Winner: McLaren and Perez
I’ll have to see it to believe it. I expected the Ross Brawn road show to deliver results, and it did, when they got the cheat device, double-decker diffuser, accepted by the FIA; this always was Ross Brawn’s greatest comparative advantage. He also used to show brilliant strategic decisions, propelling an off-pace car to the sharp end of the grid.
But the magic is not working within the Mercedes corporate environment, and as we’ve seen with Toyota and Honda, maybe it won’t work in F1.
Hamilton has gone the way of, dare I say it, my favourite driver of all time, and to the same team, but under a different name now, gone for the money, not the proven infrastructure to deliver the winning machinery to match the winning driving capability.
I write, not happily; I sincerely believe Hamilton to be amongst the top three pure drivers (excluding team management capability, we know who the KING of that is, just in car capability); where he is in that top tier, is difficult to say, but it is so close, it probably varies by race track and other intangibles.
But I will say, good luck Lewis, over the 2011 to 2012 seasons, there is no doubt, for me, that you have delivered the greatest part of the spectacle, and great driving, especially when you have had the right focus; I hope you continue to strive for this year’s world championships; go for it!
Perez has indeed benefited from superb strategic decisions, but he had the goods to make those strategic decisions reasonable prospects, and then pull it off! He is a phenomenal driver, and we may be including him amongst the top tier at this time next year, after he’s had a chance to demonstrate what he can do at a top-funded pedigree team.
Too bad for dedicated Peter Sauber and co. but they knew this was coming; it is my understanding that they have yet another Latin American phenom in the pipe, rated even higher than Perez was before he entered F1; so hopefully he can pick up where Perez leaves off, and good luck to the little team that could. Unlike many, I think Kobayashi is a very good driver, and I hope he has the chance to demonstrate it before the season is out.
McLaren get the deal of the grid in Perez; while I still feel Kimi would be a superior choice, I would be at all surprised if he preferred to stay where he is, at Lotus; they give him the chilled environment, where he can focus on what he loves, and is the best at, driving whatever machinery he gets, as fast as it can be driven.
No disrespect to Jenson Button, but I fully expect Perez to start getting the better of him early on, next season; furthermore, if McLaren continue with the comparative development pace, remember there will be minimal technical changes this year, Perez could well be the 2013 champion!
But that is getting a little bit ahead of ourselves.
The elephant in the room, is the winningest world champion of all time; is it into Mercedes management, or… possibly a one-year stint back with the family?!?
Other benefactors, possibly:
I personally believe the Schumacher return was a disaster for Mercedes, but even more so for a fundamentally star-class potential driver, Rosberg; anybody who knows how the things work, knows that Rosberg never really had a chance, not because of his driving capability, but because of his ability to manage those around him. In this skill, he was a midget against the all time heavy weight champion. Hopefully, Rosberg’s great talent has not been permanently emasculated. But even if it hasn’t, he now goes up against one of the truly great talents in F1 racing, in Hamilton. Rosberg will have to re-establish his self-esteem, and come out of the blocks on all cylinders and keep it closer than Jenson Button has to have a chance at making a lasting impression in the sport. He has shown glimpses of stardom, but he has to deliver a steady stream of top-calibre results to get back on the map. Good luck to Nico, he’s going to need it.
You might think Jenson comes out on top, but he’ll have to get the better of Perez from the start, and stay in front for the season; I just don’t think he’s going to be able to. Perez has the lust for victory; he’s been so close, and many would agree with me, he’s already deserved a last step to the top, but hasn’t got it. So close he could taste it. We saw his dueling with Raikkonen, and it may have been the most telling display of mastery seen in Perez yet, competent against a top tier driver, yet fair.
I admit it, I like Perez. He’s an exciting, talented, focused driver. And it’s the last bit, that could elevate him to the top, which looks elusive for Hamilton this year. It wasn’t an issue of capability with Hamilton, it was focus. I think McLaren are trading up on that characteristic; time will tell if they had to give something up for that particular advantage.