Well I think it’s fair to say a lot of people will be scratching their heads about Lewis Hamilton now. After his disastrous performance in Bahrain, Hamilton’s detractors now have plenty of ammunition.
Of course, caution is advised. Just as an amazing first few races didn’t make Hamilton the new Senna automatically, one lacklustre trip to Bahrain doesn’t make him the new Andrea de Cesaris.
But today F1 Wolf has written a fantastic post that outlines the dramatic nature of Lewis Hamilton’s decline since his incredible start to the 2007 season. It deserves a wide audience and I hope F1 Wolf doesn’t mind if I repeat a bit of his analysis here.
Here are the results of Hamilton’s first nine Formula 1 races:
3 – 2 – 2 – 2 – 2 – 1 – 1 – 3 – 3
An unprecedented run of nine consecutive podium finishes from his début onwards.
Here are the results of his last nine F1 races:
5 – 2 – 4 – 1 – DNF – 7 – 1 – 5 – 13
Not quite so impressive, you must agree.*
At the risk of coming across as smug, it is tempting to say that this vindicates the views of people like me who were calling for caution all last season in the midst of the British media’s Hamilton hype. I constantly pointed out, for instance, that Hamilton had not experienced much in the way of bad luck. There are people in the pitlane who can tell you all about how important luck is — Mark Webber springs to mind. You can say that he has now experienced some bad luck, and this is partially reflected in his results. In this sense, his first nine races were a bit of a fluke.
I once read someone say, “Am I the only person who thinks that all Hamilton has ever done is cruise to podium positions in the fastest car?” And I have now noticed a lot of people pointing out that Hamilton has never won a race from anything other than pole position.
Given that one of the media’s favourite memes was to wax lyrical about Hamilton’s prodigious overtaking ability, we are beginning to see a Jekyll and Hyde career of Lewis Hamilton. No doubt, in his first few races Hamilton pulled off some amazingly opportunistic overtaking manoeuvres that made my jaw drop to the floor. His hoodwinking of Massa in Malaysia springs to mind, but his moves into turn one in the first couple of races were also particularly awesome.
But since then, he has become rather less impressive. He spent parts of the Malaysian Grand Prix unable to negotiate Mark Webber and Jarno Trulli. Meanwhile in Bahrain he made a hash of passing Alonso in the most embarrassing way possible, while later on in the race he got frustrated behind the Force India of Giancarlo Fisichella.
This was touched on in F1Fanatic’s liveblog at the weekend. See the conversation from 2:01 Rikhart onwards. I briefly forgot the no-swearing guideline… Sorry Keith! But I will repeat it in all its glory:
- [Comment From Rikhart]
Starting to get the feeling hamilton was one of the drivers who was most affected by driver aids ban!
- Journeyer – rik, you’re right, but i think it still affects massa more.
- Scott Joslin – good point, he does not seem to be able to move through the field like before
- Scott Joslin – but he is still young and will learn
- doctorvee – it’s the same old. new f1 driver comes in and blasts everyone away, then becomes a boring old bastard by his 15th race
- Journeyer – you’re referring to lewis, scott?
- Scott Joslin – yeah
- Journeyer – hahaha! good point, doc. it must be that lack of fear that makes drivers so quick at the start… then the sophomore slump. the best indicator of how good a driver is is usually in his 3rd season.
I am now seeing more and more mentions of “second season syndrome” (see, for instance, Ed Gorman). I love to compare Lewis Hamilton to Jacques Villeneuve. This is partly because Jacques Villeneuve was the last person to have such a successful début season and it also highlights the fact that a storming start to your F1 career is no indication of how it will be viewed in full. But at least Jacques Villeneuve won the Championship in his second season! What if Hamilton doesn’t manage that?
It is not uncommon to see a driver looking full of energy and creativity in his early races only to become conservative and mundane quite quickly. For some reason, something happens in a driver’s career that makes him become cautious.
I can’t help feeling that Lewis Hamilton’s lacklustre end to the 2007 season has contributed to his creative slump. He managed to lose a massive 17 point lead in the two final races. It is generally accepted that Hamilton’s over-aggressive approach in those final two races contributed to his Championship loss.
He was racing for the win when he didn’t need to. He stormed off into the lead in Shanghai thereby giving him excessive tyre wear which eventually landed him in the gravel trap. Then an over-ambitious move into turn 1 at Interlagos put paid to his Championship chances for good. I have to wonder if this is a case of twice bitten, thrice shy.
To Lewis Hamilton’s real credit, he has immediately put his hands up and taken full responsibility for his lacklustre weekend at Bahrain. That is the first step to starting a strong fightback. It is amusing, though, that the British media nevertheless leapt to his defence, blaming Alonso for the crash. Normally it is the drivers who come up with the cheesy, half-baked excuses.
Now I get the impression that it is more important for British journalists than it is for Lewis Hamilton himself that Hamilton becomes Champion this year. The journalists will be sorely discredited if he doesn’t. Meanwhile, the natural peaks and troughs of a Formula 1 career play out in full for Lewis Hamilton.
* As an aside, it is worth drawing attention to F1 Wolf’s analysis of Felipe Massa’s last nine races. It is very interesting, revealing that Massa has in fact had the more successful career of late. And yet, Hamilton reamins the golden boy, while everyone is out to throw stones at Massa.