Wednesday, 5 November 2014

When the samba stops, who will be sitting pretty ?

Brazil is about one thing and one thing only.

No, not how did the national team implode so spectacularly !!!. 

No the one big question will be; Can Rosberg stop Hamilton and give himself a chance to pinch the title at the double points final ?

Nico is only 24 points behind Lewis, so Nico basically needs to win and have Lewis finish outside the points in Brazil, that would put him ahead by one point and then it’s just who finishes ahead of the other, first to tenth in Abu Dhabi.

If Lewis finishes second to Nico or wins, then all that’s left for Nico is a win in Abu Dhabi and have Lewis finish outside the points. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. I think we can assume now that the Mercs will be out the front fighting for the win. Danny or Massa might try to spoil the party, but it’s unlikely. Unless it rains than it’s a lottery at this place.

There are permutations for where Nico must finishes if Lewis finishes 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. But it all comes back to Lewis not finishing either race for Nico to take the title. And given the Mercedes has had an ongoing issue with brakes and its energy harvesting system this year, that’s not beyond doubt. Lewis suffered from a brake temperature issue in America that cost him the pole. Canada saw both cars suffer from brake issues and Germany say Lewis crash hard when he’s front brakes failed. So I don’t think either driver is counting the chickens just yet.

So the next question is: Who is the strongest driver mentally?

For years now, I’ve always complained that Nico just sort of goes to sleep for the odd race, you only knew he was there because he turned up on the result sheet. You never saw him, he didn’t feature in the story of the weekend. It’s something that Williams complained about when they sold him to Mercedes. But then at Mercedes he started to get his act together, beat Schumacher more often than not, but there were still weekends when he was just anonymous.

This year he’s won races, but generally when Lewis has had a problem and not been there to challenge him. In a straight fight, I don’t think Nico has that “next level” to up his game. Lewis is clinical, sees the chance and takes it. In America he hunted Nico down and took the lead from him. In Spa Nico fumbled the move on Lewis and almost took them both out. Lewis is feeding off the crowd, the media bubble and the team are helping him do it. Nico meanwhile has faded more and more into the background, shunning the lime light and making mistake on the track. The two mistakes in Monza was entirely his fault. Maybe it’ll works for him, stepping back and concentrating on the driving rather than Hamilton’s swagger.

But the most telling thing for me is his reaction to the booing at Monza, since then he’s not looked quite so chipper. The smile looks a bit forced and the aggression hasn’t been there. I think he’s one of those drivers that really needs to feel the love. Lewis has the vast majority of the crowd in his hand and he’s feeding off that love. Whilst Nico is playing the Panto villain and doesn’t appear to be enjoying the role cast for him. The reaction from the team – Lauda constantly telling the media world what a great driver Lewis is and Toto breaking out that big grin of his whenever Lewis glides past Nico - can’t be helping either.

In America, Nico blamed his second place on the fact he couldn’t find the rhythm of the circuit, whilst Lewis was into his groove from the moment the car fired up on Friday.

I don't think Nico has given up or Lewis has ground him down. I just think Nico doesn't have another mental gear to shift his performance up. He's a nice guy, but he's switched off after the fumbled move in Spa and not got over that.

So then. this weekend ... Do you think Lewis will make it six in a row ? My heart says "easily", my head says "he doesn't normally go well here". the last time he had a pressure race in Brazil he needed Toyota to save the day. He's older and wiser this time, but , well ... you just never know. I think he'll be ahead of Rosberg though. Lewis works best when he goes out to win the race, sitting back and "just doing enough" isn't in his dictionary, he's all about the glory. Nico meanwhile can't afford to sit back now, he has to beat Lewis.

Williams or Redbull could spoil the party, Danny especially. If the Merc boys get tangled up, the Redbull will be right there. And so too will the Williams boys. Bottas and Massa should be pretty handy round here, if they can hang onto their tyres then they stand an outside chance.  

There are still no Caterhams or Marrussias to come last, so some of you still need to adjust your predictions! 

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