Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Hamilton: Sochi shows Vettel is “clearly not” Ferrari’s number one any more

2019 Japanese Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton believes Ferrari have switched the focus of their efforts from one driver to another, and doubts they’ve made the right choice.

Ferrari unsuccessfully attempted to impose orders on their drivers in Russia, telling Sebastian Vettel to let Charles Leclerc overtake him. Hamilton said the team has clearly changed its approach to which driver is favoured.

“It’s an interesting dynamic they have there because obviously the Seb was number one and now clearly not,” Hamilton told media at Suzuka. “From kind of the energy, from the outlook, they’re trying to ramp Charles up to be.

“Is that good for a team? I don’t think so. But that’s the philosophy they’ve had for forever.

“We don’t complain because we have a good philosophy, it works really well here and we don’t plan on changing it any time soon.”

In Russia, Ferrari tried to co-ordinate how its drivers would approach the first corner, using Leclerc to help Vettel pass Hamilton. However Hamilton believes Leclerc was wrong not to block the inside line for turn two, where Vettel overtook him.

He compared Ferrari’s tactics with how he and Valtteri Bottas have handled the start in Sochi: “We work together as a team when we do that start.

“[If] I’m pole [or] Valtteri’s pole, instead of giving the tow to the third place guy, giving the tow to second place guy. We work together in that scenario, we did it a couple of years ago. He covered it inside, I got a tow, we locked up and he kept the lead.

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“So I understand that working ethic. But I think Charles had said that ‘I’ll let you take the tow’ and didn’t move and defend which he should have done. You don’t give up a place and then expect to get it back.”

Hamilton compared the situation at Ferrari to his relationship with Fernando Alonso in his first season of F1 at McLaren in 2007.

“I’ve not had a team back the other side so much, so heavily, before. Obviously when I was with Fernando he was the hired number one. But then mid-season they changed that.

“He was still the number one because he was the highest-paid driver, et cetera, but then they gave us equal fuel and then you started seeing changes like Montreal and Indianapolis, were we had equal fuel loads and stuff like that. Then that dynamic shifted, and it obviously didn’t go well for the team.

“I do understand because ultimately when you arrive you want to have equal opportunity, I think. But there are drivers that always wanted that number one status. It’s easier for them. I like to earn that. Start on an equal platform, then either of you can get that number one status on that weekend: Weekend in, weekend out, rather than [over] the course of the season.”

Asked by German media whether he felt he had become the number two driver at Ferrari, Vettel said: “Definitely not.”

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  • 44 comments on “Hamilton: Sochi shows Vettel is “clearly not” Ferrari’s number one any more”

    1. Oooh. Stirring the pot. Just like old Alonso used to do a lot.

      1. Yes, a political master, like Schumacher was :) He doesn’t want them to favor Leclerc: Vettel is more erratic.

      2. All I can think is, does lewis realise he’s been a number 1 driver his whole career. Glass ceilings lewis.

        1. @peartree hmm can’t agree, for the rookie season but as Hamilton said himself it changed mid season to equal. Plus he did earn or probably forced the team in 2007 to change.

          1. @icarby let me correct myself, his whole career excluding the first 5 gps of his debut season.

            1. @peartree I really don’t see it that way. More than any other team pairing I’ve watched in a top team, HAM has had the philosophy, beat me if you can beat me. Of course, if you take BOT as an example, HAM will always want to keep him in the team because he knows he’s faster. But I think that’s different to what we are talking about. Has HAM whined as much as other number one drivers about getting people out of the way so that he can lead? I really don’t think so, as far as I can recall.

            2. @shimks go back to hamilton twitting buttons data. Ham suggesting rosberg hit him and every time his team mate gets shafted.

            3. @peartree Yes, true, that was a dirty one. I guess part of the reason these guys win is that they influence absolutely everything they can which is within their control. Inside and outside the car. I guess the only time for a long while that a really nice ‘straight forward’ guy has won a championship was Jenson in ’09 and Kimi in ’07.

            4. @shimks yes agreed. Finally it’s not like I dislike Ham for ham being himself, I only dislike bs.

    2. Get in there Lewis haha

      1. God I wish his engineer would be more creative for once lol

    3. but then they gave us equal fuel and then you started seeing changes like Montreal and Indianapolis, were we had equal fuel loads and stuff like that

      Was this common knowledge back then?

      So, McLaren deliberately slowed Lewis down with more fuel in favour of Fenando? This can’t be true, can it?

      1. Monaco was an obvious short fuel over fuel situation for McClaren.

      2. Didn’t they publish the fuel loads after qualifying/before a race?

      3. more fuel was a favorable thing. Less fuel meant a better quali with lighter car but you had to come in earlier. Running longer on an overcut was more favorable usually back then. @lums

        1. Except Lewis was brought in early in both Australia and Monaco as Mclaren feared he would jump Alonso.

      4. At that time it was normal not to give both drivers the exact fuel amount. This was because they both couldn’t pit on the same lap for refuelling. So teams alternated the optimal strategy between drivers per race. On top of that drivers had to burn excess fuel in qualifying.

        McLaren also alternated strategies between Alonso and Hamilton. Hamilton not adhering to this in Hungary and driving out of the pits in qualifying out of turn was the reason behind the big scandal at that race.

        So I am not quite sure what to make of Hamilton’s comment.

        1. “Hamilton not adhering to this in Hungary and driving out of the pits”

          Hamilton doesn’t leave the pits of his own accord. They sent Alonso out right in front of both Ferrari’s, making it difficult for Hamilton to just hand the place over without compromising his own qualifying. That was McLarens fault, not Hamiltons.

      5. Initially they didn’t allow Lewis access to the lower fuel load, and even brought in him early in a couple of races to prevent him passing Alonso, most notably in Monaco, whch angered Hamilton, and caused a row between him and Ron Dennis. The next race, Lewis was given equal fuel allowance, and promptly took his first two pole positions and race wins in the following 2 races.

        In short, Dennis and Alonso didn’t expect this kid to be so quick, and Ron ultimately had no choice but to give him equal treatment.

      6. @lums The stewards actually launched an investigation into illegal team orders for that race. This brought out a lot of details on how McLaren orchestrated the race so that Alonso would win.

        Basically they fueled Hamilton for 3 to 4 laps extra and then they would pit him right after Alonso. So Hamilton was basically ballasted and this cost him half a second of laptime.

        So that meant no pole for Hamilton, then he was made slower for the first stint as well (and was not allowed to take the over cut) and then they gave him “hold station” orders to not attack Alonso.

    4. Sebastian Vettel is “clearly not” Ferrari’s number one any more, says Lewis Hamilton, who believes they are wrong to prioritise Charles Leclerc.

      That suggests that they should be prioritising Vettel, but when you read what he said, you see that he’s saying that the clear #1 and clear #2 thing isn’t the best way to do it, and it should just depend on who’s faster at each weekend.

      1. It’s called clickbait.

        1. “Click” flip I’m embarrassed to say it worked. Agree 100%. Journalists know better than their subjects.

          1. Lewis stating the obvious, just to play mind games.

            1. Someone didn’t read the article

    5. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      10th October 2019, 13:30

      Mamma Mia! O_O

    6. Cheeky Lewis :) That said, I think the relationships in Ferarri’s locker room are already sour enough for anyone to notice his remarks.

    7. Or at least if you find and acquire a top level talent like Leclerc, who definitly should be 1st driver in 1-2 years, you better not humiliate and mistreat him too much.

    8. I think if they have brain, they run them as equals in this and next season, no emotions, just plain strategy.
      Thats fair, a good learning opportunity to take some beat for Leclerc, and not too humiliating for Vettel, as its very likely he will be the weaker in a few years.

    9. Lewis is easily the smartest guy around. Clearly blessed with raw speed, he has upped his mental game on track / in factory, now he is upping his political game. Vettel is someone Hamilton can beat any time and hence he wants Vettel to be prioritized. Stirring the pot to make that happen.

      Very clever Lewis!! Just wish he was at Ferrari, would have supported him whole-heartedly :)

      1. Agreed. Clearly Leclerc is a lot tougher to beat than Vettel. Leclerc keeps his car on track (and in front) even when Hamilton relentlessly hounds him almost the whole race at Monza.

        1. I don’t see why everyone thinks it’s suggestion from him to make vettel #1 rather than his observation on the progress of his opponent team. Everyone in the F1 radius knows now that vettel is a fraud who blamed the cars and tracks for years and is now desperate to reclaim the #1 preference by political things like Singapore and foolish acts like Russia, only to redeem himself among his blind fanbase by a fan favourite nostalgic quote about some old device.

    10. Yeah, a few things that bother me about these comments by Lewis.

      1. I don’t think Ferrari have chosen Leclerc over Vettel at all. Singapore shows that they didn’t favor Leclerc. Sochi may show that they are more open to a race-by-race team leader.

      2. While he may have been talking about how Mercedes theoretically allows there to be a race leader rather than a team leader, the quote, “We don’t complain because we have a good philosophy, it works really well here and we don’t plan on changing it any time soon,” could also easily apply to having a #1 and #2 driver since Bottas joined.

      3. Merc does have a team leader and the other car moves out of the way for him or slows down for him.

      I get that Hamilton is just answering questions, so I don’t hold it against him. But it’s a bit rich for him to say that Merc’s system is great without acknowledging that it is great because it benefits him specifically.

      1. My point being, if Bottas was the team lead or at least leader this season and Hamilton was having to move over for him, I doubt Hamilton would be talking as kindly about how Merc does things. That’s all.

        1. @hobo Yet again you demonstrate how little you understand.

          There is no team lead at Mercedes. They do favor the driver who’s in front and Bottas gets just as much opportunity to be the car in front.

          This strategy clearly backfires too. Just see Austria 2019. Bottas was too slow. They let Hamilton struggle to get past and it all goes down the drain from there.

          On the other hand, Ferrari clearly does (or did) operate with a #1 and #2 driver. The #2 driver has his strategy changed to aid the #1 driver almost always. Just see most of the first half of this season. Where Leclerc was almost always helping Vettel while Vettel was throwing away the race results.

          1. I appreciate the constant trolling. You are dedicated.

            In the philosophical sense of “opportunity to be the car in front,” yes, Mercedes is fair. However, this is not Hamilton/Rosberg where they were more closely matched. This is Hamilton/Bottas. If they put you in the second car and gave you a “[fair] opportunity to be the car in front,” we would say they have a #1 and #2. Now, Bottas is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better than your me, but he is not Hamilton and possibly not the 4th or 5th best driver on the grid, depending on how one rates current drivers.

            It is… great(?) that they do not have a de jure #1 driver. I would agree. But they have a de facto #1 and have had since about race 3 of the 2017 season if not before. Pretending otherwise is just that, pretending.

            Critical thinking is critical.

            1. What do you mean by “second car”? Doesn’t both the cars have equal capability?

              Also, Rosberg had far less talent than Hamilton. In fact, I would say, Mercedes favoured Rosberg more than they should have. He should have been locked out long before for dangerous drives and actively impeding his better teammate.

              The true definition of assigning number 2 is what Ferrari did to Leclerc, Kimi and in Schumacher’s time.

              If what you mean is Mercedes should sign Leclerc or verstappen and give preferential strategy based on their qualification, then I agree. I even think Hamilton should ask Mercedes to do so. He is clearly reducing his superiority with the current method. He was convince to us his skills far better if he can win championship with Verstappen and Leclerc as his teammate.

              I think, Hamilton is better than Schumacher. But many argues that he is just an overrated vettel, which he clearly is not. And neither is verstappen better than Hamilton. His only real threat in the last decade is Leclerc.

            2. @dmitri-czubak – Both cars are the same. Bottas is not Hamilton is the point.

              I would agree that Rosberg had less talent than Hamilton, but only by a little. The stats support that.

              I would prefer to see Merc sign a challenging driver rather than Bottas. i understand why they don’t, but it would be great to see Leclerc or Verstappen in the other seat.

              I think it is difficult to rate Hamilton vs Schumacher, both will be seen as the greatest of their eras. Hamilton beat Vettel and Alonso. Schumacher beat Hakkinen and Montoya and Raikkonnen when they were at their peaks. For me there is no point in claiming one over the other. I’m just glad I got to see both. I cannot imagine someone bettering Hamilton’s records, but I said the same about MSC.

    11. Abu Dhabi 2016 showed that Mercedes ‘philosophy’ has not always been to Hamilton’s liking. He can be smug, on the verge of a sixth world championship. That can change, and we all know what Lewis is like when things don’t go ‘his’ way within a team.

      1. Mercedes ‘philosophy’ is that the driver in the leas gets to choose strategy. So in fact that race was according to Mercedes ‘philosophy’.

        Still, just look at Austria 2019 where they simply let Hamilton languish behind an awfully slow Bottas. Then let him try the overcut which was never going to work and both cars drop down the order. If they actually had favored Hamilton, they would have let him take the lead. Just like Ferrari kept telling Leclerc to let Vettel past.

        So “Mercedes philosophy” is indeed not always the best, but I guess to keep the peace they allow some losses here and there.

        1. But, I think it’s the best thing they have done. If you have a pre race agreement then you should follow it.

          If they hadn’t, Bottas has the rights to decline any team order the next time.

    12. It’s none of his business anyway…

      1. He was asked about this topic. Wasn’t he?

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