Keep On Playing Those Mind Games…
“Keep On Playing Those Mind Games, Toge-e-e-ther” (J. Lennon) You must all know by now I never let an opportunity to reference a movie or a song whenever I can and so it is for this pre season ending post about the showdown between the two Merc boys as well.
I was just thinking to myself, when will Lewis (by virtue of the fact that he is the one doing the hunting) let slip or purposefully insert a line or two ever so slightly in that age old practice of psychological warfare, or as we know it today, mind games.
It is almost like F1 has forgotten about the title race between the two Merc boys, well up until Monday of this week that is. This is understandable with all the drama around defensive driving, colorful radio transmissions and of course the incredible thrilling race in Brazil with the rain. But all of that is over and our attention now will be on just two drivers, just two cars and just one race for one championship.
We all know the numbers do not favor Hamilton at this stage and as the Briton has so rightly said all he can do is win races but he needs some help to secure WDC number four.
He needs Nico Rosberg to have an issue. It can come in several guises. It could be a bad start, or a tire puncture. It could come in the form of the many PU components needing to be replaced, causing Rosberg to incur a grid spot penalty.
Rosberg could have a coming together with another driver, similar to the one he had with Max Verstappen on the first lap of the Mexican GP. For that matter, there are any number of freaky things that can happen to the German when speed + man + machine come together. Remember Hamilton’s car catching fire in qualifying in Austria? But none of these scenarios are actually in Hamilton’s control. Do you want to know what is? Besides his driving of course. Mind games.
“I am happy that I beat everyone today,” he said after the Brazilian GP. “I am happy that with the same car I beat Nico.”
The subtext is undeniable right??? Deciphered, what this really says is: Nico, guess what, I am faster than you, I am better than you and regardless of who wins the WDC you can’t beat me. What about this line:
“I am in an awkward position going into the last race; it doesn’t make a big difference if I drive like I do now because I have already lost so much earlier in the year.”
The translation is clear, no??? Hey Nico, if I did not have all those reliability issues earlier in the year (and by the way those issues never seemed to plague anyone else with a Mercedes PU in the back seat – for the record) then I would be leading this championship and therefore on my way to a fourth WDC which is what I need because Seb has four and I need to be at least on par with him.
Yes, I’m betting that in the lead up to the season finale in Abu Dhabi this weekend, Hamilton will try to ratchet up the pressure on his teammate. In fact I think he already has. Again here are a series of quotes from Hamilton that showed up in Autosport on Tuesday post Brazil:
“I don’t go into the race expecting anything less than a fair fight.” Hamilton continues, “I mean, of course you can look at history and you can look at what some drivers have done in the past…” Ham finishes up with this, “But I like to think higher of him [Rosberg] and that wouldn’t be something he would do.”
What happen to all that talk about taking a page from the Senna race book Ham???
Talk about pre-empting your teammate from engaging in any questionable behavior, not that Rosberg would drive in this manner but the very idea that Hamilton would dedicate so many lines to this is telling. To be fair since we don’t have the original transcript Hamilton can’t be faulted for having to answer a question such as will Nico play fair or below the belt, surely he did not ask it himself, but it was yet another chance to test the waters psychologically and Hamilton took advantage of it.
My guess is we will see both Merc boys in Thursday’s press conference (won’t the press just eat that up) and that is when we will get a better picture of not only Hamilton’s strategy (he surely will be piling it on) but also how Rosberg deals with the pressure. Remember at this point it is his championship to lose.
Will Rosberg let Hamilton get under his skin? Will he take the bait? Will Rosberg respond with a bit of his own subversive line or two to try and turn the tables on Hamilton?
What was it that Nico said after Mexico or was it Brazil or both? I can live with second or something along those lines. And the subtext of this, Hey Lewis win all you want, I don’t need to, I can just take a nice Sunday drive. If that is not a dig at Ham I don’t know what is. Rosberg can also be a cool customer:
“The closer it gets, the more I’m feeling excited. It will be a big battle and hopefully the fans will get a great show to end the year.”
Does that sound like someone who is feeling the pressure? Whether he is or isn’t, Rosberg is showing he is up to the challenge for the grand final no question about that.
And just to be clear we have seen several instances when the pressure has most definitely caused Ham to get it wrong or over drive. First corner in Mexico comes to mind.
It is going to be an intense weekend for the season ending race in Abu Dhabi that is for sure. Rosberg is in slightly uncharted territory and one has to admit Hamilton is peaking at the right moment. He and the team have corrected his start procedure and he is riding the wave of a win streak, so the momentum is with him for the race win.
To win the championship however, that momentum is with still Rosberg, or is it? One last Hamilton quote:
“I’ll be proud of myself and what I’ve achieved as long as I feel I’ve given my all and performed at my best,”
Mind games, those pesky little mind games…