The procession nature of Formula One in recent years – with the same cars at the front, the same teams running just behind, then daylight to the best of the rest where racing actually happens – doesn’t make for great motorsport viewing.
Wow! That was one entertaining race and weekend in general. There is plenty to talk about as always, so let’s get right into it.
It’s time for people to finally give plaudits to Lance Stroll
Pole position. Controlled the race for the majority of it. Drove an incredibly well-rounded and strong weekend. Is that now enough for people to actually sit up and respect Lance Stroll?
You could imagine my feelings across this weekend, particularly given I didn’t catch qualifying live and had to wake up to the incredible outcome that was the result from Saturday that saw him become the first Canadian to secure a pole position since Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez in 1997.
Once the initial joy and excitement were over, it was time to focus on the race, and I’m sure like many people out there I assumed it would be a Saturday special for Stroll and that on Sunday he wouldn’t be able to match it with the big boys for the win.
How wrong we were.
So strong was Stroll in the opening half of the race that he led by more than five seconds after the first two laps and had a pit stop in hand over the majority of the field. It was incredibly mature driving by the Canadian that proved what I have been banging on about for a long time – that he is a highly skilled and talented driver who people overlook because of his father’s status in the sport.
Sadly, however, the fairytale win that would’ve had me writing a novel on here about how amazing he is didn’t happen. A bungled strategy by Racing Point cost him any chance of that, and Stroll was stuck on tyres that just didn’t work with the car in the same way his first two sets did. He limped home in ninth place and watched his teammate secure the best position for the team all season.
It was gut-wrenching to see Stroll’s efforts not go rewarded, but hopefully this weekend will finally cause an end to the cliche rhetoric that follows him.
Sadly, I can already see this isn’t the case, with many fans online jumping on a familiar train. Even respected pundit Will Buxton claimed Stroll had “lost his head” in the second half of the race. Given the many mistakes of drivers such as Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon during the race compared to Stroll, it goes to show we sadly still have a very long time to go until Lance finally gets the much-deserved respect he should.
The win will come. We’ve seen glimpses of it this year. And then maybe, just maybe, people will finally remain silent.
A quick note to end this point on Stroll’s compatriot Nicholas Latifi. It was a wretched weekend for the Williams driver, with a DNF only compounding his miserable race – a shame given it’s a race like this in which he and teammate George Russell should be ready to pounce on.
Seventh heaven for Team LH
I have a friendly piece of advice for anybody reading this article today: don’t express your opinion on Lewis Hamilton on Twitter at 4am on the day he claims a record-equalling seventh world championship. That is something you will live to regret.
On that note, let’s get something out of the way first. Lewis drove an absolutely outstanding race to win a race he had no right winning and deservingly won another world championship. His seventh equals the great Michael Schumacher in the process. Nobody could take away his performance on Sunday, and I tip my hat to him.
But let’s move into the usual negative rhetoric you have come to expect from me.
As always, I still struggle to take his achievements on the same level as those who have come before him. I’m a logical guy when it comes to reading into records. Generally I’m the type of person who likes to let the stats back up the facts. Statistically speaking, Lewis Hamilton has had a very easy run to the status he has had. A level that Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Vettel, Alonso and the chasing pack haven’t had. It’s simply something that stats don’t lie on.
In saying that, Lewis Hamilton is not a bad driver. Far from it. He is one of the all-time greats and, as mentioned a few weeks ago, he would easily be in line for a spot on the ‘F1 Mount Rushmore’. It also comes with the fact that you can’t put any average person in the best car in the field and have them win. If that were the case, Bottas would be winning every other weekend, and he’s not. So Hamilton is and will always be an F1 legend.
But those involved in the cult of Team LH have seemingly lost all sense of clarity when it comes to defending their star driver.
Case in point a consistent retort used is that he hasn’t always had the best car, while drivers such as Schumacher and Senna did. Once again, stats back up the facts, so let’s take a look at those, shall we?
Hamilton has had one car in his career that wasn’t in the best two of the field, and that was in 2009 in his McLaren. However, by the second half of that season the car had easily shot itself into the top two best cars in the field, a fact backed up by Hamilton going from having a highest finish of fourth in the opening nine rounds and zero podiums to ending the final eight races with a win and five podiums. No other driver in the back half of 2009 had that many podiums or scored as many points as Hamilton did. Hell, even his teammate at the time, Heikki Kovalainen, went from having six points after nine rounds to 22 by the end of the season.
To back that point up, the one time had a car that wasn’t in the top two of the field, he did very little with it. Every other season he has been in a car that was in the top two of the year. A whole separate article could easily be made to list all the years that Senna, Schumacher, Prost, Vettel and Alonso didn’t.
This drum banging is annoying and won’t sit well with everyone. But the fact of the matter is if you’re going to support a driver and claim things like they are the ‘best of all time’, do some simple fact-checking and get some background research done before fully sticking to your claims.
Wow. Valtteri. What on earth was that? From a driver who really isn’t as bad as many people claim, that was one rugged race. How many spins were there in total? It must be at least five. And to be lapped by your teammate, somebody who you had to beat to stay in the hunt for a championship? Wow. Name a driver who has had a worse race in recent memory. I’d love to hear it.
The most intriguing part was that once again Bottas said he would “get him next year”. Not sure how long a year is in Finland, but something tells me it’s a lot longer than the 365 or 366-day years we’re used to in the rest of the world.
Seb shows he still has it
Lost in all the excitement of Lance doing so well was the small fact that Ferrari actually had their best race of the year. At the back end of that was the superb drive by Sebastian Vettel to go from 12th on the grid to his first podium of the season. Incredible. There has never been any doubt to me that he is as still as good as he has always been, and it’s moments like this that show how capable of a driver he is.
On that note, the class shown by Seb after the race to be the first driver to congratulate Lewis was second to none. Bravo, Seb, for once again showing you are perhaps the classiest guy on the grid.
Turkey needs to return
There is a nice empty slot in the calendar next year with the big bold letters of TBC, and unless we’re about to see the debut of the Tasmanian Backmarker Championship – and I’m all far that as I feel I’m in with a shot – I highly recommend putting Turkey back on the list.
Out of all the Tilkedromes in existence, Istanbul Park is by far the best and one that is universally loved. Turn 8 alone should be enough to have this race on the calendar every year, and after a super weekend it should surely put it as a high contender for that TBC slot.
Please make it happen, F1. I, the fans and everyone else will thank you for it.
With three races remaining, there is little to play for except hopefully more races like this one. As always, I’ll speak to you after Bahrain, and bring it on!