So Lewis Hamilton is leading the world championship after his fourth race in Formula One. You don’t even need to know any statistics to know that this is the greatest Rookie debut of all time. I bet my bold claim after the first race that Hamilton is the next Schumacher isn’t looking so crazy now?
Over at Ferrari a similar story seems to be playing out. Massa is leading Kimi. The key question perhaps is not, “why are the young guys so good”, but instead, “what happened to the old guys”?
I think in the end the answer is going to be be all about tires and expectations. Massa already was on Bridgestones and people were so worried about if Lewis would be able to compete at the front end that they gave him so much training and testing it must have hurt. The two teams probably expected too much of Alonso and Kimi because the adjustment involved such a steep learning curve.
Alonso hinted at it at the beginning of the season saying that perhaps the rookies had an advantage because they were coming to the new compound fresh. At first this seems strange because surely the rookies are trying to learn both. But on the other side the experienced guys know what works for them and so try and get the cars set up in the same way each track. The problem is that they no longer can tell what parts are due to the car and what parts are due to the tires. This means that they are both trying to unlearn some of the instinct they’ve been training themselves to have over the last few years. And that kind of thing can be really unsettling.
Will it change? Well I think so. I think that Kimi has more chance that Alonso to make a difference. Why? Because he’s acknowledging the problem. Just before the Spanish grand prix Kimi was asked, “Fernando Alonso has said that it is not a championship for four people, it is a championship for two – himself and you. What do you think about that?” To which he replied, “It doesn’t look like it exactly. I think you never know. It is going to be a long season and for sure I don’t think it is going to last like this all year. For sure something is going to happen to some drivers and then probably they will lose too many points to get back in the game any more. For sure now it looks very close and I cannot really say what is going to happen in the future. But hopefully we can come out on top.”
At least he’s willing to acknowledge the issue. That’s good point number one. But it’s also the way that he acknowledges it that’s important. We may soon get an outburst from Alonso along the lines of his, “I don’t think the team is fully behind me”. At least that time he had the right to complain he was the leading driver in the team. This time he isn’t and that might make things very hard.
Alonso is a class act so don’t write him off too quickly just expect him to have a tough couple of weeks. Here’s some facts to bear in mind:
McLaren have always been fast at Monaco
Alonso has never been fast at Monaco (he has won but only once. In the all dominant year)
Lewis has raced at Monaco 6 times and he’s never lost.
I think it’s worth a fiver.