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The turn of the screw

We’ve been here before: those periods in an F1 season when the champion-elect hits his groove and leaves his rivals whimpering at the roadside, with nothing better to show for their efforts than a covering of road dust. Michael Schumacher did it routinely in the noughties; Sebastian Vettel closed out 2013 with ten wins from 11 races. And that’s pretty much how it looks for Lewis Hamilton right now, despite the valiant efforts of Seb, Ferrari and, latterly, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, to stand strong in the face of the Hamilton-Mercedes tsunami.

It’s remarkable how Ferrari’s title campaign has imploded.

The stats tell their own story: since the August break, Lewis has won four from five, dropping only seven points from a maximum 125 with his P2 finish in Malaysia. In the same period, Vettel has taken only a second, a third, a fourth and two DNFs. Don’t forget that he left the Hungaroring in July having fronted a Ferrari one-two as Mercedes struggled for pace. And he led the world championship all the way from Melbourne to Spa, until Lewis finally edged ahead at Monza.

It’s remarkable how Ferrari’s title campaign has imploded – and I say that without glee, for I’d like nothing more than to see Lewis and Seb lining up on the front row in Abu Dhabi for an all-or-nothing showdown. But the Scuderia have come up against a finely tuned winning machine, battle-hardened after four consecutive seasons of domination.

Yes, Mercedes’ W08, is “a diva”, highly strung with performance flat spots Ferrari have exploited. On tracks requiring high levels of low-speed downforce, such as Monaco, the Hungaroring and Marina Bay, the SF70H has been the weapon of choice. But when the W08 flies, it flies. And the same could be said of Lewis himself. A global megastar, yet sometimes not quite ‘at the races’, he is now on a plane beyond that of his peers. His driving has been pitch-perfect and he has found a degree of harmony with himself, his car and his team that he has perhaps never experienced before.

The wellspring of his state of grace? The absence of his quick-but-needly former team-mate Nico Rosberg, who beat Lewis to the title last year using every trick in the book. As Nico admits this month in our interview on p32, he had to “mess with [Lewis’s] head” to beat Hamilton, and his method underpinned a carefully crafted strategy. Like a partner in a long relationship, he knew what buttons to push to get a rise out of his ‘other half’.

None of that applies now for Lewis, who seems to be winning in an almost beatific state. Although as our dear chum Murray Walker once noted, in F1, “anything can happen – and it probably will”. 

It’s not over till the diva sings...

Anthony Rowlinson
Editorial Director

Inside the issue

This month's features include

The Nico Rosberg interview
The 2016 world champion talks about the mental training that helped bring him title glory

The Halo: saint or sinner?
This device could save lives, but its 2018 introduction is controversial

The McRenault saga
As McLaren ditch Honda for Renault, we examine the ripple effect through the rest of the sport

The hardest job in F1
Honda F1 chief Yusuke Hasegawa on tough times with McLaren and a fresh start with Toro Rosso

You ask the questions
Williams’ Lance Stroll on dealing with his critics and a lack of testing

Stoffel Vandoorne
The McLaren ace takes Peter Windsor for a spin in a 570GT

Meet Pierre Gasly
Daniil Kvyat’s replacement at Toro Rosso on his sudden promotion

Now that was a car
Michael Schumacher’s classic Ferrari F2001 goes under the hammer

Plus

Racer’s edge
Peter Windsor on cars with soul

This F1 life
Pat Symonds on the need for greater clarity in F1 rule-making

Power play
Dieter Rencken on why McLaren don’t make their own engines

An F1 racer for a day
We take a ride in a two-seater Formula 1 car, with F1 Experiences

A chat with Tavo Hellmund
Meet the man responsible for the expansion of F1 in the Americas

Suited and booted
Behind the scenes at Alpinestars, we discover the science behind their fire-resistant race wear

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