thing taking him to such a huge win, but it could explain about 3-4 seconds of that 17 second win over a teammate who couldn’t keep up in a car that was sliding the rear and destroying his rear tires. And if the balance of the car is suiting Lewis over Nico, it could be another long race in Bahrain, as it is absolutely critical for a driver to have the right balance in order to go quickly there.

3

I think the interesting battle of the season will be between Rosberg and Vettel – for second place in the drivers championship – and the bickering between the two has already started!

4

It will be interesting to see if Hamilton can dominate in Bahrain this weekend, I feel it will be very tight myself. Call it what you will but he never seems to find the consistency like Alonso to constantly dominate Rosberg, probably because they are both super talented.

5

Why would they tell the leading and faster driver to let his team mate past. Do you know what that would do to hamiltons morale.

Hamilton would never listen to rubbish like that. the bottom line that he whupped rosberg and its down to rosberg to prove he can respond.

I personally believe rosberg chances of betaing hamilton this season are slim to none.

And slim left town.

6

So you think Mercedes should give teamorders against the faster driver?

7

Is it possible that Mercedes may well have made their first mistake of the year if they want to take home both drivers and constructor tittles. By letting Lewis win and not swapping the two drivers around during the race. The 7 points difference which Nico would have gained, at the end of season maybe the difference between a Mercedes driver taking the title or Vettel taking the his 5th. Once Redbull get their power unit up to speed and the whole team is focused on one driver then Nico and Lewis taking points off each other maybe their undoing. This Brackley based team only need to look back to 2009, if Jenson had not won 6 of the first 7 races and Rubens had won a coupe instead things may have turned out very different for them.

8

It is FAR to early to start favouring one driver over the other. Nico could have 3 DNF’s in a row now and then those 7 points would be completely wasted…

9

Lewis gets the first two poles of the season, and you think that he should have handed the win that he fairly earned to Nico so that he plays a supporting role from round two onwards ?

What have you been smoking ?

10
Tornillo Amarillo

Nice article James, balanced, thanks.

HAMILTON was cruising, and ROSBERG could not catch up, so it’s clear that:

– if both drivers finish the race, usually HAMILTON is ahead

– usually both drivers would finish most of the races, so… We have an idea indeed.

11

Rosberg has been compromised by low tyre pressure to not bother Hamilton on the one year anniversary of teamorders against Rosberg to avoid a similar event this year. But the main thinking behind it is the team owed Hamilton after the Australia engine failure and Rosberg went along because he had no say in the matter and he knows he wouldnt be sitting on a 18 points cushion now if Hamilton had completed both races. Mercedes wants a confident Hamilton, not a gloomy one like in 2011 or second half last year and a dominant victory they hope will do the trick.

Anyway this is closer to the truth than (in order to make his triumph more impressive yet) starting the rumour of Hamilton given #2 driver treatment after a weekend where his car was clearly faster than that of his teammate. Maybe british logic works different or more likely just the usual propaganda by SKY, BBC and Co. to blow every british achievement out of proportion. In Bahrain the faster strategy is a two stop as opposed to three stop in Malaysia so you also have to look after the tyres again. It will not be a onesided whitewash again like in Malaysia even if the outcome might be the same but not with a 20 second margin. Rosberg has done his duty in playing second fiddle in Malaysia and Mercedes will now give both drivers an equal playing field again.

12

I’m just stunned how any person could believe such a fairytale posted by f-duct. I don’t know what I find most disturbing..the laughable story itself or the fact that poster (f-duct) has strongly convinced themselves of such absolute drivel.

13

If I was Lewis I wouldn’t even mention beating Rosberg comfortably, I’d keep my cards close to my chest and focus on the job in hand. Let’s see if he can constantly beat Rosberg because he tends to have a spectacular race then all of a sudden looks nothing special. I’d try and rock the boat as little as I could and quietly try and destroy him, I hope he’s right when he said he learnt some tricks in practice.

14

More anti-British anti-Hamilton PAP. Lewis won fair and square. He has outqualified Nico twice this season.

I’m thankful that Nico and Lewis are able to race on equal terms at least.

That wont happen at Red Bull.

It may surprise you that some British people like to see British drivers do well. I know I do.

Rosberg did not play 2nd fiddle at Sepang. He was beaten by the better driver.

15

You’re right Hamilton did beat Rosberg fair and square but there’s been a lot of publicity on how he destroyed him, none of it Hamiltons fault though, even though he tried to explain why he beat him so clearly. I’m not knocking Lewis but I wouldn’t give any reasons why and just do my talking on the track. I don’t care if Mercedes would prefer Rosberg to win as long as they give Hamilton the same chance and treatment. I’d like to know who’s been spreading these rumours because there’s usually no smoke without fire.

16

Just another case of the media fabricating drama to make a story out of something so minor! Its been well known Nico and Lewis have been buddies since they were young and their rapport is solid. Of course they are both highly competitive race car drivers who both want to win very badly, but I don’t believe in a heartbeat there is any animosity between the the two, no matter what the outcome. It would have to take some kind of “MULTI 21” type of debacle for any dissension to arise. I don’t see that happening so long as the team stays on top of the constructor standings and Nico and Lewis rack up podiums.

The media needs to step off!

17

Whoever wins out of the two of them, Aldo Costa has given Mercedes one fine design of a racing car to go to war in.

18
roberto marquez

For me Formula 1 is about RACING . I find unfortunate there is so much RACISM embedded in it. I hope Lewis wins the championship to shut up a lot of sunday drivers.

19

Sadly I have the same conclusion.

It’s been going on since the start of his career.

20
Mike from Colombia

100% agree. Anyone but Hamilton for these folks.

21

Dazzler,

I have spent hours on here arguing with Quade and others that tires shouldn’t have been changed last year mid season. We also talked about how RBR pulled further into 2013 with their development to lock it up as others “gave up”.

Am I happy with the domination in 2011 and 2013? No. But were there challengers those years? Yes. And no one but RBR appears to be able to take on the rocket MB have built this year.

So for sake of excitement, let’s all cheer for RBR to challenge! 🙂 ok…that last past was just for laughs.

22

James

Have you heard the rumour that Mercedes would prefer Rosberg to win the title firsthand?

23
Mike from Colombia

It is a rumour so it would not be first hand

24

Hamilton loves oversteer and that’s apparently what the 2014 cars are all about.

I can’t substantiate this with hard facts, but it seems that the start is still a weakness for Hamilton. If Vettel would not have been able to block Rosberg in Malaysia he might have very well taken the lead after the first corner. Who knows what then would have happened. I am pretty sure Hamilton fans are quite nervous each time he starts from pole.

Alonso is quoted to state that he is not unhappy with his points thusfar compared to Vettel and Hamilton. No mentioning of Rosberg.

For me, Hamilton will beat Rosberg this year with consistent starts and equal DNF’s and/or other problems.

25

I tend to agree with you. In fact, if Lewis and been in Rosberg’s place, he would not have stolen that place from Vettel, and would also have been mugged by Ricciardo. Rosberg’s placement of his car in the opening laps was a masterpiece.

Lewis had this skill initially when he came into F1. Everyone knew that even when he didnt qualify on pole, he was likely to be leading at the end of the first lap. Unfortunately, due to multiple first lap collisions a la Grosjean, and subsequent penalties, his fighting spirit was effectively neutered. From 2011 onwards, he has generally lost more places than he gained. This was not the case in his first 2-3years in F1.

26

If you watch again Hamilton got a better start than Rosberg, it was only once they got upto speed that he caught Lewis, probably through the slipstream.

27

To certain extent a faster package flatters all top class pilots.

Classic example being Vettel and RBR for the last five seasons. Is vettel the qucikest driver out there? Certainly big NO.

Another clown team is Ferrari are very good example as well. they promise too much in the pre-season and winter test (LDM stated this will reds year, Ferrari will win WDC in 14 blah blah). Once the season starts Ferrari team have found out how far they are behind mercedes in terms of raw pace and Stefano D have already started excuses to defend himself and the team at the expense of their pilots.

When you say rosberg is not just talented enough to maximize the car potential, it also underlines the fact Lewis is much quicker and better pilot than rosberg. Anyways we did the see this domination in the last few seasons (RBR-Vettel) and the new rules have changed the pattern a bit (Mercedes-Lewis) i will take the second option anyday simply because there is no controversies in terms of the car nor the pilot

Lewis is too quick for rosberg and he will bag the WDC if Mercedes can keep the relaibilty woes away from lewis car. In fact lewis may bag the WDC in some style

28

Wonder if Hamilton would have won if Rosberg wouldn’t have blocked Vettel twice.

One time in qualifying and one time when Vettel was in DRS to Rosberg but was stopped by a yellow flag and after two round the tyres weren’t could enough anymore.

29

Really grasping at straws

30

Wonder if Hamilton would have won if, if, if and if. Guess what, you will never know.

Really glad Rosberg blocked the whole field to help Hamilton. Otherwise he probably wouldn’t have won at all.

🙂

31

Funny

Rosberg didn’t block anyone. Vettel could not catch him. End of Story.

Hamilton made best use of the quickest car.

Like Button did in 2009 and Vettel did 2010-2013

32

James,

Slightly off topic here so i apologise for that, but with the new regs in F1, where the cars have 50 less kg of fuel in them so the FIA can blow the environment trumpet, but how much extra equipment / personel are used / transported to each race to create this “green” racing era we are in.

33

Also, what is clear is that their so called frienship will crumble sooner, rather than later.

Watching Rosberg, he seems to take it more personally when Lewis beats him in qualifying or in the race. Lewis seems to be the one always making the effort to speak to him or offer congratulations.

I predict that relationship will degrade as the season progresses. If this subconsciously forces the team to take sides (as Whitmarsh did with Button), then i fear it will not go Lewis’s way. Merc is German. Rosberg is also German, and Lauda is Austrian. ALL three are closer to each other than they are to England.

34

Funny thing. I have been watching them since they were kids (used to compete in senior uk and Europe gearbox karts) Nico has never taken it well when Lewis wins and I often think that Lewis should just stop trying to bridge the gap between them when he does. He has always been faster and rather than sulk or stomp off to a different class Nico should suck it up and do his best to develop some additional racer/driving skills instead of assuming the mantle of the thinking driver.

Sometimes you have to just race and while these formulas play into the hands of such drivers by reducing the gap to natural chargers you still have to suck it up and get on with it.

35
Alexander Supertramp

“I often think that Lewis should just stop trying to bridge the gap between them when he does”

The issue was brought up last week and I basically said the same thing. Lewis was congratulating Nico after the race, giving him a hug. He did this with good intentions, but I don’t think congratulations for P2 are often appreciated by these competitive guys when your team mate is the one in front..You sometimes get the feeling that Lewis almost gets apologetic for winning.

Cut the crap, shake hands and may the best man win.

36

True, Alexander….well said.

37

How anyone thinks Rosberg will have the edge over Hamilton this season based on talent alone (DNF’s excluded)is simply beyond me; irrespective of Rosberg’s much vaunted, but less witnessed intelligence.

Lewis beat Rosberg last year, and the gap would have been much higher if corrected for DNF’s and mechanical failures. He beat Rosberg in a car Rosberg had been driving for the past 3yrs, with essentially the same DNA, and being bedded in the same team for the past 3yrs.

Lewis did this despite going into a new team with a whole new way of doing things, new procedures and processes, new personnel, new car, brake/ balance issues and being unhappy with the car’s characteristics for most of the season.

This year is a LEVEL playing field for both drivers, most of the issues he struggled with last year are already gone or mitigated. It is a new learning curve for both divers, and with the new regulations focusing on energy recovery and fuel conversation, qualifying position is far more important than it has ever been. Furthermore, he seemed to have mastered the “Lift & Coast” method of getting the most out of the cars this year

Lewis will beat Rosberg, and will do it far more convincingly than he did last season. Whilst Rosberg is indeed a fast driver, they are certainly not “evenly matched” in terms of qualifying or race pace.

Barring costly DNF’s, Lewis will win this Battle of Teamates.

38

“Lewis beat Rosberg last year, and the gap would have been much higher if corrected for DNF’s and mechanical failures.”

Well, Rosberg had, after all, two DNF’s and Lewis had one, and 3 points were taken from Rosberg and given to Lewis (Mercedes Multi21).

Lewis is in fact the faster driver and I like him because he is a racer. I just don’t rate Rosberg that high, so he is probably not a good benchmark. In my opinion Rosberg isn’t the fastest of the german drivers, not even the second fastest.

39

But Rosberg inherited an easy win as a result of that plus a SV retirement. And take a look at the corrected qualifying statistics (ie not those that include the grid penalties) that has to hurt.

Lewis was miles out there at Silverstone – and that puncture handed it over.

I recall the Pirelli chap saying at the start of the year that if they made harder tyres then Red Bull would walk away as they had seen the comparable load data in winter testing.

Puncture – Red Bull and others uproar – harder tyres – and nine in the bag…

40

Sorry, you lost me at the third if-when-then junction.

41

Will Hamilton and Rosberg poach points from each other and allow the competition to sneak into the championship at the end of the season? It’s happened before – Nico’s dad comes to mind.

42

Car flatters Lewis. His emotional curve will come down sooner than later. He is quick but too dependent on car.

Rosberg is not just talented enough to maximize perfect car compared to his teammate.

Car is just too good to make conclusions about driver input there.

So, Lewis will leave always something on the table and Nico will clean it up. Their only hope is the car that is much faster than the others.

If the best thing in this season will be their battle to watch… well, oh dear…

43

Vettel’s car flatters him too.

He is however considered a genius.

44

He’s seen as a genius because in the merc it would be a matter of when no if he would win the title.

Also Vettel still best of rest and maximising his car.

45

He is seen as a genius.

But he is not. Not anymore than Lewis,Kimi or Fernando.

He simply got the most out of the best package.

When Button had a car advantage he won the title.

Made the best of it.

46

Before the start of the season I thought Rosberg was going to have the upper hand over Hamilton but after that race I think it may go Lewis’s way. I know it is only one race but Lewis was head and shoulders above Rosberg in all areas – qualifying, race pace, tyres, fuel, wet, dry! I have read that Bahrain is more suited to Rosbergs style so we can wait and see if he has an answer for Hamilton’s form this weekend.

I have always enjoyed watching Lewis race but my opinion of him has gone up a level!

47

Lauda’s one of the least sentimental people around. He wants a Mercedes 1-2, I shouldn’t think he gives a damn what the driver order is as long as the former is achieved.

48

I think there’s no doubt Hamilton is the faster driver, but there’s not a great deal in it. But in reality, if this championship does turn out to be between the two of them, it’s more likely that reliability will decide it. And Hamilton is already one race down.

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