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How two laps in Singapore might win Hamilton the title

Read Sport logo Read Sport 21-09-2016 Ben Issatt
Mark Thompson/Getty Images Sport © Mark Thompson/Getty Images Sport Mark Thompson/Getty Images Sport

Should Lewis Hamilton claim a fourth world title in Abu Dhabi in November, he can look back on two laps in Singapore where his season changed.

Ironically, it will probably be two of his worst race laps all season, but laps 33 and 34 at Marina Bay caused a shift in philosophy few people noticed.

The Briton ran wide at Turn 7 and bounced over the exit kerb, it allowed Kimi Raikkonen to close up and get a better run on the Mercedes, making a move into Turn 10.

The same lap Raikkonen pitted for the second and what was intended to be final pitstop, the undercut worked and the Finn was six seconds ahead of Hamilton when he boxed on lap 34.

Knowing how hard it was going to be to repass the Ferrari, it triggered a change in Hamilton’s thinking. Suddenly the more aggressive style came out and the team switched to ‘plan B’, a third stop for fresh rubber.

This extra stop caused panic on the pit wall at the Scuderia and forced the team into what ultimately was the wrong call as Raikkonen also pitted again. That single lap was enough, however, and the undercut by Lewis was too strong so when Kimi re-emerged, Hamilton was back in third.

Now, before I go any further, yes, his teammate Nico Rosberg enjoyed a dominant weekend, leading almost every lap and reclaimed the lead in the drivers’ championship.

It’s not unsurprising that people are now really starting to believe he can go on and claim his first Formula One championship.

But what Hamilton did by changing his strategy in Singapore, put Rosberg under pressure and almost saw Daniel Ricciardo claim  a spectacular win.

The German himself admits to being ‘uncomfortable’ in those closing 10-15 laps, and it’s that, that Hamilton needs to keep doing if he is to retain his crown.

It is what he has done best over the past two seasons but right now the way the race strategies deployed by Mercedes are working,  play right into Rosberg’s hands.

The obvious option is for Lewis to be ahead from the start, then it would be him able to dictate the plan, but when he isn’t in that position there needs to be freedom for Hamilton to drive the race he wants.

Sure it may mean a few more overtakes, something engineers are clearly scared of, but Hamilton has always been known as a more aggressive driver. A driver much happier living on the edge of grip and performance. He is also one of the best in the world at going wheel-to-wheel.

The frustration in his voice over the radio, at having to drive to a dictated pace, was evident throughout the race as Mercedes looked to control brake temperatures, an issue highly critical in the heat of Singapore.

Yet, the strategy he deployed in the final quarter of the race, to go flat-out and deal with whatever happens, is where he is at his best and, therefore, is a route he shouldn’t be afraid to use more often in the final six races left this season.

It might even cause a little more tension within the Mercedes garage should Lewis starts pushing back again what Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe want. But this battle is for the F1 drivers’ championship and the two contenders should be given the best chance to prevail.

All along Hamilton has claimed that he is the chaser in this year’s title fight and right now that statement is true. Therefore, it is up to him to take action and ensure he still isn’t chasing at the checkered flag in Yas Marina.

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