F1’s relationship with the home advantage is not a clear one, certainly not when compared with most other sports. Unlike in football, tennis and others, the F1 competitor neither sees nor hears the crowd when performing. Its chief discriminators are who has the most grip and power underneath them, which owes nearly nothing to local support or familiarity.
This is reflected in results. Some, such as Niki Lauda and Ayrton Senna, took years to win at home. Others such as Graham Hill didn’t manage it at all. Mark Webber’s ill luck in Australia was legendary. But there are some it seems who find another level when performing in front of their country-folk. Nigel Mansell was one certainly. As, it appears, is Lewis Hamilton.
Challenging Your Inner Nige
The parallels between the English pair are uncanny – both aggressive and brave racers, showmen, with an uncanny ability to attract drama. But with a flipside – an emotional nature, and a related tendency to rub some up the wrong way. And in addition to an ability to find extra for the British Grand Prix, having a massed public there that loves them for it.
Lewis dominated this British Grand Prix weekend in the way that Nigel used to do just about every time it seemed too. Mercedes was on another level to the rest, with Red Bull despite some hopes being little more than irritants. Yet from early Friday practice Lewis even of the two Mercs appeared on another level himself.
It was clear in advance of the race that only something very strange would stop him. Ironically Mansell, as one of the stewards here, contributed to perhaps his greatest peril of the meeting, as Lewis’s pole was threatened briefly by one of his qualifying times being scrubbed for exceeding track limits. But Lewis slapped the setback away. The British summer weather even did its best – we got a proper cloudburst around 20 minutes before the race start. Yet Lewis looked at least as comfortable in the early laps when the track was treacherous as he did the rest of the time. He won has he liked, maintaining a gap to second place of a few seconds throughout. It’s his fourth win from the last five, and he’s right back in the title battle.
Rosberg’s Radio Gaga
Nico Rosberg finished second on the road, but had some adventures – and his last adventure bit him. With five laps left he slowed, due to gearbox problems, yet got back up to speed before Max Verstappen in third passed, thanks to some radio instructions from his engineer.
But one instruction it was felt could fall foul of the notorious new restrictions on radio communications. For a time after the race all huddled around the stewards’ room waiting not only for a decision but also if guilty for the punishment, as this was in effect a test case. In the end Nico got 10 seconds added to his race time, which dropped him to third and reduced his championship lead to just one point. It had once been 43… Some wondered though if the relative leniency of the penalty would encourage some in future to break the rule as the lesser of two evils when in a technical quandary. One thinks back to Lewis in Baku when this probably would have applied.
Such frustration, so common in his early part of this season, now however will be a long way from Lewis’s mind.