Former World Champion Nico Rosberg pointed out this thesis already before the start of the season: “Experience in Formula 1 can make up for the greater speed the younger drivers naturally have.” The Monegasque referred this to the duel of former teammate Lewis Hamilton (35) against his younger Mercedes co-driver Valtteri Bottas and his even much younger challengers Charles Leclerc (22) and Max Verstappen (22). As well as to the return of double world champion Fernando Alonso, who will return to the top class of automobile Racing at Renault in 2021 at the age of 39.
Rosberg: “At a certain age the reflexes start to weaken. But drivers like Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso have so much experience that they can easily compensate this disadvantage with their routine.”
Last week’s Hungarian Grand Prix more than proved the 2016 World Champion, who retired mentally and physically burnt out after winning the title in a fierce duel with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, more than right. Almost without exception the experienced drivers made their younger team colleagues look old. And that on a track that is physically considered to be one of the most demanding.
Take Mercedes, for example: World Champion Lewis Hamilton showed the five years younger Finn Valtteri Bottas off. In qualifying as in the race: While Hamilton took the 90th pole position of his career and set his own pace in the race, the Finn had problems. He stuttered at the start and was unable to follow the British superstar after that. Winner Hamilton was almost ten seconds ahead of the Finn despite an additional stop (time loss 22 seconds).
Example Ferrari: Experienced driver Sebastian Vettel (33) outclassed his eleven years younger teammate Leclerc – with the difficult to drive faulty construction that bears the name Ferrari. And this despite the fact that the team tried everything to get Leclerc ahead of the German. Background: Ferrari brought Leclerc to the pits at the first stop before Vettel. Leclerc, who was behind the German, should take advantage of the fresh tyres earlier. But Vettel, whose stop lasted seven seconds longer than the Monegasque’s, opted for the harder compound – overruling his team’s proposal.
While Leclerc’s soft tyres quickly overheated, Vettel made short work with his teammate by overtaking him. The four-time World Champion ended up sixth, while Leclerc was 38 seconds behind the German, with no points. “More was hardly possible,” was the conclusion drawn by Vettel, who seemed completely at peace with himself. He also didn’t blame anyone about his disadvantage at the first stop: “That didn’t surprise me, because in the end everybody drives his own race.”
Ex-Formula 1 star and Ferrari intimus Gerhard Berger (60) to F1-Insider.com: “Sebastian seems to be completely free in his head again, as if he wanted to prove to Ferrari that they made a huge mistake by not renewing his contract. In addition, with this bad car he no longer has the pressure to win at all costs. In Hungary he was back to his old self again. Leclerc didn’t have any small chance.”
Berger goes even further: “Nothing against Racing Point drivers Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll: But Sebastian Vettel would be an runner-up already this season in the Second hand Mercedes.” That’s what the Racing Point is jokingly called in the paddock because of its similarity to last year’s Silver Arrow.
Example Renault: The young Frenchman Esteban Ocon (23) was hired to put pressure on the considerably experienced Daniel Ricciardo (31). The Australian, who is a discontinued Renault model simply because he will leave the French state-owned company at the end of this season and switch to McLaren, showed a class difference at the Hungaroring. The former Red Bull driver, who was able to clinch seven victories for the Austrian team, finished eighth and in the end, he was six places and almost 40 seconds ahead of the frustrated young star.
Take Alfa Romeo as an example: former world champion Kimi Räikkönen, at 40 years of age the oldest driver in the field, unwound his laps as usual in his freezing cold style. Teammate Antonio Giovinazzi (26) did not have any chance. He literally crashed into the Finnish iceberg and crossed the finish line 20 seconds behind most experienced F1 driver.
It will be interesting to see whether the “rebellion of the ancients” will continue at the next race on the high-speed Silverstone circuit.
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