Driver pairings have polarised fans of Formula One for as long as the sport has been in existence. The Senna fanbois hated Prost with a passion, such that Alain publicly requested: “Be a fan of Aryton, just don’t hate me”
Lewis Hamilton aspires to be like his hero Ayrton Senna and in a number of ways both on and off track he is beginning to emulate the great Brazilian. Like Aytron, Hamilton divides fans of the sport like no other current driver. And as with Senna and Prost, it is….
‘love’ Lewis = ‘hate’ Nico
‘hate’ Lewis = ‘love’ anyone who beats him.
All this a rather fun as the comments rage on websites around the world, yet at times the cold hard facts of the who is better than who are simply ignored.
Commentators and F1 pundits are not exempt from this bias and during the Malaysia GP a certain TV commentator throughout the race ridiculed Rosberg for his lack of ‘race craft’. This attack was at its most lengthy during the period required for the German driver to recover his position following the Mercedes strange decision to pit both cars on lap 5.
So let’s look at the facts and whether they support the proposition that Rosberg was vastly inferior at overtaking when compared to Hamilton. The scenario and data are from the period following the withdrawal of the safety car in the 2015 Malaysia GP.
We will examine how each driver regained their pre-safety car race position and the challenges they faced.
Prior to the fateful first Mercedes stop under the safety car, Hamilton was in P2 with Rosberg directly behind him.
Following the pit stop, Hamilton re-joined in P6 but Rosberg had to queue for his tyre change, thus losing out to both Ricciardo and Massa who also stopped. The German was in P9.
So as the safety returned to the pits, the order was
Lewis had two slow (2014+) Force India’s, a Renault powered Toro Rosso and a Lotus up ahead between him and his previous P2.
Meanwhile Nico had much stiffer additional competition in the form of Ricciardo and Massa, both of whom now had new sets of medium compound Pirelli’s.
The cold hard facts are that it took Hamilton 4 complete laps following the withdrawal of the safety car to regain his second place – and he passed 4 cars to do this.
Rosberg took 8 laps to pass 6 cars, so yes – in the ‘cars passed per lap’ statistic, Lewis come out better.
Yet his Nico had 2 much quicker cars ahead of him in P7 and P8 than Hamilton, each with new tyres which Pirelli stated were over 1 second a lap quicker than the primes Rosberg was using.
Once Nico was in the same position Hamilton was following the restart, Rosberg took just 3 laps to move from P7 to P4 between the end of lap 11 and the end of lap 14.
Worthy of note too is the fact that Rosberg’s the spread of time Nico had to regain to return to P2 was greater than Lewis’. By the end of the first flying lap after the restart, the German driver had a 4.69 gap to his eventual P3 target Nico Hulkenberg.
Hamilton’s time spread to P2 was a mere 1.6 seconds as he set about his work.
So, the task was different for the two drivers to regain the positions they held prior to the safety car and the pit stop. Rosberg clearly having the more difficult challenge.
The big picture would suggests there is no evidence to support the view that Rosberg handled the traffic any less ably than did Hamilton. Given the 6 car challenge and spread of time, Rosberg reclaiming P3 is arguably a greater achievement than Hamilton’s return to P2.
Just because well-known ex-racing drivers speak – it doesn’t mean what they say has any foundation based in reality. In fact the reality is that these people are as vulnerable to pre-conceived perception bias of anyone, and the facts at times clearly contradict their opinions.