Fifty Shades of Silver Arrows: The Lewis n’ Nico Story

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Tis’ a beautiful thing, this love. The most disconcerting thing about this picture, to me, is Toto.

The Italian Grand Prix at Monza represented the 50th start for Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as teammates at Mercedes; a not insignificant total in which to draw some conclusions. They are in their third season together and have raced over two different formulae.  

I will take a relatively shallow look at the partnership that seemed destined to manifest since time immemorial… or at least since they were children battling each other in karts.
Lewis: “Don’t you think you should check your pressures?” Nico: “Someone else will do it.”

Lewis: “Don’t you think you should check your pressures?” Nico: “Someone else will do it.”

Below is a snapshot of the raw data associated with the big “ticket items” one often looks at when comparing teammates. Given they’ve been in a front running team during their time together, and over the last two years enjoying the most dominant car, such big ticket items are relatively conclusive, which might not necessarily be the case for a lower-rung teammate comparison. So, from that perspective, fans and fanboi alike are fortunate that we don’t have to dig deeper into Top 5 finishes, Top 10 finishes, Q2 or Q3 berths and the like.

The Stats:

*Third season incomplete, though Lewis is leading Nico.

*Third season incomplete, though Lewis is leading Nico.

Analysis:

– Better WDC “How can you talk if you haven’t got a brain?”

This headline stat speaks for itself. The goal of any driver, ultimately, is to end ahead of their team mate in a series or championship by any “legitimate” means possible. Whether they’ve secured more or less poles, wins or fastest laps along the way is largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Senna and Prost spent two seasons together and finished ahead of each other one time apiece. Both secured one championship each. End of story. The details are largely irrelevant.

In this case, Lewis has beaten Nico in two full seasons and leads him in their third season together. Also, end of story… or is it? Where’s the fun in that?

Win / Podiums “… some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t they?”

Given the front running nature of Mercedes these past three seasons, and the totally dominating margin of the ’14 and ’15 Mercedes in particular, this set of numbers are quite high for both drivers in a similar way as they were for Senna and Prost in the ’88 and ’89 seasons. Mercedes have won a combined 29 races from the past 50 over the past three seasons, which is a 58% strike rate.

Lewis has delivered a substantially higher amount of victories to Mercedes, 19-10, however their respective podium tallies are almost equal, 32-29. This highlights the paradox that emerges by possessing by far the best car in Formula One. It’s something every driver would love, and yet, it’s also something that makes a driver even more vulnerable to mechanical failures or random DNF’s as the points differential between 1st and 2nd place rarely is enough to recover points quickly enough. The title race therefore becomes about consistency, and there’s little worse than a title winner where pure consistency has triumphed over talent and speed – as was nearly the case in the ’14 season.

Poles / Fastest laps “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!”

These stats also favour Lewis overall, but it’s in this area I’ve been mildly surprised by this pairing.

Nico’s been found wanting, time and again, come race day over the past three seasons in one-on-one combat with Lewis.  But he’s given Lewis more than a run for his money in one lap pace, especially on the non-Tilke tracks, so much so that he secured the ’14 qualifying award and thus handed Lewis his first season-long qualifying defeat of his stellar career.

Sure, Lewis may have decided to focus on “racing” and not “qualifying”, and there might be peace in the Middle East one day too, but aside from all the speculation and fanboi-disingenuity of apparently a race driver not being able to focus on going fast on Saturday AND Sunday in the same year, Nico beat Lewis conclusively in ‘14. I often try – and by often I mean very rarely – to recall my thoughts as to what I speculated might be the outcome of a potential Lewis-Nico partnership when it was announced Lewis would leave his creators, McLaren, and join the Silver Arrows. I can’t be entirely sure I can separate my presently evolved memories from what I actually thought then, but one thing I didn’t think was that Nico would trouble Lewis over one lap in any consistent way; such was my regard for Lewis’ one lap pace. Perhaps I overestimated Button’s pace, perhaps I underestimated Nico’s… either way it has be surprising.

Lewis has of course still beaten Nico overall, but there’s no doubt that Nico isn’t leaving much on the table (Hungary and Belgium ’15 notwithstanding) and, often enough, showing Lewis a clean set of qualifying heels. Recently Lewis has lifted his qualifying to a place I expected him to be at the last 3 seasons, but overall, their partnership over one lap has been close.

-Points and Proportions “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

It’s all about the points, isn’t it? Points win championships. Lewis has won more points in every season they’ve been teammates and by virtue of that has more points overall, unlike his three seasons with Jenson Button where Lewis was beaten in 2011 and also beaten overall in points over their three seasons together. Against Nico they’re running at 55% – 45% in Lewis’ favour, more or less within a 10% band. That’s where a top team wants to see a points distribution by their chargers. It’s one of the closer top pairings in recent history, so make of that what you will.

Conclusion:

Moooooooooom! Nico’s hitting me again!

Moooooooooom! Nico’s hitting me again!

For me, the Belgian GP and recent Italian GP were telling. Lewis stepped up at a track (Belgium) where he is historically average at (not bad) relative to his available equipment over the years, while Rosberg looked decidedly average (not bad) at a track, or track style, that seemed to favour him over Lewis in the past three years. Lewis’ qualifying and race execution combined with Nico being nowhere pace wise at Spa and Monza essentially means it’s over for him in ’15, and that’d have been the case with, or without, his Monza DNF in my opinion; such is the momentum Lewis has now.

Over their partnership, Nico can hang his hat on being the only team mate in Lewis’ (junior or Formula 1) career that has ever out qualified him over a full season. That’s not insignificant given the names of Lewis’ teammates include Alonso and Button. This one lap performance has certainly increased Nico’s stock (compared with 2012) as Lewis was then, and is now, known as a one lap master and has proven so again this season finding astonishingly consistent Q3 form. Engineers will be sure that at the very least Nico can get the very best from a car, or as close to, almost every qualifying.

#Blessed –Awww, but they’re friends. Doesn’t that mean we can all be friends too?

#Blessed –Awww, but they’re friends. Doesn’t that mean we can all be friends too?

That aside, it’s clear that it’s only been the domination and the “best car paradox” combined with errors from Lewis (and/or Lewis’ side of the garage) that has allowed Nico to stay in contention each season, in particular the ’14 season. I don’t think this season will see the title go down the last race such is Lewis’ momentum, and I felt that before Nico’s Monza’s DNF.  Nico’s best chance was ’14, a season where Lewis was struggling to regularly find repeatable weekend-long form for one reason or another and Nico was invariably ahead of him in qualifying, giving Lewis more work than was necessary for him to secure the WDC. That chance is gone and moving over at Italy, that clear liquid at Singapore and that strange gremlin at Abu Dhabi may remain with Nico for some time.

So, given that 50 is a nice round number, it’s time to call it. Lewis is better than Nico in pretty much every way, though, Nico is good enough to not only push Lewis over a lap but to also capitalise on any of Lewis’ emo-form slumps and keep the points relatively tight over the past three seasons. Mercedes’ domination is such that even if Lewis wasn’t there, Nico would be world champion of ’14 and likely ’15… again, the paradox emerges. It’s clear, as it was with Lewis’ partnership with Jenson, that Lewis is the only one that can beat Lewis and he has done so often enough to provide us entertainment during these past two seasons in particular – though that fluctuation seems over… for now.

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Lewis’ next challenge is no longer intra-team but it is as Sebastian Vettel’s is… and that is for the Ferrari and Mercedes to achieve relative parity and for them to sort out who will be the greatest of this generation. Let’s hope that’s sorted out over the ’16 season.

 Peace and Love, @WTF_F1
Disclaimer: TheJudge13 provides a platform for Formula 1 fans to publish their voice on matters relating to Formula 1. The views expressed in Voice of #F1 Fans are those of the contributor and not those held by TJ13.
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39 responses to “Fifty Shades of Silver Arrows: The Lewis n’ Nico Story

  1. Sure, Lewis may have decided to focus on “racing” and not “qualifying”, and there might be peace in the Middle East one day too, but aside from all the speculation and fanboi-disingenuity of apparently a race driver not being able to focus on going fast on Saturday AND Sunday in the same year

    Its not about sporting focus, its about mechanical setup – its entirely feasible to focus setup on Sunday at the cost of Sunday and everyone knows there is nothing to be won on Saturday (nothing worth focusing on)

    • I’m aware it’s about mechanical setup. But it’s a matter of degrees… it’s not like the 1980’s / 1990’s. The difference between a Wet setup and Dry setup is remarkably little, let alone a Quali setup and a Race setup compared to back then.

      I find the justification of focusing on one at the expense of the other disingenuous… and I don’t think it accounts for Lewis’ half second qualifying gaps in Hungary or Belgium, or his amazing Q3 form this year.

      Neither do I think it accounts for the inverse i.e. Rosberg’s ’14 form. I simply think Hamilton is more comfortable this year in the car, has done the work to improve and has stepped up in qualifying; but he is fundamentally racing the same. Equally, Rosberg is racing the same too… so much for that change in focus.

      I stand by my view that Rosberg in ’14 got the better of Hamilton in qualifying fair and square, and has been the only driver to do so in Hamilton’s career.

      • Lewis himself said in the second half of 2014 that Nico could see all his data, and that he was going to approach things a different way, do something to outfox Nico. Toto himself alluded to the fact that Lewis was doing something different. The evidence and those 2 hints points strongly to last minute wing adjustments before Q3 that maybe changed the front/rear Df balance in a way that was detrimental to low fuel DRS laps but pprouced a bigger race day payoff in fuel/tyre and/or fuel laden handling.
        Also Nico is as fast as Lewis when he is at his best, and is able to extract almost all performance from the car over a lap, so it wouldnt take much of a Sunday focussed adjustment to suddenly have Nico consistently outqualifyng Lewis and Lewis locking wheels consistently on his Q3 laps.
        Nico is as fast as Lewis, its just that he lacks the relentlessness and race craft (see fuel usage) to show it on Sundays IMHO

    • Hope’s all we F1 fans have left, Mark.

      🙂

      You may join our yearning circle, currently made up of Dobzizzle and I.

  2. Interesting article. Mercedes has given both drivers a very fair playing field, Malaysia 2013 and a few dnfs aside. Unlike the Lewis – Button partnership in which the team actively tried to influence races repeatedly in Button’s favour even to the point of making themselves a farce of a team, Mercedes have been fair to the drivers and the racing fans. They have not tried to manipulate the outcome of the rivalry view strange pit calls.
    So while the Lewis – Rosberg statistics is as close to reality as possible, the Lewis – Button statistic is extremely distorted and unreliable.

  3. Meanwhile, as people try to find things about current F1 which are”interesting”, we still have MotoGP, fortunately. Yet another terrific race at Misano on Sunday. It beats me why the series hasn’t totally eclipsed F1 in audience size.

    • Poor decision by Rossi, he stayed out 2-3 Laos too long. When he got in front of Lorenzo, he should’ve changed bikes on the following lap.

    • Because it’s a different sport. You cannot compare MotoGP to F1, neither can you compare it to NASCAR or MXGP. Yes, they have wheels and make noise, but it takes more than exiting races to win an audience over. And don’t forget, MotoGP has it’s share of boring races too, there’s only a handful of potential winners anyway.
      Having said that, Misano was a great race, please watch a rerun for those who haven’t seen it.

    • One thing I envy at MotoGP is the fact they have 6 manufacturers (Ducati, Suzuki, Yamaha, Honda, ART, Aprilia) and one more could easily come in. While in F1 is the exact opposite! Maybe the WCC should be divided into a manufacturers’ one where points from the highest finishing car would count and a teams’ one, same way at MotoGP, that way some smaller car manufacturers could enter with just one car and still have decent chances of a good finishing position in the manufacturers’ championship.

  4. Agreed on Motogp! I might buy the season pass next year. The races I have seen are epic!

    Come on F1!! Get your head out of your rear…closed cockpits, Baku gp, frozen engines…blehhh

  5. “Lewis is the only one that can beat Lewis and he has done so often enough to provide us entertainment during these past two seasons in particular – though that fluctuation seems over… for now.”

    As you demonstrate here, on-track everything is looking peachy for Lewis and Mercedes for this year and next. However, I do fear that the company and activities Lewis engages in off-track are going to make this golden period shorter than it could potentially be. I don’t see him staying in the sport long enough to rival Schumacher’s WDCs.

    • I think the question you have to ask is if Lewis dominates 2016 and 2017 then what would keep him in F1 as Mercedes dominance may tail off by then ? The lure of Ferrari that’s got it’s act together (Marketing wise Ferrari would jump at Lewis with both hands) might be tempting or a revived McLaren Honda able to challenge for titles (a long shot that one as things stand at the moment) aka his inner Senna Fanboy might want to emulate his hero.

      • I’m not so sure Ferrari would jump at Lewis with both hands… I think that train has passed.

        However, I do see a situation where an improved McHonda does lure Hamilton back to finish off his career with the whole shadow of Senna aspect at play.

  6. Does anyone else see similarities between the Red Bull Seb/Mark team mate battle and the way that went? (not trying to poke the bear in the zoo, honest Judge!)

    • The data shows that Sebastian defeated Mark by greater margins than Lewis has done Nico in all categories. There will be reasons and context, of course, so I won’t speculate on that.

      The critical thing, I think, is that Mark never placed 2nd in any season… so one could infer that in Red Bull, if left up to Mark, they wouldn’t have won four consecutive WDC’s. The domination of Red Bull was as much having a strong car as it was having a perfect technical match between Car and Driver (Sebastian); a little like Casey Stoner and the Ducati, for those MotoGP fans. The Mercedes on the other hand is outrageously strong, like the McLaren of ’88 and ’89.

      As it stands, we can be sure that Nico would have been ’14 champ and it’s likely that he could have been ’15 champ without Lewis in the team. However, it’s my opinion that Lewis’ talents will shine once Ferrari achieve parity and the fight with Sebastian begins. That’s where he’ll really “earn his money”, so to speak, and I think Mercedes know that. You’ll find Nico slumping down the order in 4th, 5th, 6th like Mark was in the latter RBR years.

    • Presumably you mean the 2010 season where Webber was leading the championship late before collapsing, leading into a total meltdown in 2011, where Seb beat him comprehensively, 11 wins to 1 reportedly gifted win at the end. Before the season, I wondered if Nico would suffer the same mental letdown as Webber, and it appears to be happening, so yeah, I do see the similarities.

  7. I really do feel for Rosberg, not on the basis that his team is Lewis, but for what the media has done to him. Going into the 2014 season, many had categorically predicted that he would be the man to adapt best to the new rules and technology.

    He was lauded as the cerebral intelligent one with the brain of an engineer and his almost obsessive attention to detail and he would leave no stone unturned in his pursuit of perfection to beat his team. Whilst Lewis was just viewed as the overly aggressive type, who would burnout his tires and not being able to manage fuel consumption.

    But what we’ve come to witness so far in the season and a half of the new formula, that it is he who is struggling to adapt best.

    In 2014 his approach was to focus on qualifying and come race day, he would lose out. Coming into this season, he said over the off season he went back and analysed his performances fand he has come back stronger and more determined. So in depth was his analysis that he found he was not breathing right and that he had developed a new ‘breathing technique’. He also mentioned that he also focused more on his ‘race craft’ (still waiting to see it) and was not so much concerned with qualifying, because it was in the race he was losing out the most.

    Even his team boss (Toto) advised him to try and get the better of his team-mate on Saturdays as that would put him half way to completing the job on a Sunday. He however stated that he sees no need for him to do so.

    So it’s clear, Nico seems to have tried so hard he has now confused himself in his attempt to live up to the tag of the ‘cerebral, intelligent, mind of an engineer, the Alan Prost of the 21st century’. It has gotten so bad, that those who were so quick to offer such descriptions, seems to have abandoned him now.

    If I could offer Nico any form of advice (not that he’d listen), I’d tell him to adopt the K. I. S. S approach. Because sometimes that’s what you need to beat a driver whose only quality the media and pundits can use to describe him is, “naturally talented and aggressive”…..

    A man I’ve now come to consider a friend said to me recently, “There are no dumb drivers in F1”. I just wish the everyone offered his team-mate the same level of professionalism.

    • I agree with the points in your comment here.

      I do think the media hyped Nico’s intellect as meaningfully superior to Lewis’ (and others), and by induction positioned Lewis’ intellect at a relatively low level where his talents were simply “animal instinct”. I feel Lewis has shown over the past 3-4 years that he’s a savvy off-track operator (Ron saw his creation fully manifest in 2012) and a very cunning politician. He takes no prisoners (Anthony could attest to that). He’s got an eye on paddock sentiment and can be as manipulative as anyone (perhaps not Alonso lol), which shows an adequate depth of intellect.

      In relation to the sporting side, he’s shown that he will evolve his over-arcing strategy over a season, as well as his immediate tactics, to continue to improve and overcome a challenge.

      The second point you make about Nico I think is true. He does seem confused. However, I don’t think it’s as a result of him trying to live up to any media sentiment. That’s where he differs from Lewis in that I genuinely don’t think he cares about that. He’s simply confused because whatever he tries isn’t good enough. He’s caught between a rock and a hard place in the face of an on-form Hamilton with train-like momentum.

      As for your friend, well he sounds like an extraordinary gentlemen, both wise and good looking in equal measure. I’ve heard all women want to be with him whilst men simply want to be him. Please say hello to him for me. 😀

      • I think Nico seems distracted this year. And with what happened post Spa last year, combined with being a father I guess I can’t blame him.

        • If what happened at Spa over a year ago is still somehow distracting Nico, then he shouldn’t be in F1.

          Let’s not try and make excuses for Nico. Because the simple fact is, Lewis has raised his game to another level and Nico seems to be unable to do the same.

  8. Lewis has more on-track, natural talent than Nico. It just comes easy for Lewis whereas Nico has to work a little bit harder with less spectacular results to show for it. I still think that if all of the driver aides were taken away that Nico couldn’t drive the car. Lewis probably wouldn’t have a problem.

    It would be great for a German car manufacturer to have a German champion. I doubt that it’s going to happen this year. I think that the 2015 driver’s championship trophy can be mailed to Brackley for Lewis to put with him other two driver’s championships.

    I also think that Lewis’ off-track lifestyle will shorten his Formula 1 career. He has other interests besides racing like music. Is he starting to get bored in Formula 1? Is he looking for new challenges or opportunities? I think so because he’s dominating Formula 1 right now.

    As far as the first picture, Toto is very image conscious. It important to show (at least publicly) that finally their is some sort of peace and harmony between Lewis and Nico (even if there really isn’t) because drama and discord is not good for Mercedes image.

    • Talking of Mercedes’ image, are Toto et al. not concerned about some other aspects of Lewis’ off-track lifestyle? I’m thinking particularly of one “friend” he’s had for a while now. This person’s profession was publicly exposed a few years back yet Lewis has continued associating with them, it would seem even more so this year (I’m not talking about Rihanna; she’s another story). I can’t imagine that Lewis, nor Mercedes, are blind to what this person is mixed up in and I would have thought, at least for image sake, they would want to avoid being seen around them.

        • I think he’s referring to one of the Kardashian’s.

          But they don’t seem to be affecting the image of some of the biggest fashion powerhouses that they continually model for. And the fashion industry is also itself a multi billion £$€¥ industry.

          • But didn’t the Federation defeat the Cardassians? How are they a threat anymore? But even if they’re a threat, the Prime Directive would preclude Lewis from having too much involvement with them. I’m really confused on this one…

      • It’s possible that somethings have been said behind closed doors that no one will ever be privy to. It does surprise me that Lewis is openly friends with some of the people that he’s friends with considering that he’s a Mercedes employee. I hope that if Mercedes have commented to Lewis about some of his friends and left the decision of whether or not to openly continue the friendship that it doesn’t have negative consequences for the Mercedes brand and the Formula 1 team.

        Also, the fact that Niki is around to help keep Lewis happy is ridiculous. If Lewis can’t keep himself happy doing what he’s going while earning the money he’s earning then he needs to find another job.

        • “Lewis is openly friends with some of the people that he’s friends with considering that he’s a Mercedes employee.”

          Really?????

          • What I meant was that some of the people that he associates with are considered gangsters. The women are considered to be unsavory and not having the best morals. This is bad for Mercedes brand image and I am surprised that he’s allowed to openly be friends with them rather than having to keep the friendships behind closed doors. Lewis and Nico are both Mercedes Benz employees.

          • What a load of rubbish!

            Exactly who are these people that are considered to be ‘gangsters’?

            You know what’s bad for ‘brand Mercedes’, their poor customer service and charging people an exorbitant amount of money just to change a bulb in someone’s car.

            Someone these women who are of unsavoury character and low morals, somehow are associated with brands that are just as big if not bigger than Mercedes.

            Let’s not be so quick to label people based on what’s being reported in the media.

          • Several people – male and female – that Lewis openly associates with are not a good fit with Mercedes’ image and ethics (and don’t think because fashion brands are happy to be involved with some of them that that’s a sign of them being above board. The fashion industry has a whole other take on morals). I’m trying to avoid using names here but if you really want more specifics look up the photos of Lewis on the yacht with the models after the Monaco GP this year. The person sitting next to Lewis’ brother in one photo (sporting distinctive green hair in other photos) is one of the ones I’m referring to. You’ll see them in a number of pictures with Lewis away from the track. They have not done such a good job of keeping their activities out of the media and law courts.

  9. Good to see how the various tropes in F1 are getting gradually updated. There was constant talk earlier in the season about how what Hamilton got up to off the track would hamper his performances on it, and how he wasn’t spending enough time focussing on the job in hand, etc. Now that’s been fairly conclusively disproved by him destroying his team mate (and by extension the rest of the field) in qualifying and with him having the championship pretty firmly in his grasp it’s now changed so that those distractions that were to distract him this season will now instead distract him further down the line?

    Imagine how the ‘legends’ of drivers like James Hunt would have been effected/tarnished if they lived in the modern era where there’s constant press scrutiny, paparazzi everywhere, a cameraphone on hand to capture any ‘unfortunate’ moments – looking at James Hunt as an example he made no secret of his fondness of cigarettes, alcohol and cocaine, yet he’s revered. With the amount of flak Hamilton gets for dying his hair blonde it makes you wonder how people would view someone like Hunt if they found themselves in the modern era…

    • I don’t think Lewis’ off-track activities are a distraction to his on-track performance, quite the opposite this season. However, he’s made several comments recently about being aware of time flying, being more than half way through his F1 career, wanting to experiment in all aspects of his life. If he and the Mercedes car continue to dominate, how long before life outside F1 starts to look more attractive and thrilling? Also, as I allude to in my reply to Heidi, it might be that some of his lifestyle choices could start to impact his F1 career in other ways. As you note, people are not so accepting of certain things these days.

    • Lewis beating his teammate doesn’t necessarily equate to his performance not being “hampered” by his off-track lifestyle.

      Lewis has still had his “moments” over the past two seasons, even as close as Hungary, which was a horrific display from him and showed massive brain fade race long. Those races are luxuries he can afford himself now against Nico in the best car, and pay little price, but not something he will not be able to afford himself against Sebastian at a time when Ferrari and Mercedes are truly fighting for titles.

      Now before I get abused, I’m not saying his lifestyle IS hampering him. I am saying that him beating Nico isn’t evidence that it’s not.

      It’s races like that, and other moments over the past two years, that for me he has to smooth out to be considered a great. It’s those moments that wouldn’t fly in a season like 2000, or 2010, as an example. This is just my opinion. If in the end, he’s not considered a great by most impartial observers, it won’t be for lack of talent that’s for sure.

      As for Hunt, I personally don’t consider him a “legend”, but a very fortunate young man barely capitalising on Lauda’s absence. In fact, I don’t really consider Hunt even close to being categorised as a Legend.

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