The tactic from Lewis Hamilton is quite clear: beat Nico Rosberg on the track and chip away at him in the press in the hope that his rival will capitulate in the title battle. Hamilton has sensed the winds have turned again.
His win and Rosberg’s retirement at the British Grand Prix means the gap is now only four points. After a string of races where fortune favoured Rosberg, it was Hamilton’s time to cash in on an unlucky team-mate.
Now, the pressure on the German (or Monacan as Hamilton claims) is being cranked up. Questions over his nationality, hunger and background are seeing Hamilton go on the offensive. The battle now is to see who is mentally stronger. Rosberg has had the upper hand so far. Hamilton is the more emotional driver but he needs to put Rosberg to the test.
This is where Hamilton has to be smart. His jibes are unlikely to have an effect on Rosberg, who is more likely to use Hamilton’s quip, that he isn’t really German, to his advantage next weekend. The 29-year-old will be keen to show his home fans who he really represents. And as for the comment regarding the pair’s contrasting backgrounds, Hamilton should be careful. The idea behind it was innocent and cheeky but he could face losing more supporters then he wins.
He has to bide his time if he wants to disrupt Rosberg’s concentration. The championship leader hasn’t put a foot wrong this season. His consistency has been relentless. When the inevitable time comes where Rosberg does make an error, that is when Hamilton has to put doubt in his rivals mind. Currently, he is riding the crest of a wave. Hamilton has to make sure that when he stumbles, he comes crashing down.
Of course, that also puts pressure on Hamilton. He has rarely been known for his consistency but he appears more mature than in the past. The Brit has the experience of title fights, he knows how to win and he knows how to lose. His experience from 2007 could be crucial. Rosberg knows that he may never get a better chance to win the title. Yes, he may share the same car as Hamilton in the future but, as Mark Webber discovered, when you are racing against a world class performer you get very few chances to beat them over the course of a season.
Rosberg has surprised many by how close he has been to Hamilton. At times he has been the faster man. But its far easier doing it in June and July than October and November. Rosberg has shown no sign of cracking yet. In turn, it has been Hamilton who looks to have struggled most with the intensity of the battle. But Lewis is a proven champion who has the skill and temperament to perform under the highest pressure. Nico isn’t. He has answered every question so far and maintained his calm and relaxed demeanour. Whether he can keep that going is crucial.
Is Nico really the world superstar we never thought he would be? Or is he flying high on momentum and waiting to be shot out of the sky? Time will tell and Lewis is certainly going to find out.
Let us know your thoughts. Hamilton or Rosberg? Who can survive the mental battles? Comment below.