Can Lewis Hamilton Recover His 7 Point Deficit?

Can Lewis Hamilton Recover His 7 Point Deficit?

McLaren are a championship winning team. They currently have 8 constructors titles to their name, and their drivers have won 11 championships over the years. However, Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 campaign has started less well than his previous in 2007, and ever more questions are being asked of the performance of the McLaren car and their drivers. Lewis is 7 points behind the leader in the drivers title. Can he make this up by the mid-season?

McLaren are a championship winning team. They currently have 8 constructors titles to their name, and their drivers have won 11 championships over the years. They came close in 2007 to extending those numbers, but internal politics and inter-team troubles almost certainly distracted the squad for a while. I’m not suggesting McLaren would have wiped the floor with Ferrari last year, just that their car and driver package was capable of taking both titles. This season, the performance between the top two teams is just as close, but currently Lewis Hamilton is sitting in third (joint-second, but officially third) in the drivers’ title race with 28 points. The leader, Kimi Raikkonen, has earned himself 35 points, seven clear of his team mate and Hamilton. Is this margin going to increase as the season continues, or will Hamilton be able to respond and claw his way back to the top of the tables?

As Ago mentioned in a recent comment, last year went much better for Hamilton. By the end of the fifth round in 2007, the McLaren driver had accrued 38 points, although had yet win a race. His consistent podium finishes proving to be valuable as the season went on. Conversely, Hamilton’s chief rivals Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso faired less well, although they had won three races between them. After the fifth round, Raikkonen had earned 23 points, Alonso 38. Hamilton’s poor results in Malaysia and Bahrain this year have clearly hurt him.

However, seven points isn’t that much, is it? Well, if the car is good, then no, seven points isn’t an impossible target. No tat this stage of the championship anyway. But given the level of competition between the top two teams, and throwing in BMW who could spoil a party or two later on in the year, and all of a sudden seven points becomes a little more serious.

As discussed in a previous article, opinion on Hamilton is divided. Some people are suggesting the man is very talented, others say he has created problems for himself that have resulted in more question marks being placed over the driver. What is for certain though, is that Hamilton needs to comeback strong over the course of the mid-season if he is to be within ear-shot of the title in the final few grands prix.

In a fortnight we have the Monaco race, an event that Hamilton drove well at last time around. However, just because the driver appears to revel in the challenge of the Monte Carlo circuit, it doesn’t mean he will be able to repeat his second-place success, or even improve upon it. Of course, if all goes well in the build-up to the race, I think it is fair to say a win could be on the cards. Ferrari last won in the principality in 2001.

After Monaco the Formula One circus moves over the Atlantic to Montreal, Canada. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve saw Hamilton’s first victory last year, the close walls and fast-flowing nature of the track obviously to the Briton’s liking. 2004 was the last time a Ferrari took victory at the Canadian track, although Kimi Raikkonen did win in 2005 for McLaren.

So in terms of the upcoming tracks, Hamilton is in a reasonably strong position if history is anything to go by. But there is more to a win than simply the driver. The McLaren MP4-23 is looking a little inconsistent at the moment. So far in 2008, Ferrari have taken three victories, two seconds and a third. McLaren have only managed one win, one second and two thirds. Kovalainen has suffered a few issues, notably engaging his pitlane speed limiter while in a strong position and flying off the road in Spain. Hamilton has suffered as well, the PR ‘battle’ resulting from the Turkish Grand Prix strategy being just one example. The end result of all this being that Hamilton’s driving style and the way he controls his tyres are now under increased scrutiny.

The mid-point of the 2008 season lies between the British and German rounds. Will the fans be as hyped at Silverstone this year, or will Hamilton have faded into the background, not managing to better his third place standings in the championship?

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7 comments

  • McLaren picked up pace in Istanbul and if they finished 1-2 over the next 2 rounds I wouldn’t be surprised. Over the next 2 rounds I would expect McLaren to walk away with 30-36 points. Heikki has been very strong this year so far, and has just been unlucky so he might rise now while Massa fades.

    McLaren traditionally develop very well during the year. If it were not for non-performance incidents (pit stop in Australia, penalty in Malaysia, start in Bahrain, crash in Spain, puncture in Turkey) we wouldn’t even have to question their performance to date

  • Thanks for commenting, nik. Indeed, I too think Kovalainen has shown himself to be worthy of the McLaren berth, but luck hasn’t exactly been onside recently. And some say (SC pitstops aside) you create your own luck.

    @Steven: Care to share why you think that? I have to agree, it looks good for him, but I just can’t rid my mind of something going wrong over the course of the weekend and throwing either Hamilton or the team off the scent.

    Before the last couple of races, I quietly had BMW down for an outside chance to win in Monte Carlo, but given their recent slump, I’m not so sure. I think my gut-instinct says Raikkonen for the Moncao win, but it is more gut than logic.

  • I wonder if McL really have put up the ante or whether it was down to both Lewis and Heikki driving on light loads? But allinall I’ve got to say, that Lewis really does look like a man on a mission. He certainly has picked himself up and again has shown us his ability to overtake under any circumstances. This may all be down to the fact, that he knows that he is fighting with less good material since I have not seen either Kimi nor Massa drive with such “verve”. The only other fellow I have seen put blades to the track in a Lewis Hamilton style is Robert Kubica. Kimi is doing what he needs to do, hamster hamster hamster points. My gut feeling tells me Hamilton will win the championship fighting Kimi and Massa off taking risks no other driver will take and that most probably because they understand quite well that if they do they just might end up in the ditch 😉

  • I actually think Massa will out qualify Lewis and win at Monaco. Massa is going there with some confidence having stamped some authority on the Drivers championship. For me Hamilton this year has stunk of the underachieving brit that we see in many other british sport stars, it has to be a small island complex.

  • @Nik : McLaren is currently missing 34 points compared to last year. Lewis is missing 10 and Heikki (14) is far from the 38 pts collected by Fernando last year… Don’t forget that even if Mclaren collects 36 points in the 2 next GPs they will be far from last year’s 106 pts and in the end of the season you need al the points you can. Facts are they are very late on their agenda and Ferrari is in front of their’s (+7)… and don’t expect Ferrari not to score any point in the next 2 races…

    About the drivers Kimi (+12 compared to 2007) has an average pts/race of 7, Lewis and Felipe have only 5.6. Last year to win the title required 6.47 pts per race. Right now sorry but the figures don’t look good for McLaren or Lewis.

    Lewis and Heikki are young and they still have a lot to learn McLaren made a big mistake last year and they might pay for it again this year. The F1 crunch ?

    Now, what I fear is a revival of last year’s drama with Heikki as Lewis, and Lewis as Fernando. Heikki is fast and Lewis (like all racers) doesn’t like it. It’s ok for Heikki to beat Lewis when they play bowling, not when they race for pole… And last saturday Heikki was faster and could use his tyres much better than Lewis did… I smell trouble at McLaren again.

    A pity Alonso and Rosberg are not where they could be… it would be even more funny !

    Pilots they are the salt of F1, and the only reason I have to watch the GPs… no matter the flag, no matter the car, pilots I love you !

    “Piloti che gente” said (and wrote) the late Enzo Ferrari he was spot on !

  • Indeed Ago, Ferrari is very strong and Kimi had some problems on his car last race, I think they will win both championship this year.

    Also I think BMW and Renault will be more strong over the year and will do some good results that can be a problem for Mclaren.

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