Head on a plate
“Who the **** made that call?”
It’s all gone wrong, horribly wrong.
“We’ve lost this, haven’t we?”
With jaw-shattering force the nightmarish hell of the situation has just hit Lewis Hamilton square in the face.
The most undoubtedly ill-advised Formula 1 race strategy call since Abu Dhabi 2010 has cost Mercedes’ two-time world champion a much-deserved Monaco Grand Prix victory and – in a traumatising twist – handed this most special of races to the Englishman’s nemesis Nico Rosberg.
Hundreds of millions of F1 fans watching around the globe, spectators in the Principality’s grandstands, TV commentators, slouching journalists in the media room, trackside photographers, all are perplexed, utterly confused, puzzled by the reason for such a reckless, senseless and ruinous ‘strategic’ decision.
Sitting atop their pit-box stools the (very) highly paid ‘experts’ trusted with calling the Silver Arrows’ race direction look baffled, bewildered and bamboozled. They’re well aware of the firestorm of negative PR this self-inflicted act of reckless stupidity will ignite.
The chequered flag falls and – for the third time in a row – this most glamorous of grands prix is won by the German with his bright-green-gloved-left-hand index finger stabbing the air in a victory salute.
Oh the drama, the intrigue, the joy and the disappointment. Once again F1 delivers a knife-twisting story that could have been penned by Hollywood’s most sensationalist scriptwriters. But this is no fiction, this is reality.
In the garage, and on the pit wall, the questions circulate: “Where’s Lewis?” “Is he going to show for the podium ceremony?” At the furthest end of the circuit, parked at Portiers, the third-placed Mercedes F1W 06 is stationary.
Who knows what highly charged emotional thoughts were pulsating through his mind. One can imagine and understand that Lewis may have considered switching the power unit off, unclipping his belts and walking to his nearby apartment. After all, as a passionate admirer of his hero Aryton Senna, wouldn’t he be doing nothing more than the Brasilian had done in 1988. After crashing his McLaren at Portiers while leading the race, and completely dominating his team-mate Alain Prost, Senna simply walked away.
Crackling across the airwaves Lewis’s race engineer politely reminded his charge to head for the Royal Box rather than the pit lane and Lewis, gathering his thoughts, selected first gear and headed for Rosberg’s coronation.
Whatever your allegiances, I’d defy anyone not to have felt for the crestfallen champion as the post-race rituals played out for all to see.
It was obvious, wasn’t it? TV shots, track-marshal post ‘Dead Reckoning’ timing data, just one’s common sense. All should have quickly dismissed any thought of putting at risk an in-the-bag race win. I know a grand prix’s closing laps produce a charged atmosphere, especially when combined with a Safety Car period, but really, the ‘brain trust’ that teams employ – at eye-watering expense – to direct their strategic decisions should know better.
Not only is it the guys you see at the track, back at the teams’ space-station-like factories rooms full of (supposedly) mega minds are mission-controlling operations, armed to the nth degree with race-relevant information.
What the hell were they up to?
Perhaps they’re spooked. Mercedes appear akin to a hedgehog transfixed by the bright lights of an oncoming car. Ferrari’s opportunistic Malaysian race win seems to have engendered an attitude of mild panic in the Brackley-based team. Perhaps it was this unnecessary mindset that influenced their Sunday afternoon 65th-lap decision.
If it was then they should be worried. Not so much by the threat posed by Sebastian Vettel in his SF15 T but rather their own fragile confidence and lack of common sense.
Lewis will bounce back of course, but that’s not really the point, is it? His team let him down in a worrying moment of madness, and for all the “we win and lose together’” sickly sweet ‘n’ syrupy sound bites, one hopes that Hamilton showed – away from the media’s greedy gaze – some proper Fernando Alonso-like rage.
Lewis plays the overly affected headphone-wearing dude with aplomb, trouble is when his post-disastrous-race look is exactly the same, there’s no clout.
Crash helmet flung across the room and a door wrenched off its hinges – as I witnessed Fernando act out at Shanghai 2007 – is what I hope Lewis did on Sunday.
“I want the head of the guy that called that,” as I understand Niki Lauda requested on Sunday afternoon, is a bit more like it.
Take a nasty pill, Lewis, and show some fight.