I was watching the recent live event on Facebook in which Lewis Hamilton answered fans questions and I thought he did a nice job of it as did the interviewer. It was a good event and no lag—for me anyway—so that’s always a positive.
During that interview, I was a bit surprised by his comments regarding his new teammate, Valtteri Bottas. They weren’t disparaging, far from it, but they weren’t the traditional high road either. He also called for an end of data sharing between teammates at Mercedes saying:
“I go out, do my laps, do all my homework, [and] the other guy can see everything,” said Hamilton.
“I have asked my team. I don’t want to see my team mate’s.
“I don’t feel it’s fair that he brings his A-game and I should be able to study his A-game on a computer.
“For example when we’re driving we’re picking out braking points, bumps, tire rubber marks on the track, all these different things to help get you through the corner quickest.
“The other driver probably naturally may be able to do more or less than you are.
“But because of this data they can just copy you. ‘Oh he’s braking five meters later there, I’ll go out and I’ll try braking five meters later’.
“So that’s what I really dislike, because it enables them to get closer.
“That’s what I loved about go-karting; you weren’t able to do that and that was where just your raw talent is able to shine.”
With this comment and the general comments about his new teammate, I would suggest that he’s already starting the very public process of getting into Valtteri’s head a bit. Starting to set the stage for what he must perceive as a decent battle between them.
If you felt that Nico Rosberg was 100% of the consternation between teammates at Mercedes, this may give you more insight as to Lewis’s role in ramping up the tension within Mercedes. Not that Nico had no role, but he wasn’t the sole reason for the love loss between the two drivers.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a story about Lewis calling for no mechanic and engineer switching from his side of the garage—which he contributes as a key factor of why he lost the title last year—and this data sharing is yet another public shin-kick for his team before the season has even gotten started. These are typically issues that the team would discuss internally but Lewis is already setting the stage with these key issues attached to his personal brand rather than they being a part of the Mercedes brand. I find that interesting.
More power to Lewis, he’s built a large brand for himself and it is statements such as these that give one the impression that he is, in no way, considering himself as the team so much as Lewis Hamilton, the driver he’s allowed Mercedes to support. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that type of positioning.
I’m not the only person considering that Valtteri Bottas may not be a walk in the park for Lewis. I think the Fin has some serious pace and has honed his race craft on Williams F1’s dime. If you were looking at drivers ready to make the jump from mid-field to the sharp end of the grid, certainly Valtteri is one of the better choices.
Having said that, Bottas wasn’t always blowing his teammate, Felipe Massa, into the weeds either and Massa is a veteran who some pundits might argue is past his sell-by date. It’s difficult to know just how well Valtteri will do but he is no nonsense and has one year to make a difference and I think that contract limit will be enough pressure to make him push Lewis as hard as he can. With our without Lewis’s data.
I can think of a few occasions when Lewis benefitted from receiving Nico Rosberg’s data so you have to admire his willingness to forego that kind of help on weekends that may be more of a struggle for his side of the garage. He’s willing to roll the dice and I admire that.
On the other side of the coin, Lewis is asking for division within a team that Toto Wolff and management are trying very hard to keep whole with no division in ranks for sides of the garage.
Hat Tip: UBS Facebook