Brought to you by TJ13 Editor in Chief Andrew Huntley-Jacobs
In our pre-season podcast predictions, I said I felt this year Nico Rosberg would push Lewis Hamilton harder than he did in 2014.
The driver’s title last year went down to the last race of the season, which is pretty close, and double points inflated Lewis’ margin of victory when compared to the points system of 2013 and 2015.
Yet despite this I felt Rosberg having ‘lost’ his first drivers’ title would do what Nico does and go back to the drawing board to find how he could improve.
Following the Austrian GP, Rosberg admitted “racecraft was the area where I needed to push on a little bit from last year, and this year it’s really coming good so I’m happy about that.”
This was evident in the mountains of Styria, as the German overtook Hamilton at the start and then proceeded to drive away from him on both sets of tyre compounds.
Rosberg was around a third of a second per lap quicker than Hamilton on the prime tyre during the race, which was surprising to many observers.
If the F1 app supplementary information is to be believed, Hamilton was putting in far more steering input and throttle than his team mate from start to finish during the race. Further, Lewis’ braking stats were around half those of Rosberg.
Much of this would be to do with the understeer Hamilton was suffering and the constant lack of grip which led him to brake less and lift and coast more.
So is Rosberg closer to Hamilton this year?
In an attempt to answer this question we must compare the seasons to date.
- Australia: Ham (0), Ros(25)
- Malaysia: Ham (25), Ros (18)
- China: Ham (25), Ros (18)
- Bahrain: Ham (25), Ros (18)
- Spain: Ham (25), Ros (18)
- Monaco: Ham (18), Ros (25)
- Canada: Ham (0), Ros (18)
- Austria: Ham (18), Ros (25)
Rosberg led Hamilton 165: 136
Mercedes ability to run their first engine to the Canadian GP and have no DNF’s after eight races, bodes well for both drivers will finishing each race of the season.
In 2014, Lewis was leading in Australia when his car failed and was also second in Canada when forced to retire because of brakes. Add back in those points (and reduce Rosberg’s tally to 18 for Australia) and you get the following 2014 table after the Austrian GP.
Hamilton would have led Rosberg 186:158
The adjusted difference at this stage of the season in 2015 is then much closer, because Rosberg is pushing Hamilton harder this year.
Hamilton currently leads Rosberg in 2015 169:159
Interestingly, a significant difference between last year and this is that Hamilton has dominated Rosberg in qualifying. He is now 7:1 ahead of Nico compared to 4:4 at this stage last season.
Yet Nico is within 10 points of the world champion and has won 3 of the last four races. One clearly fortuitously.
One of the other predictions I made on the podcast was that Lewis would dominate the flyaway races and then Rosberg would begin to put up more of a fight. Different circuits suit different driving styles and drivers, and for Nico the tracks at this phase of the season in 2014 would deliver his best results when compared to his team mate.
Hamilton had a difficult summer and early autumn in 2014. Rosberg took pole position at Silverstone, in Germany, Hungary and in Spa.
Rosberg was comfortably leading at Silverstone when he had to retire the car, he won in Germany and was stymied in Hungary due to a rain affected race and an internal dispute over strategy preferences.
From pole in Spa, Nico would have been bitterly disappointed to give up the lead to Hamilton, before colliding with him and finishing Lewis race. Improved racecraft would see him better able to defend these situations.
The duel between the Mercedes pair will be fascinating over the next three races. However, if Nico Rosberg is to make a fist of the challenge for the 2015 drivers’ title again, he will need to make the most of his chances before the late Autumn when Hamilton will feel he is back on circuits more to his liking once again.
Since becoming team mates at Mercedes, Lewis and Nico have one Silverstone win each. In just under two weeks we will hopefully see a titanic struggle for supremacy once again in the fields of Northamptonshire – which at present… are bloody cold.