Lorenzo Vs Perspective
The first hefty review from Down Under of this season
I could have started writing on Saturday, just after the quali. And if you have followed this column, and if you are a F1 fan that has passionately followed the sport, you probably know this Lorenzo vs is going to cover.
The 100 pole positions of Lewis Hamilton
Happy 9th year in Australia, Lorenzo
I feel compelled to start by saying that I'm not an accredited FIA journalist, that I don't get paid for what I write, that I'm not affiliated with any F1 team, that I don't have a personal agenda, and that I don't have the followers to influence anything. For me, Lewis Hamilton is a talented driver who is rightfully making his mark in F1.
My problem is with the size of the mark. My problem is with the current storytelling of F1. My problem is the fear that, in 20 years, I will have to explain to someone that 100+ is worth less than 65. My dad tried to explain it to my sister just yesterday while we were having our weekly video call. And he asked for my support in trying to explain what he meant, cause my sister wasn't drinking any of it. But that's the thing: my sister is not a F1 fan. Aside from having been around me for her first 16 years of life, she knows little of F1 and likes it even less. She left to go to the beach, annoyed by the "mosquitoes", the sound of F1 engines from my dad's TV. Joking that "it's too bad that Ferrari's engineers don't have Mercedes' magic wand".
So, I stayed quiet. No point in ranting with her about a driver that, before joining Mercedes, had 26 pole positions and 21 victories in F1 before joining Mercedes. And that had 32 pole positions and 32 victories in junior Formulas. Why is this worth mentioning? Because a video from 2007 has resurfaced, where Lewis Hamilton candidly admits that he is not good at scoring pole positions. Now, I'm not suggesting that he hasn't improved since, because that is not true, and I have talked about Lewis' learning curve in Lorenzo vs 91.
And in The Definitive Talk About Lewis Hamilton.
It was coming, and today it's the perfect day
And I can say that, despite his age, Lewis is still racing strong as a young driver. He makes little mistakes. But he is also very relaxed, thanks to that car, thanks to the lack of a strong teammate.
But I thought that comparing the number of poles with the number of victories, can give you a better perspective of the ratio pole : victories, and an understanding that he pulled a few wonderful miracles, but not enough to give him the aura of Mr. Saturday. Not like Ayrton. Not like Michael, like my dad suggested, but I could argue about Schumacher Senior's Saturday exploits. I go bold, I go provocative, and add Juan Pablo in the pot, just so that my brain can give birth to another argument about him and his records.
It's called inflation, and it affects F1, not only the economy.
So, yes, it is the "it's the car" rant. Can you blame me? I'll do what you do, what F1 is pushing you to do. I'll look at numbers. I'll look at statistics.
Ayrton Senna scored 65 pole positions in his career. Yet he won "only" 41 times. In his first three years with Lotus, Senna scored 16 pole positions and 6 victories. Now that's what I called pulling miracles. In his McLaren years, he achieved 44 pole positions and 35 victories. In his final three races with Williams, he scored 3 pole positions and 0 victories. Aside from his final year with McLaren, when he scored a single pole and 5 victories, Senna's season victories never matched or overtake the number of his pole positions. Every race was a war, but on Saturday he was untouchable.
Case closed? I can stop here. I can avoid considering that, back in the days, F1 was racing only 16 times per year instead of 21. That pole percentages are higher in Ayrton's case. My argument is thick and credible. And I don't like the numbers game. Especially when my numbers are smaller, and I want to be as honest about it. In fact, I'll repeat this rant when Lewis will take the championship number 8. If he renews his contract. It should happen between Hungary and Belgium. We'll see.
Barcelona, first verdicts
I like Freddie's tuxedo colours. Black and Blue with some white. Needs some gold and it would be perfect.
The thing with the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is that it is the perfect track for F1 testing because it has a great mix of every kind of corner. But when the cars race there, it's siesta's time. Not last night. Not for the first 60 laps. And not because the on-track action, but because tyre/pit stop strategy. Once, at around 6 laps to go, we understood what the winning strategy was, the thriller deflated in an insipid ending, like some poor and stereotypical chick-flick.
I watched the Spanish GP on TV, but with my eyes glued to the time gap between the drivers. The variety in strategy of the six cars of the three top teams was the focal point of the race. Which is what F1 management tried to avoid when they removed refuelling from the race format.
My interest was in seeing if Charles, after a great start, with an overtake on Bottas that looked very similar to Alonso's 2013 move on Rosberg, could achieve podium. He copied Lewis' strategy, which was the winning strategy. But the Ferrari isn't the Mercedes. I slowly lost hope. No rain. No Safety Car. Leclerc's pace on the Medium tyre was much less fizzy than his pace on the soft, and completely flat compared to Hamilton's, Verstappen's, and Bottas'. Still, Charlie did great. In perspective.
There are another two good reasons to have affection for the Montmeló racetrack. Because it is the best track for testing, it also gives the best references for values. Engine, in acceleration and top speed with. Chassis, with the mechanical traction and suspension work through the changes of pitch of the corners. Aerodynamic, with the different radius of the corners. After the Spanish GP, we can have a clear idea of where the teams are. Who has the best car, who has the best engine, who needs to improve and what? Is it safe to say that Mercedes found what lacked in the first two races? Is Ferrari the third force? Is Alpine not at the level of Ferrari and McLaren? What happened to the surprising Alpha Tauri? Is the 2020 green Mercedes at the same level of the 2021 Alfa Romeo? Will Mick's Haas catch Russell's Williams?
And because drivers could drive on this track with their eyes closed, it also gives a good opportunity to see who is the "best of the pair" right now. And what happened in Spain? We saw Ricciardo's resurrection, we watched Alonso watching Ocon scoring points, we saw Sainz being half-track behind Leclerc, we saw Vettel...are we sure that was Vettel? Recently, Grosjean was interviewed about adapting to new cars. He says that a driver needs 4-6 races to adapt. I have high hopes for Alonso. Those I have for Vettel, on how good he can be for Aston Martin on the medium-long run, will take time to be proven wrong. But he is making Lance look like a phenomenon. And Lance is good, but not that good. Yuki Tsunoda is starting to look like Sato and Kobayashi. The attitude is there, but you don't score points by saying the right thing. I forgot Perez. Truth to be told, I never expected him to be close to Max. And Max complained that Mercedes had strategy options because he is fighting alone. Albon couldn't help him. Perez can't. Yet? At all? So, is Red Bull suffering from placing all their money on one horse? They were highly rewarded when they bet on Vettel over Webber. They were mildly rewarded when they bet on Daniel over Vettel. Then Daniel left when Max arrived. Back in the testing days, after two years of poor results, Ferrari decided to give Eddie Irvine extensive testing sessions. To allow Schumacher to rest. To allow him to be Michael with Corinna, Gina Maria, and Mick. But also, to make Eddie an effective teammate. To develop a car that could serve both.
Shall we thank Mazepin?
Going back to the recent F1 storytelling, F1 TV director had fun with radio communications. First on Saturday, when they constantly replayed Yuki Tsunoda's heated message at the end of his quali session. On Sunday when they played a message from Toto Wolff to Michael Masi. Subject of the message: Nikita Mazepin. Masi explained that this was in the work. Which should make us think that it is a coincidence that we heard someone complaining about the most hated, and perhaps the worst driver in the F1 grid. Oh, the fans love Mazepin! He was the 4th most voted option in the F1 Driver of the day poll. Was it because he held up Lewis? Or just because we love rascals? Or because he is meme material, and meme material is what F1 needs to increase their fanbase? Oh boy...
Nikita wasn't the only one that held Lewis for longer than expected. The same did Valtteri Bottas, after his team asked him to let Lewis, on a different strategy, go and catch Max. I giggled. Yet I feel sorry for Valtteri. He might not get replaced in-season, but perhaps this is his last year in Mercedes. And he has no chance to win this championship.
39 years without Gilles, a good omen?
Six victories, still the brightest hero for Ferrari's tifosi
One final note, for which I need to thank Pino Allievi and his Monday Morning Coffee, a 4-minute Italian podcast. Saturday was the 8th of May. On a Saturday 8th of May, Gilles Villeneuve, my favourite driver, and a driver that won 6 GPs and 0 championships, passed away. In 1981, one year before that disastrous 8th of May, Gilles won the Monte Carlo GP. It was the first victory of a turbo in Monaco. It was the first victory for a Ferrari Turbo. In the race prior to that Monte Carlo GP, Villeneuve finished 4th at just under a minute from the winner. Just like Leclerc in Spain last night. Emotions. Via numbers. Can I borrow a feeling? Can I pray for a miracle?