After last week’s German Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel blamed the media for misquoting him about Lewis Hamilton’s driving tactics. Immediately after the race, the defending world champion was reported to have termed Hamilton’s overtaking manoeuvre as stupid.
Whether Vettel made that remark or not, it was definitely strange to see Hamilton racing alongside Alonso, Vettel and Button to unlap himself. A championship contender in one of the most successful teams being a lap down was perhaps a reflection of Hamilton’s struggles at McLaren for the past couple of years.
It was a dream debut for Hamilton when he sat behind the wheel of a McLaren in his first formula one race at the 2007 Australian GP. It’s rare to see debutants getting a break with a top team. Almost all the current superstars had started their careers with bottom rung teams.
Hamilton narrowly missed out on winning the title in the first year. However, he won it in 2008, albeit by a thin margin. A new star was born and with the might of McLaren behind him, more titles were supposed to have followed.
However, starting 2009, the script went wrong.
Not only has there been a title drought since then, but Hamilton is no longer the undisputed No. 1 in the team. In fact, last year, he was thoroughly outperformed by Button who finished second in the championship.
This year has been a mixed bag for Hamilton. Out of the 10 races so far, he has had one win and there third placed finishes. However, two non points finishes (including a retirement in the last race where he was involved in the unlapping incident with Vettel), and three low points finishes have hurt his chances. On couple of occasions, his race was compromised by some shoddy work during pit stops.
Of course, the season has reached only it’s half way mark and given the topsy-turvy nature of this year’s championship, none of the top drivers can be ruled out of contention, especially someone of Hamilton’s calibre (he is 62 points adrift of the leader Fernando Alonso).
However, Hamilton, in his sixth year with McLaren, would be wondering as to how could he improve his title-winning chances in the years ahead.
Formula One has underwent a sea change since his first two golden years with McLaren. Since 2009, cars have underwent significant design transformations. Add to that the fact that unlike the preceding decade (1998 to 2008) when it used to be a two horse race been Ferrari and McLaren, since 2009 teams like Red Bull Racing, Brawn GP (now Mercedes GP) have overshadowed the traditional powerhouses. Even this year, Lotus GP have performed brilliantly.
Also, the legendary Ron Dennis retired as McLaren team principal after the end of the 2008 season. So would Hamilton extend his contract with McLaren? (His current contract ends this year) The next few races could play an important part in this regard.
Personally speaking, it would be interesting to see the Briton turn up in either Lotus or Mercedes overalls and lead either of them to their first title win. It would be even better (and explosive) if he replaces Massa at Ferrari.
Remember the high voltage drama and intrigue the world witnessed in 2007 when Alonso and Hamilton were team mates at McLaren?