The notion that they would favour a pseudo-German driver (Finnish father, German mother, born in Germany, raised in Monaco) because they are apparently a ‘German team’ – remember they are actually based in Northamptonshire – does not make sense.
No amount of Nico winning this championship will make the same global impact as Lewis winning a fourth title. It will not take Nico to one third of the global recognition and media value that Lewis has. It just won’t. Even if Nico won four titles to Lewis’s three, it would not make him a more highly-prized asset.
That is the first thing to say as the conspiracy theories run wild following Lewis’s engine blow-up in Sepang. If Mercedes were to injure one driver, there is no logic to it being Hamilton. Lewis winning a fourth world title is a much bigger return on investment for Mercedes than Nico. Fact.
Second, it is simply not possible that they could do it, choreographed in this way, and it is unthinkable that they ever would. I remember from my time at Red Bull and McLaren, engines were allocated by the chief mechanic pulling numbers out of a hat. I imagine Mercedes have a similar policy now, even if there are fewer engines because of the regulations.
Sometimes in the manufacturing process you just get a bad batch. Now it is for Mercedes to come and tell people – especially an upset Lewis – how they choose their engines.
When he stepped out of the car, Lewis was understandably very emotional, just as race-winner Daniel Riciardo was, but in a very different way. This championship just gets harder and harder for him. But I do not believe deep down that Lewis actually thinks the team is trying to scupper his chances.
To me his comments in the TV pen seemed more in the heat of the moment. Remember Lewis is a religious man, so when he references “somebody doesn’t want me to win” it is a normal thought for him that maybe God has decided. That’s genuine: he is and has been a religious guy for some time. But he has to move on quickly with the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.
From a psychological rollercoaster point of view, if Lewis pulls this off it will be his biggest achievement in Formula One. I think he has absolutely got it in him to win all five. There are a few circuits you would say he’s a shoe-in; Suzuka and Austin especially. Mexico is a less meaty track so you might say that is one where Nico has a better chance. It is possible but very difficult.
Whereas for Nico he knows he can play he percentages. He can go to Suzuka this weekend with the firm intention of just being second. That’s a hell of a different way of going qualifying and racing. It is very much Nico’s to lose now.
People will say Nico has been lucky if he wins the title. Unless Nico beats Lewis in a straight fight, I will continue to bang my drum of: super fast, super professional, the points do not lie, but we still have not seen Nico go wheel to wheel with Lewis and come out on top. That is definitely a mark against him. Until we see it happen I will not be convinced.
There are other sports where two guys have won a lot but never really crossed paths at the same time, so it can be difficult to judge which one was better. But that is not true of Nico and Lewis.
We did actually see some aggressive moves from Nico on Sunday, the sort I have been asking to see from him. Yes the pass on Kimi Raikkonen involved contact, but Kimi left the door open. I passed Michael Schumacher there in 1999.
In a similar way, Nico will reflect on the start and think perhaps he went wide and cut back too sharply, giving Sebastian Vettel little time to react (that said I still think the crash was Sebastian’s responsibility).
With Lewis out of the race, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen showed the rest how it should be done. Their duel was fantastic, and both left each other racing room. It proved decisive for Daniel to win the race.
After the mishaps in Barcelona and Monaco, through little fault of his own, you felt Daniel deserved a win this year. None of his four career victories have been easy. But Hamilton faces an even taller order if he is to make it title number four this year.