The Roar
The Roar

Michael Lamonato

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Joined July 2012

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Michael is a presenter/producer of ABC Grandstand's national F1 programme Box of Neutrals, but his most significant claim to fame came during the 2013 Australian Grand Prix when he angered the French contingent of the paddock by accidentally opening an umbrella indoors. He's also done some other things, none of which are particularly interesting. You can find him every Friday at 10:30AM (AET) on ABC Grandstand, or talking largely to himself at any time on Twitter: @MichaelLamonato.

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I can see your point, but those were really exceptional circumstances on an exceptional circuit. But to address it, perhaps keeping some limited practice — say, just 60 minutes on Saturday — would be a good balance. New circuits could have extra practice allocated if the FIA felt it necessary too.

Why Formula One should ditch free practice

You could well be right. It’s not particularly clear where the money’s going to come from for the first year, and the idea is to have it sustainable with sponsorship from the second season, which seems like a tall ask. I’ve heard parallels drawn between it and A1 GP, oh boy.

Why the W Series deserves a chance

I think I’m right in saying they also used it for qualifying and the race in Japan — they went back to the spec-two unit in Russia because they’ll need it in the high-altitude races in Mexico City and Brazil, where the spec-three unit’s unreliability could be particularly problematic.

Yeah, they did fall down in the race, but it Gasly could’ve scored at least a point had his strategy been better, and Hartley suffered a poor start. The latest I heard is that he’s still in the picture to keep his seat for the time being, but it’s hard to say with Helmut Marko.

Honda: From 'GP2 engine' to top-10 contender?

I don’t think there’s a disproportionate amount of anti-Schumacher or anti-Ferrari bias anywhere, to be honest. Schumacher was rightly criticised for his more questionable driving tactics but is regarded as highly as any of the greats; Ferrari is likewise given the credit it deserves for its historic successes but derided for its propensity to fall into deep troughs between purple patches.

I understand what you mean when you’re comparing them, but there are key differences. Barrichello was way behind in points, but he’d had four DNFs, three of which were mechanical, by Austria but had just one fewer pole position than Schumacher — he hadn’t even had a chance by that point in the season. Bottas, on the other hand, as slowly worked his way out of contention by underperforming compared to Hamilton.

Mercedes also had more to lose. Whereas Ferrari had a sizeable pace and points advantage — even with open development there wasn’t going to be a sudden form reversal — Mercedes had only a points advantage. A DNF for Hamilton with a car only on par with Ferrari with a handful of races remaining would have been substantially more costly than a DNF for Schumacher in a far quicker car at the midseason break.

Why Mercedes was right to use team orders in Russia

Yeah, they could’ve, but I suppose Vettel was following closely enough that any change of the lead would’ve been a threat. Plus they both would’ve lost time and potentially opened themselves up to being undercut by Ferrari. It’s fair to say it wasn’t the cleanest day strategically for Mercedes, though.

Why Mercedes was right to use team orders in Russia

It’s not a comparable example, though. Austria was the sixth round of that season in which Ferrari was so dominant that Schumacher already had a points advantage worth two race wins — and then of course there was the way it was executed. If you’re judging the overall fairness, it’s not a useful comparison.

Why Mercedes was right to use team orders in Russia

My understanding is the deal’s done, and the BBC has also ventured as much since Singapore. Of course things can always change — just ask Esteban Ocon about his Renault contract! — but that’s what I’ve heard, and we should know for certain by the Russian Grand Prix next weekend.

George Russell is a Mercedes driver, so no non-Mercedes-affiliated team will take him. It’s the same reason McLaren didn’t take Ocon — it’s not in their interests to fund the development of a driver who can be extracted to a rival at any given time.

What a Kvyat-Red Bull reunion says about Toro Rosso

Raikkonen didn’t cook his tyres because he had to push hard; it’s because he pushed too hard — he and the team were too focused on closing the pit stop window after his first stop that he blistered his tyres too significantly to defend at the end of the race.

So in that sense, sure, Mercedes had race pace comparable to Raikkonen’s performance — but then consider than Sebastian Vettel finished only 16 seconds behind Hamilton despite being more than 30 seconds off the lead in his first stint after his first-lap crash. It’s no stretch to suggest that Vettel, had he been leading the race rather than Raikkonen, would’ve been a far more difficult proposition for Mercedes to overcome.

Why Leclerc's Ferrari promotion should have Vettel worried

Further concern to Vettel should be if Antonio Giovinazzi, if he ends up in the second Sauber car, also performs strongly — he may well find himself in a surprisingly weak negotiating position come the end of his contract.

Why Leclerc's Ferrari promotion should have Vettel worried

Sure, Hamilton had some high-profile reliability problems, but the two cars were obviously as quick as each other. What made the difference was that Hamilton failed to turn up to the races before the Spanish Grand Prix when a win at only one of those races would’ve decided the title in his favour. You could also consider his head-down response in Japan to his Malaysian engine failure also contributed.

Undeniable is that Hamilton had the tools to get the job done against Rosberg in 2016 but erred in not using them. Unreliability is unavoidable; driver error is not. That lost him the title.

Certainly you’re right about last year’s relative performance levels. Mercedes was theoretically faster but struggled to operate at its maximum; Ferrari was consistent and scored regularly, which left them in about the same place over the course of a season.

Is this the sound of Vettel cracking?

Yep, of course Lewis Hamilton gave Fernando Alonso more than a run for his money — notwithstanding that Alonso was new the team in 2007 rather than established as he was when Vandoorne arrived in 2017.

What I mean by unrestricted testing is that in those times teams were free to do as much testing in current machinery as they could afford. This not only gave them development advantages over teams not able to pay for as much testing, but it also meant they were free to evaluate rookies in representative cars alongside current drivers. This was progressively scaled back from 2008.

Hamilton was the beneficiary of this era in the sense that he was well up to speed with both McLaren in an operational sense and the workings of a modern car long before he had to race it competitively. This Sky Sports article has a bit of a breakdown of some of the key tests he undertook, and you can find some more info on Formula One’s approach to restricting testing here

Can McLaren rookie Norris avoid Vandoorne's fate?

The real qualifying error for Ferrari was that Vettel and Raikkonen were sent out too late for Vettel to pick up Hamilton’s slipstream. Vettel apparently took no issue with Raikkonen going out second because they’ve been taking it on turn all year — although I think it would be fair to argue that, given the value of the slipstream at Monza and given the championship standings, Vettel should’ve been preferenced in the first place.

Maybe he was always going to have a go early, but it was his mistake to do so. He’s faster than Raikkonen so could easily have managed something around the pit stop window, or at least have had a go once they edged a little clear of Hamilton.

The difference between Vettel potentially losing to Hamilton and Hamilton losing to Rosberg is that Rosberg had the same car, so it’s not exactly a like-for-like comparison.

Is this the sound of Vettel cracking?

The problem is that Vettel left the racing line, which allowed Hamilton to pull well alongside him on the racing line in the braking zone. Once that happened — and indeed once Hamilton nosed ahead — it was up to Vettel to avoid the accident. Truthfully the crash was the result of the error Vettel made on the run down to the corner.

It was risky by Hamilton — like you say, the defending car is liable to make contact — but he was ahead on the racing line, so he was in the right.

Is this the sound of Vettel cracking?

I think it’s fair enough to say that with seven races to go, the title is still open, but certainly Vettel’s up against it now. He doesn’t strike me as a confidence driver, though; I think he’s more affected by how the team is working internally. If the team is in dysfunction, he becomes less competitive, and I think his 2016 season is an indicator of this.

The question is: is his point loss this season down to over-ambition, an inability to handle on-track pressure, a response to internal problems? I think Christian Horner recently alluded to a theory that Vettel was attempting to compensate for internal Ferrari errors, which I found interesting.

Is this the sound of Vettel cracking?

Bang on. It surely would’ve been the same situation as Monaco last year, with Ferrari quietly switching the too — and even if they didn’t, second place would still have closed the championship deficit to 14 points.

Is this the sound of Vettel cracking?

I think that’s fair, and we got a very strong hint of that last season too, particularly in Singapore. Maybe it stems from Vettel underestimating Hamilton’s focus or, at least this season, overestimating Ferrari’s pace advantage and therefore the speed at which he can recover lost ground.

Is this the sound of Vettel cracking?

Yep, exactly right. It’s like pretty much any aesthetic change that’s come to F1 — it looks strange for a couple of races and then blends into the background.

How Belgium put the halo debate to bed

I’m not down on Alonso because he’s leaving Formula One; I’m down that Alonso is is leaving Formula One. I understand completely why he’s leaving, which is exactly as you say — to compete for victories elsewhere in pursuit of the ‘triple crown’, which is giving these years of his career meaning.

To say the F1 is too predictable on his way out is blatant deflection, however, especially given he said it right before he predictably led Toyota to its third successive one-two finish in essentially a two-car LMP1 category — notwithstanding of course that both cars were later disqualified. I suppose no-one could’ve predicted that.

Why Alonso's F1 criticisms are misguided

Exactly right. The fact there are only two teams really capable of winning this season is a major part of the problem. Naturally enough both already have top-line drivers, so there’s no need for them to risk disruption by bringing Alonso into the fold.

Why Alonso's F1 criticisms are misguided

Yeah, there’s obviously a lot of frustration in Alonso’s words, even if he claims he’s completely at peace with his lot in Formula One, and there’s no doubt he wouldn’t be leaving if he were winning or had even a faint prospect of victory.

Why Alonso's F1 criticisms are misguided

He wasn’t “taken out” in Singapore (elaborated on in a comment further down), but in Malaysia and Japan he obviously suffered technical problems. His championship imploded in Asia — or, really, after the midseason break — by a combination of a bunch of factors, only one of which was driver error.

Not being able to pass in Spain isn’t evidence of anything. Go back to 2016 when Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo weren’t able to pass Max Verstappen or Sebastian Vettel respectively despite having newer tyres. The track is too aero-dependent for passing amongst closely-matched machines under latter-day regulations.

Alonso bows out of F1 with a mixed legacy

You can’t say it was “in no way Vettel’s fault”. I get that it’s a clumsy first-lap incident in the rain, but him swinging across to defend Verstappen triggered the accident. Verstappen wasn’t in the title fight – in those conditions and with Hamilton further back on the grid he should’ve been more focused than that.

Alonso bows out of F1 with a mixed legacy

I think you’re definitely right in picking out 2007 as his defining season. Maybe this is the year he grew cynical, and that cynicism dogged his career thereafter. Would he have been so aggressive behind the scenes at Ferrari had his time at McLaren been smoother? Would he have even ended up at Ferrari in the first place? Hard to say, of course, but Alonso’s career has a bunch of tantalising parallel universes in which you could imagine just about anything happening.

I think Andrew Benson wrote this week that a senior RBR guy told him Alonso had been offered a Red Bull Racing contract at the end of 2007. Imagine if he’d gone — titles from 2009 to 2013 (too bad for Button, who loses his one championship in this scenario!), and then he could well have switched to Ferrari in 2015 and been in Vettel’s position now, vying for his eighth world title. What a different F1 that’d be!

Alonso bows out of F1 with a mixed legacy

Thanks for the message, mate. I think you’ve got it pretty much correct — the Mercedes was theoretically faster but had trouble staying at the limit, which is what Toto meant by his recurrent ‘diva’ commentary. The fact Mercedes blitzed qualifying last year 15-5 is testament to this.

The Ferrari, on the other hand, traded absolute performance for workability. It was more a more consistent car that was easier to understand and set up. This paid great dividends early in the year, when Ferrari was able to capitalise on Mercedes’s struggles, but the longer the season went on, the more consistently competitive Mercedes became.

Both Hamilton and Vettel had reliability problems, though Vettel was the only one to suffer a terminal race issue when he retired in Japan with a spark plug problem. Hamilton finished outside the top five only twice; Vettel only once (excluding his two DNFs).

I don’t think Vettel’s crashes affected reliability, but certainly his crashes counted him out of the championship. I wrote here last year that the majority of Vettel’s points deficit after his retirement in Japan were actually down to driver error rather than technical fault.

Would he have had enough to close the championship thereafter? That’s the debatable question. Hamilton eased off once he’d won the title, so it’s hard to do a straight comparison in the last few races. You’d think it’d have been close, at least.

Alonso bows out of F1 with a mixed legacy

I agree he’s not on Hamilton’s level, and I think Rosberg probably does too! But nonetheless it was a closely contested championship that season for whatever combination of reasons. It wasn’t a hollow title win.

Alonso bows out of F1 with a mixed legacy