Italian F1 journalist, Leo Turini, recently observed, its better not to belittle the quality of your opponents, because it diminishes your own achievements when you beat them. This was following comments from Lewis Hamilton questioning how good Sebastian Vettel really is – given the measure of the quality of his F1 team mates this far.
Having been ticked off by the Godfather of Italian F1 journalism. Lewis Hamilton then set about explaining his sudden domination by Nico Rosberg over the last 6 Formula One weekends of the year. Hamilton blamed the car and implied the direction the team had developed it didn’t suit him.
Now former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve questions the sense of making these comments, because again he believes it lessens the greatness of Hamilton’s achievements again.
“If that is the case, then perhaps Lewis was not as superior as he appeared to be this year. He just had a better setup. That’s why he should be careful when he says things like that,” Villeneuve observed.
By way of contrast in the BBC’s season review when asked about Lewis’ qualifying domination over the first 13 races, Rosberg simply said, “he was quicker than me – that’s it”.
The debate about which F1 drivers wring the best out of anything they are given to drive has raged over the year across many F1 fans websites. Broadly speaking, the names of Hamilton and Alonso are usually cited as the masters of this discipline, whist Vettel is credited with having superior cars for his titles.
So does Villeneuve have a point? By blaming the car development, Lewis is again diminishing his own reputation – and abdicating responsibility for his own relative poor performance when compared to Rosberg. Is Hamilton ‘the great’ really just Hamilton ‘the slightly better than his team mate’? And is Lewis really a driver who can get the best [better than anyone else] out of any car he is given?
The Canadian F1 champion also believes much of what Toto Wolff had to say about ‘disruptive drivers’ was aimed at Hamilton. “After [Rosberg] lost the championship, it looks like something changed in him. I don’t know for sure but he became a killer. Lewis, however, reacted pretty badly and showed a very negative side of his character,” Villeneuve told Motorsport-Magazin.
“He showed that he cannot be humble. He has secured three world championships but could not rejoice and behaved like a spoilt child whose toys had been taken away from him. He has not acted like a great champion.”
Sky’s Martin Brundle remarked that Hamilton has increasingly distanced himself from other drivers towards the end of the 2015, and whilst a siege mentality may work well for some sportsmen and women, it is questionable whether this is right approach for Hamilton.
Mercedes boss, Paddy Lowe has worked with Lewis Hamilton for most of his career, “I think Lewis has been given a bit of a wake-up call in the last three races with Nico absolutely on top form,” observed the Brackley technical chief. “That’s given Lewis a bit of an uncomfortable winter”.
Hamilton has appeared to have been mentally on the edge at times during his F1 career, though much of that was influenced by his troubled relationship with his former fiancé. However, Lewis has demonstrated time and again he can come back and compete at the highest level, though this task may require more focus than ever from Lewis in 2016. In Rosberg, Lewis now has a team mate who believes Lewis can be consistently beaten and the hunger of Ferrari may see more than just one rival each weekend for Hamilton – to stand on the coveted top step.