FoRmula 1 WoRld champIoNshIp
faster. It was an intensity fueled by insecurity,
whereas Lewis is fueled by a total belief in his
ability. It’s not better, just very different. As I
said, if Lewis isn’t fastest, there’s something
wrong with the car. So you work from there.”
Hamilton’s inner gyroscopes just seem
more finely tuned than anyone else’s and
that’s underscored by total belief – and a
deep desire to prove it.
“I call it council estate [housing project]
grit,” says his former karting mentor Jonny
Restrick. “Lewis doesn’t crumble when the
pressure’s on. There’s never panic, just grit.
So often in karting you see kids from
But is his conviction also his weakness?
privileged backgrounds who know that
they’ll be racing, no matter what, and
because of that they just don’t have that
resilience, don’t know how to dig deep.”
Lewis no longer has to worry about
whether he’ll be racing or not, but the
psychology that those formative days
bred into him runs deep.
Let’s take the post-Singapore Mercedes
as a case study. It would be easy and
simplistic to assume he’d just taken his
foot off the gas once his title had become
a formality. Maybe there’s a sub-
conscious element of truth in that – and
he’s not been shy in admitting how hard
he’s been partying since the title win. But
his trouncing by Rosberg in the last few
races has left him embarrassed,
defensive. It cannot be happening,
Rosberg. But it’s happening regardless.
“I have all the data from earlier this
year that shows I was always quicker than
Nico until Singapore, by about three
tenths,” he points out – unnecessarily.
That default of being 100 percent certain
he’s the fastest can also undermine him.
Following the debacle of Singapore,
where the usually dominant Mercs could
qualify only seventh and eighth, the team
quickly understood that the post-Spa
increase in minimum tire pressure
imposed by Pirelli required the car to be
set up in a fundamentally different way.
Since that setup change was made,
Rosberg – on six consecutive occasions -
beat Hamilton to pole, having managed it
only once in the previous 13 races.
“Nico worked his ass off in
understanding the full implications of the
set up changes we needed to make,” says
a key Mercedes engineer. Hamilton did
not. With the title already won and the
parties and promotions he was attending,
it was a bad time for Hamilton to have a
fundamentally re-configured setup
(ABOVE) Is Hamilton’s
unshakable belief that
he’s fastest (and who’d
argue?) sometimes to
the detriment of
working to improve
his car? (LEFT) Lewis
plays hardball with
Rosberg at COTA.
there’s something wrong
with the car. So you work