On Sunday Lewis Hamilton edged closer to his second Formula One World Championship with a victory at Austin’s US Grand Prix. Lengthening the gap between himself and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, Hamilton’s performance was characteristic of the determination the Briton has required over the season.
Were Hamilton to carry on to achieve victory in the race for the title, few might say it had been an easy endeavour. After a raft of early technical challenges that derailed his early efforts, Hamilton found himself with a deficit to Rosberg that at its largest totalled 29 points, only to recover his form and achieve the consistency necessary in pursuit of the Championship. Taking victory in the last 5 races, 3 of which from pole position, Hamilton has more than overcome Rosberg’s 29 point lead, now ahead of his teammate by 24 points with just two races remaining.
Lining up on the starting grid behind his teammate, Hamilton had appeared to have it all to do on an Austin circuit whose thin track and tight turns make overtaking challenging. With Rosberg out-qualifying Hamilton he was, as is common practice, afforded him the right to pit first, quashing the prospect of Hamilton gaining the position through a well-timed pit manoeuvre due to the tyre wear on such a hot and changeable track surface. However, having left the pits trailing Rosberg by 2.8 seconds Hamilton quickly made up the time, finding himself within a second of his teammate just 5 laps later. It was heading into the hairpin of turn 12 that Hamilton made what proved to be the decisive move of the race, diving with precision into the tight corner and catching Rosberg seemingly unawares. Holding his inside line Hamilton gained the advantage through the sharp turn, keeping Rosberg wide and emerging from the move in first, holding the position through to the end of the race and claiming both his tenth win of the season and the record number of wins from a British driver, overtaking Nigel Mansell.
As Hamilton furthers the gap between himself and Rosberg more and more is being made of the rule change imposed by Bernie Ecclestone that double points will be awarded for the final race in Abu Dhabi. With the potential to turn the title race on its head drivers, pundits and fans alike have questioned the fairness of the new measure, in turn casting an eye on Ecclestone that might prove constructive in the future. Observing the reaction of those involved in the sport, it might prompt Ecclestone to rethink the measure and others like it in coming seasons, thus serving to preserve fairness and equitableness in the sport for the future.
The prospective rule change has, however, provided an opportunity for those within the sport to demonstrate their own sense of fair play. Even Nico Rosberg, who might potentially have the most to gain were double points offered in the final race, has remained staunch in his opposition to the idea. While the competition between Hamilton and Rosberg has been heated throughout the season, with the German describing their rivalry as “full-on” and his own drive for the title as unabated, his commitment to ensuring a level playing field is refreshing. Though Rosberg may profit from the prospect of double points, as Hamilton may win in Brazil and still be edged to the title to his Mercedes teammate if he were to retire in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg has labelled the rule change “artificial”, urging the likes of Ecclestone to keep Formula One “straightforward” rather than laden with contrived artifice. Rosberg’s sentiments have since been echoed by Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, who suggested the potential “overshadowing” of the season by the rule change.
As Hamilton nears his second world title, the reaction to a rule change that has the potential to significantly affect the outcome of the race for the championship might prompt constructive changes. Prompting the likes of Ecclestone to rethink such measures in the future, as well as providing an opportunity for those within the sport to demonstrate an admirable sense of fair play.
What steps might Hamilton take to further increase his lead over Rosberg in the approach to the double points race that might benefit his teammate?