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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Dominant with one victory, no pole positions and no fastest laps in the final 10 rounds of the season? And let’s not forget that one win came in Mexico City, where the altitude prevents the Ferrari and Mercedes engines from accessing their peak power modes and where Mercedes suffered from diabolical tyre wear.

I will pay that it is easy to misread Honda’s progress, though. Clearly McLaren’s problems over the past two seasons have been largely down to chassis, so the power unit may have made minimal progress between 2017 and 2018 but for being in a better car. Clear, however, is that progress was made this year — RBR wouldn’t have taken the gamble on Honda power if it didn’t think it had a chance of paying off.

Finally, if RBR isn’t 1.5 seconds ahead of Renault, where it is relative to Mercedes and Ferrari is what will decide whether the team has moved backwards; just because the gap is huge doesn’t mean no progress at all can be made.

Ricciardo bids farewell to Red Bull Racing, but what's next?

Certainly there’s no guarantee he’ll beat Hulkenberg, you’re right. You’d expect him to, but Nico has proven that he rises to the challenge of having a competitive teammate. Absolutely this is his chance to suggest again that he belongs to that top tier of drivers if he can beat Daniel. It’ll be another great battle to watch in what should be a fascinating season of teammate rivalries.

Ricciardo bids farewell to Red Bull Racing, but what's next?

It all depends on Renault, I think — and he’ll be gambling too that RBR won’t make enough progress to challenge for the title before he will. But you’re right — winning the title is as much about being in the right place in the wrong time as it is anything else. Just ask Fernando.

Ricciardo bids farewell to Red Bull Racing, but what's next?

Impressive! I think he actually completed the second-fewest laps this season — 936 compared to Alonso’s 931 — but here are some more obscure stats stemming from this fact:

Hulkenberg scored 0.074 points per completed lap, easily higher than anyone else in the midfield including Alonso, who was next-best with 0.054 points per lap. He also scored 4.929 points per race he finished, more than Alonso’s 3.333.

Qualifying results aside — and the Renault power unit is the biggest disadvantage here anyway — I can’t think of a measure on which Hulkenberg wasn’t the midfield’s most accomplished driver this season.

Awarding F1's class B championship

A combination of all of those things are behind Sauber’s improved performance, plus more stable leadership and improved cash flow, which always helps. Its Ferrari relationship is really starting to pay dividends too, and I think Raikkonen returning to the team is evidence that it’s on a good path rather thank fluking it.

I’d take RBR’s words with a few grains of salt! There’s no doubt Honda’s improved immensely without McLaren, but they’ve also had plenty of failures this season, and they’re far from all being strategic engine changes, despite what Toro Rosso is trying to say. Still, devlopment will be faster with two teams, and I think they’ve done enough this year to warrant some faith they’ll come good sooner rather than later.

Awarding F1's class B championship

I’ll cop that! I doubted Hulkenberg, but he really raised his game this year, which’ll be good preparation for being Ricciardo’s teammate next season. Sainz, on the other hand, has some restoration work to do on his reputation and is at real risk of disappearing at the back of the field if McLaren ends up nowhere over the next few seasons.

Awarding F1's class B championship

Wouldn’t that be something! And neither Verstappen nor Gasly gets along with Ocon, so he could really ruffle some feathers at RBR.

Why Valtteri Bottas' days are numbered

I suppose Mercedes is just used to winning! I think what we’ve seen this year from Ferrari is an almost complete but still obviously flawed team, and all those small imperfections together have applied massive internal pressure. Mercedes has become substantially better at dealing with this sort of pressure — but then I suppose it was able to do a lot of its learning when it had a massive car advantage in 2014–16.

How five-time champ Mercedes made itself unstoppable

To be fair to Mercedes, the team went out of its way for most of the season to demonstrate that it had no designated first or second driver. If Bottas had been equal or thereabouts on points with Hamilton, Lewis wouldn’t have gotten the preferential treatment he received late in the season.

Was that always the goal with Bottas? Hard to say — the real test will be how Mercedes manages a transition to its next generation of drivers.

How five-time champ Mercedes made itself unstoppable

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?