It’s quite rare for a driver to win four races in a row. It’s even rarer for a driver to do it twice in the same season. In fact, it’s so rare that Lewis Hamilton became the first driver in F1 history to manage it yesterday in Russia.
Having claimed nine race wins this year, Hamilton is not only squeezing the life out of Nico Rosberg’s championship hopes, but he is also arguably making his teammate a rather forgettable title protagonist.
If Lewis can round out the last three races to win seven on the bounce, his victory margin of at least 45 points will look convincing, even if we have had to go to the final round of the season.
As uninspiring as the race in Sochi was, Hamilton took an important win on his march to the drivers’ championship. It was an easy event for most of the drivers, with Kevin Magnussen comparing it to a “chilled out Sunday drive”. Hamilton went wire-to-wire and seemed very relaxed throughout. There was no mad rush as we saw in Singapore – he took the race by the throat, and with it, the championship.
Rosberg’s race was much the opposite, though. As he tried to find a way through at turn two, Nico locked up his front tires, sending a wave of smoke over the oncoming pack. He did move into the lead after cutting the corner, but fairly gave the position back before ducking into the pits for a fresh set of tires. Making them last 52 laps was a remarkable achievement, and no man worked harder than the German on Sunday, but he still came up short.
It marks Rosberg’s sixth straight defeat, four of which have come at the hands of Hamilton. He has now won less than half of the races that his teammate has (9-4 to Hamilton), and, arguably, hasn’t had the measure of his teammate very often this season, if at all. The only time Rosberg has won when they have both started on the front row came in Monaco.
Consider this: without double points in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton would need to outscore Rosberg by just eight points in the next two races to be champion.
Rosberg has certainly enjoyed the best season of his Formula 1 career in 2014, there is no denying that. He has more pole positions than Hamilton, and his wins in Germany and Austria were particularly impressive.
Until recently, I still firmly believed that Nico would win the world championship, my thinking being that although Lewis is the quicker driver, Nico would make fewer mistakes. Yet his recent form has been marked by a number of errors, with the most recent one coming on Sunday in Russia. As a result, Hamilton has the title in the palm of his hand.
The big turning point came at Spa when Rosberg and Hamilton made contact on the second lap of the race, forcing the Briton out of the race with a puncture. By finishing second, Rosberg extended his championship lead to 29 points, yet the events following the race dealt a serious blow to his title hopes.
When Hamilton revealed to the media after the race in Belgium that Nico had “basically said he did it on purpose”, the psychological battle was won. Ever since, Rosberg hasn’t looked the same. His mistakes could be taken as proof of this.
Maybe it’s the experience of a title battle. Hamilton has one victory to his name from 2008, and was also in the running for titles in 2007 and 2010. For Rosberg, 2014 is the first chance to win a championship. He lacks the experience Hamilton has in this regard.
The mathematical advantage may be the one that counts at the end of the season, but it can be a byproduct of the psychological one. Lewis has both now, thus making him the overwhelming favorite for the championship.
Three races to go and 100 points to play for. It’s been a great season, but the championship may not be as close as we thought it would be come the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi.