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Every other day a former or current driver comes out and says that they want to see people fight for the win, yet when it comes to having real competition, each and every one of them chickens out.
“I feel for the fans because I remember the period of time when Michael Schumacher was winning.
“I remember waking up in the morning to watch the start of the race and then going to sleep, and then waking up when it ended because I already knew what would happen.
“I am pretty sure a lot of people were doing that, at least in my family.
“It’s strange, you know. Me and Fernando in fifth and sixth at the end, and having our own little battle, we are of higher calibre than that. We should be further ahead and fighting with the world champions at the front, and with Sebastian.”
“I guess that shows where the sport is today.”
Lewis Hamilton, October 6th 2013 on the topic of Vettel winning his 4th race in a row without really being challenged.
Fast Forward >>
“If we’re serious about winning the world championship, probably not.
“Red Bull is a great team, but it’s like giving Ferrari our engines.
“We don’t really need it. We are good where we are.”
Lewis Hamilton, September 6th 2015, on the topic of supplying engines to Red Bull
And don’t think I’m singling Lewis out. He learned that from the best. Ayrton Senna vetoed competitive team mates at Lotus and in his later years he had exclusion clauses in his contracts to avoid being partnered with Prost or Mansell. Michael Schumacher fancied himself subservient team mates, and although Vettel lobbied at Red Bull to sign Kimi, he certainly wasn’t too saddened by the fact that he got to overshadow an increasingly hopeless Mark Webber for another year, even if he would have preferred the better team atmosphere. The easy wins probably made up for it.
Let’s face it, what we fans want is not what the teams want. They want easy wins and preferably no competition whatsoever. Monza and Mercedes are a case in point.
The tyre pressure saga really divides the TJ13 team. There’s Hippo and there’s the rest of the team. While I find Mercedes’ story just a little too riddled with plotholes to believe it, most of the crew blame it mainly on FIA.
What it shows is, that in a pinch teams will do whatever it takes to win, and even when they are ahead as far as Merc are now or Red Bull was in 2013 or Ferrari in 2003, they still continue to push the rules to the breaking point. Why? To secure their domination. And we fans are becoming just the same. The whole Lewis Hamilton brigade is utterly content with the state of F1, because their idol gets an easy win every two weeks. Mind you, that are the same people who were giving eulogies to F1 in 2013, because they thought it was utterly ridiculous if one team won everything.
Truth be told, back then in 2013 I had nothing to complain about. My favourite driver clocked up the numbers and I liked it, but watching him this season taught me just how hollow those victories really were. I remember only a single race of 2013, and I don’t even remember if it was Korea or Singapore, where he opened a gap of 24 seconds in half as many laps after a safety car, but that’s as much as I remember beside Multi21.
Malaysia and Hungary this year, now that’s two races that will stay on my mind as will China ’09, Abu Dhabi ’10 or Monza ’08.
The fact of the matter is: By the end of 2016 Lewis will have climbed to the very top of the record books and it will be as meaningless a bunch of stats as those of Vettel, because, first of all, they will still be miles behind Schumacher and people will always remember that they achieved those numbers in cars that had no competition whatsoever.
You could say the same about Schumacher, but he built the team he won with. He went through five hard-fought seasons until they became a dominant force. Vettel and especially Hamilton came into competitive teams right away and neither of them has helped to ‘build up’ those teams. The pre-Vettel Red Bulls were mostly hampered by hopeless or past-their-sell-by-date drivers and Lewis reaps the harvest that’s been sown by Brawn, Schumacher and Rosberg.
That’s why Lewis’ u-turn irks me. Vettel at least tries to emulate Schumacher and went to Ferrari at a time when they were definitely not at their best. Two years ago Lewis was the biggest and loudest proponent of closer competition. Now that he can collect his 30 second gap wins with his thumb up his bottom, he doesn’t fancy the other world champions fighting at the top any more. In hindsight it was just his way of saying ‘I want the dominant car’. Just like everybody else in this business. Make no mistake, Vettel might have gone to Ferrari when they were down, but his ultimate goal is getting back with them to the days when he starts on pole and just disappears into the distance unchallenged. That’ll be the day when I fondly remember that magnificent drive in the Toro Rosso or sitting in a London hotel, laughing at Richard’s sour face when Vettel scored this year’s Malaysian GP win that Richard had assumed as Lewis’ god given right before the race even began.
It’s not only Lewis or Seb either. Lewis’ employer puts it into much more unmistakable words:
“We have waited sixty years to attain a dominant position in F1 again. Helping a team with Red Bull’s resources would make no sense as they could become a serious opponent.”
Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche.
If we ever want to see F1 the way it should be, the powers that be have to drop the current rules and make ones that let other competitors catch up. Watch the 1997 season. Look where Ferrari was at the start of the season and where they were at the end. Testing bans, wind tunnel restrictions and faux green engines and token limits have given us the meaningless circus we’ve been watching since 2009.