Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio
– 2007: Lewis Hamilton – The best ever rookie?
On this day seven years ago, Lewis Hamilton finished second in Bahrain – adding to third in Australia and second in Malaysia – thus confirming the best start to a rookie season in F1. His subsequent six races garnered him six further podiums.
Quite exceptional in itself but when you factor in he was beating a reigning double World Champion in his sixth season then it was truly staggering.
Or was it? Irrespective of what we think of the situation within Mclaren in 2007 – this kind of performance is being seen more often with drivers debuts.
In our endless search for the best of our sport we make comparisons of different eras, technologies and individuals; always insistent that our memories are the most relevant. I grew up in the original turbo era and watched giants of the sport like Senna, Mansell, Prost and Piquet racing what were state of the art vehicles.
I have little doubt that anyone that lived through the preceding decades will have their particular favourites that could counter my selections and in the same manner the following years have introduced us to further advances and new generations of heroes. But as in everything in life we should take into account all contributing factors to arrive at our conclusion. Surely?
When Gilles Villeneuve drove a Mclaren M23 for the first time at the 1977 British Grand Prix tyre tests – he shook the establishment as he drove completely beyond his capabilities. He was spinning everywhere and although his times were getting faster he looked wild and out of his depth. Then the observers began to realise that he never spun in the same corner twice and his driving became less urgent and he matched the times of the leading runners.
“… I had to learn about the track very quickly. I needed to impress everyone in that test and for me, the quickest way to learn was to go quicker and quicker through a corner until it spun. Then i knew how quick was too quick.”
Unorthodox certainly but as a debut statement of intent it has probably never been matched. Yet he still made mistakes in races because he had such limited experience. He truly came of age two years later.
By the mid 80’s any driver of note was stepping from a F3 or F3000 car with minimal horsepower – compared to a F1 turbo behemoth which required two or three seasons to truly understand the dynamics. That was a major contributory factor in why Senna was lauded immediately.
Aerodynamics, in-car communication, electronics and vehicle dynamics were still in their infancy and the driver’s input and experience were fundamental in competition.
The latest generation of driver has never had to pass through this learning curve; which may in some sense neutralise their reception from the public. Many of the youngsters that have been promoted to Formula One have driven more powerful road cars then racing cars!
Yet with access to countless laps in a simulator, electronics that are cutting edge, a pit crew that can inform the driver of engine issues, tyres not working in their optimum range and other endless parameters – maybe it’s time we returned the sport to entertainment rather than a science project which consumes billions in the name of research.