Brought to you by TJ13 Editor-in-Chief, Andrew Huntley-Jacobs
Nico Rosberg needs to put the F1 opening flyaway races behind him and treat Barcelona as a new beginning from a psychological perspective.
The facts are that Lewis has won three of the four races this season – and has finished ahead of team mate Nico Rosberg in all four. Hamilton leads the world championship and is 27 points ahead of Nico.
This kind of apparent early season domination could crush many a chasing competitor. So will Rosberg crumble or can Nico be content with his start to the season? And have the F1 commentators who laud Hamilton’s dominance ignored important factors which are worthy of consideration?
Last time out, Rosberg tried to box clever by saving extra life in the tyres he was to use at the start of Bahrain race. Whilst he achieved that objective, it meant he lost his flat out driving rhythm for Q3 and this allowed Vettel to snatch P2 on the grid.
Niki Lauda reveals he told Rosberg before the race not to “dwell on the matter with complex explanations. Just admit you’ve made a mistake, clear your head and go racing as though this is the start of the world championship”.
After the chequered flag, the former triple world champion had nothing but high praise for the German, despite him coming third in the race. “Nico drove a crazy race; he had a long brake pedal, sometimes it was short and finally if failed. That he was so fast in the circumstances is incredible.”
Yet it was another win for Lewis and an encouraging 2nd for Ferrari and Kimi Räikkönen.
This time last year, Nico Rosberg was heading into the European leg of the F1 season, four points ahead of Hamilton, but Lewis had won the previous three races. Nico’s win in Australia was also fortuitous because Hamilton retired when a $5 wire failed on his car.
A glass half empty approach sees Nico Rosberg a relative 31 points behind where he was this time last year in his battle with Hamilton.
However, behind the headlines it could be Nico is more positive about his situation than reported, and a glass half full perspective suggests he has reasons to be encouraged.
Certain drivers favour or perform exceptionally well at certain race circuits. Then there are other venues they never quite master. For example, the great Ayrton Senna never won Formula One races in South Africa, Austria or France.
Australia is like a high speed karting circuit, and a favourite of Hamilton’s. He has 5 podium finishes in 7 races completed – together with a DSQ and a DNF.
China is another ‘Lewis’ track, where he has now scored five pole positions, beating Rosberg this year to the top spot by just 0.042 seconds. Only three other drivers in Formula One have achieved five or more poles at one venue, which makes Hamilton almost untouchable on the asphalt in Shanghai.
Malaysia is another strong circuit for Lewis with five podium finishes in the nine visits he has made to Sepang.
If Nico has any regrets from the first four races this year, it should be about the last F1 weekend in Bahrain. The German took pole position there in 2013 and 2014 and it is not a circuit Lewis has particularly excelled at. Prior to his Mercedes wins at the Sakhir circuit, Lewis had just two previous podium finishes with a second place in his rookie year and a third place in 2010.
So adopting a PMA, given that the brake issues that affected Rosberg in the desert were beyond his control, Nico should console himself with the fact that there will be more Mercedes unreliability later this year. If the F1 gods share out this misfortune, his missed opportunity may not be so vital.
There is also other encouragement for Rosberg to take from his 2015 performances. Nico has been much closer to his team mate than he was in the early season exchanges of 2014.
Rosberg’s average qualifying deficit to Hamilton over the flyaway races has shrunk from 0.701 in 2014 (which included him beating Hamilton to pole in Bahrain) to 0.317 this year.
So if Nico can repeat the one lap qualifying performances he delivered at the circuits he favoured in 2014, then Lewis may find himself under more pressure than he is feeling at present.
In a year where qualifying ahead of your Mercedes team mate is looking to be decisive, Nico needs to remember he beat Hamilton 12-7 in qualifying last year, though he has already handed one of those back after four races.
Rosberg has also been a lot closer in terms of the average gap at the end of each race than he was in 2014, but granted, this statistic is open to manipulation by Mercedes.
Looking forward to Barcelona, Nico can take heart when considering Lewis has just the one career win at the Circuit de Catalunya under his belt. However, we can’t count out another Ferrari win at the Spanish GP. The expected high track temperatures and the abrasive asphalt will favour the SF15-T chassis which is kinder on tyres than the W06.
So in the face of the current Hamfosi triumphalism 😉 I present the case for all F1 fans who hope to see meaningful races for the driver world championship hereon in – rather than Hamilton domination. This of course assumes this battle is primarily between the Mercedes drivers.
As Lauda says, Rosberg needs to ‘reset’ his mind at each new race venue and refuse to allow the understandably joyous Hamilton band wagon to get to him.
Of course the weight of history demonstrates that prior to 2015 when the first four races of the year have been won by the same driver, that driver almost inevitably marches on to the drivers’ championship.
And Niki Lauda knows well the mental challenge facing Rosberg. In 1984 when under extreme pressure from an up and coming Alain Prost, Lauda has recounted many times how he chose to focus only his strengths and ignore the times when Prost was unbeatable. The Austrian eventually won his third world title that year – but by just half a point.