For a fleeting couple of seconds during the Malaysian Grand Prix, the second race of the season, a rare thing occurred. Rare, perhaps, in Formula One. In the seventh lap, McLaren’s crew took their positions for an imminent pitstop. Lewis Hamilton came pulling in and positioned himself perfectly, in the very place where he always had for his six years in F1.
No tyres were changed, however, only a few embarrassing glances exchanged, and Hamilton drove his Mercedes off to the right place, two garages further down the pitlane, perhaps wearing an apologetic half-smile under his helmet.
In a sport which has machines at the heart of it, it was a ‘human’ moment. A mistake, all right, but an exceedingly endearing one.
It was also perhaps the only ‘wrong’ turn in what has been a step in the right direction for the 28-year-old Briton.
Before this year, Hamilton, who had joined McLaren as a 13-year-old lad, had called the Woking-based team his second home for the whole of his teen years and adult life. Then he decided to “grow up” and move out: to the Silver Arrows this year.
Change of fortune
It was a risky move. Mercedes had finished 4th, 4th and 5th in 2010, ‘11 & ‘12 — two places below McLaren on each of the three occasions — scoring fewer and fewer points every passing year. Moreover, with the team dedicating their time and resources to developing the future engine, one which would be used from 2014 onwards, it was feared that 2013 in this cockpit would be even worse. But Hamilton took a deep breath and plunged.
Fifteen races into the season, he seems to have justified the decision. While he has won one race as against four in 2012, Hamilton has accumulated more points (161 against 153) and taken more pole positions (five against four) at the corresponding stage of the calendar this year.
It may not sound like much, but it’s far more than what he had expected — and Mercedes would’ve expected — at the start of the season. The results even look spectacular, given McLaren’s (Hamilton’s former side) travails