Phew, what a scorcher! No, not the summer just gone, but the F1 season still going. As it powers on into late November, through, almost (can it be so?), into December, it still feels like the riveting ride it has been since we touched down in Melbourne last March to witness Mercedes changing the game.
We’ve had ‘map-gate’ (the Nico-Lewis spat over power modes used to boost performance early season); then we enjoyed Mirabeau-gate (did smiley, shiny Nico really pull such a devious manoeuvre to secure pole on his home-town streets?); then biff-gate at Spa, when Nico’s attempt to play hardball against a not-to-be-intimidated team-mate back-fired, leaving Rosberg to reap a rather bitter harvest amid podium boos. And now this: a head-to-head for the 2014 title that 18 races out has both drivers almost level pegging.
This might, just, be remembered as a classic season, for whatever the outcome it has provided us year-long with a finely poised rivalry between two contrasting characters, who just so happen to be race drivers of remarkably similar effect, despite their differences in approach.
In the November issue of F1 Racing magazine we analyse how we’ve got to where we are and it won’t spoil too much to reveal that Lewis – given reliability – holds the key to his own title destiny. How so? Well, as the cover robustly suggests, his single most defining characteristic, the attribute for which we, as a racing magazine love him so, is his “massive speed” and this should be enough to secure him the title. Hamilton knows this. Rosberg knows this. Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff know it too – hell we all do and if speed alone were enough to bag championships, he’d have more than just the one to his name already.
But it ain’t. Never has been. Which is why the likes of Alain Prost have beaten Ayrton Senna; why Lauda trumped Prost; why Jody beat Gilles and Mario, Ronnie. It is why, too, stealthy, calculating and also mega-quick Nico may yet ‘do’ Lewis – though not if distilled essence of race pace is the deciding factor.
As explained elsewhere in our ‘showdown’ analysis, Rosberg could easily be imagined tomorrow jumping to a parallel fast-track as CEO of a global corporate. Hamilton, though, exists solely, at this point in his life, to be a race driver. It’s everything he is, the means by which he defines his existence (which is why, I’d venture, he finds it so difficult to comprehend that another man can sometimes beat him in equal machinery – it’s simply beyond his complex competitive ken to acknowledge that this can be possible).
So we are left, then, with one tantalising final chapter to enjoy. The heart or the head? Passion or poise? Inspiration or calculation? Either man would make a truly worthy world champion, for both have routinely reached for, and attained excellence, each likely exceeding what they previously believed to have been their personal best. Fierce rivals now, they’ll one day look back and recall fondly the titanic tussle they enjoyed ‘that brilliant year’, as we, armchair fans all, enjoy it now.
Lewis, Nico (and Mercedes), it’s been a privilege to watch. May the best man win.