Hamilton “decline” evident in Zandvoort

The modern era of Formula One has developed in a very specific fashion. Since the Ferrari won their six consecutive titles at the turn of the millennium the sport entered a phase where given each set of regulations one team and a driver would dominate for longer periods than seen previously in F1.

Prior to Mercedes becoming ‘top of the pile’ for eight seasons in a row, Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel conquered the world of Formula One from 2010-2013.



Vettel “can’t overtake” criticism

However, the German driver’s conquest was not founded on the Red Bull team cracking a set of regulations and building and  bringing the best car in the field.

In fact Sebastian Vettel never led the world championship in 2010 until he crossed the line in Abu Dhabi as world champion. Fernando Alonso needed to finish the final race of the season just fourth or to become world champion, but his Ferrari was unable to pass a stubborn Vitaly Petrov and Sebastian Vettel claimed the first of his four driver titles.

The next three years Red Bull were relatively dominant and their strategy was simple – to deliver Vettel with a car capable of qualifying on the front row and then the German would sprint away from the pack on Sunday and control the race from a distance.

This led to widespread criticism that Sebastian was an F1 driver who couldn’t overtake. Red Bull set up their car in qualifying carrying levels of wing designed to deliver a seriously quick lap time but this made the car not particularly good for racing in the pack.



Hamilton too used to being at front

Vettel mastered the art of controlling the race which meant he spent most of his time running in fresh air and didn’t require the skills of a driver further back in the field.

In his later years at Ferrari, Vettel’s driving was often criticised as in a less than dominant car at the front he found himself in situations where distinctive decisions he made proved to be very wrong.

It could be argued this was as a result of his ‘Red Bull years’ and whilst Sebastian would have learned his trade in the midfield, maybe he lost some of that know how when driving for Ferrari and finally Aston Martin.

Lewis Hamilton has encountered a similar journey to Sebastian Vettel. His years at Mercedes were even more dominant than Vettel’s at Red Bull and many of his 103 Grand Prix wins came from his 104 pole positions. Like Vettel, Hamilton has mastered the art of controlling the race from the front, but now his Mercedes team have been amongst ‘the F1 pack’ Lewis is regularly starting well down the field.

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“Difficult” for Lewis to process

A poor qualifying session saw Hamilton start the recent Dutch Grand Prix in just thirteenth place for which he blamed the car for being “slow all weekend.”

As an aside, Lewis’ team mate George Russell delivered a stunning lap to qualify third on the grid in the same W13 car as Hamilton.

Whilst Hamilton is not making the same glaring driving errors as Vettel was accused of doing in his time at Ferrari, there does appear to be a hesitancy in the British driver’s ability to process what is going on around him when the mid-field gets rather chaotic.

Again this may be Bourne from the fact that Hamilton has son often been over the hills and far away for so much of his career at Mercedes that he is just out of practice with the skills required to race well when not at the front.

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Hamilton blames Mercedes

After the race Hamilton reflected on how things had gone as he gave his media interviews in the media pen.

“I was the only one on the medium tyre. I wanted to be off-set to the people around me but not everyone on the grid. When that rain then came out, we as a team made the wrong decision. Ultimately it was the team’s call and we paid the price for that,” said Hamilton throwing the Mercedes’ strategy analysts under the bus.

“We came out last and then we were just chasing. I think it was a really good example of when you fall or stumble to get back up and keep trying. Every time I had to pit I came out behind and I kept chasing and it was not that easy to do.”

“I think today I had the pace, in the conditions and if we made the right call, I had the pace to challenge the top two. I think we would have been challenging, particularly when we got to the dry,” Hamilton concluded.

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Other F1 drivers took initiative

Yet the glaring moment in Lewis analysis appears to suggest he was merely a passenger to the team’s directive. While he accepts that he may have been part of the decision to start the race on the worst tyre possible even the incoming rain predicted by everyone, Hamilton attributes all the responsibility for staying out during the first deluge of rain to the team’s call.

However, other drivers were deciding for themselves it was time to switch to the intermediate tyre. Charles Leclerc left his communication so late that he was making a stop, that the Ferrari team didn’t have time to fetch the wet weather tyres for his car. Leclerc mused he knew this would be a problem but that “it was still quicker” than doing another lap.

Christian Horner revealed to the media that Sergio Perez who stopped a lap earlier than Verstappen who was leading the race, had also made the decision against the team’s initial advice that he wanted to change from dry to wet weather tyres.

Yet Hamilton with all his experience merely plowed on.

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Hill notes “weakness” in Hamilton’s skills

Damon Hill was critical of Lewis decision making in his analysis following the race. He told Sky F1, “It seems to me that when all the confusion is out of the way, and he just gets on with driving, then he’s the fastest driver.

“But when there are lots of decisions to make, and there’s a bit of confusion between what the team wants and what he wants, then it makes him a little bit hesitant.”

Hill continued that at times it is the driver’s responsibility to explain to the team how bad the conditions really are given many of them are huddled in a dry room behind the garage or even back at the factory base in a communications centre.

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Hamilton failed to communicate

“It was raining quickly and very hard,” Hill reminded the viewers

“The driver also has a responsibility to give a clue about what’s going on.

“You can see, when you go around, you should’ve been able to see that there was rain coming.

“It may have been possible to say: Listen, I’m coming in, we’re not going to get it round another lap’.”

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Channel 4 call out Hamilton’s hesitancy

Hamilton battled through the first heavy shower on his dry tyres rather than stopping too late for the intermediates – and this at least paid dividends as the track began to dry and as others needed to switch back to slicks, Lewis made some progress up the field.

Even Channel four’s post race analysis team were puzzled by Lewis’ apparent inaction when the rain came at the start of the race. When it was put to David Coulthard “it was a no brainer surely” for Hamilton to demand the team change his tyres, the former F1 driver agreed noting it was the decision of most others around Lewis Hamilton too.

“You would think so but he for whatever reason at that moment was going with the majority of there pack. And if the team weren’t getting on the radio saying ‘come on lets take a punt’ then he was trusting they knew it was going to be a short shower,” said Coulthard

“Reflection would suggest he should have done because he spent a long time – more than half the race – running in thirteenth. He made no headway and then it came alive for him later in the Grand Prix,” concluded the ex-McLaren driver.

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Repeatedly blaming Mercedes ‘dulled’ Hamilton’s powers

Hamilton’s demeanour this year appears to be super relaxed when he arrives at each Grand Prix weekend and maybe this is dulling his once razor sharp mental agility. By believing Mercedes have failed him again by providing a sub-standard car, Lewis is slipping into the mindset that everything is beyond his control.

Clearly not having a car capable of even winning one race has affected Hamilton’s cutting edge and whilst his race in Zandvoort turned out to be a reasonable effort, with the right calls from Lewis it could have been an extra-ordinary and memorable day.

It could be as we saw with Vettel we are watching the “decline” of a once dominant champion in Lewis Hamilton. Because unlike Fernando Alonso who is driving his Aston Martin team onwards, Hamilton just blames Mercedes for his poor car and even worse strategy.

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3 responses to “Hamilton “decline” evident in Zandvoort

  1. Pingback: Hamilton “decline” evident in Zandvoort·

  2. Ham is still the best driver on the grid. Once ham has a decent car to rival max, max was have to resort to dirty tactics like he’s always done in the past. Atm no CAR can touch that redbull. Perez is either an awful driver or they’ve turned his engine down compared to max. Horner is a nasty pos.

  3. Absolute nonsense. There are so many things wrong with this article I don’t even know where to start! Did you watch him in the prior to 2013? And quoting Max obsessed channel 4 to prove you’re point is even worse. Hamilton came from almost the back of the grid to finish 6th. I’m not sure what else he was expected to do. He drove a great race in Zandvoort.

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