Hamilton is no longer the rookie

PUBLISHED: 18:05 11 March 2008 | UPDATED: 21:16 26 October 2009

The scene in Melbourne last year Pictures courtesy of www.mclaren.com

The scene in Melbourne last year Pictures courtesy of www.mclaren.com

BBC Radio 5 Live s David Croft looks at the F1 season ahead. So here we go then. Get set for 18 Grand Prix, over 3,400 race miles to be covered for the 11 teams and 22 drivers, only one of whom will emerge as world champion. The Formula One circus is off

Champagne moment for Lewis in Australia

BBC Radio 5 Live's David Croft looks at the F1 season ahead.

So here we go then. Get set for 18 Grand Prix, over 3,400 race miles to be covered for the 11 teams and 22 drivers, only one of whom will emerge as world champion.

The Formula One circus is off and running again with its new rules, new venues and possibly a new champion as well.

During the course of the next nine months we'll visit Valencia for a new race and Singapore, where for the first time F1 will take place under floodlights.

The new rules see the final part of qualifying shortened to just 10 minutes and there is no longer the chance to refuel the cars before the race.

Also with the introduction of a standard Engine Control Unit, traction control, launch control and engine-braking systems have all been outlawed.

Those with a heavy foot watch out, your driver aids will no longer bail you out of trouble.

Which is one thing Lewis Hamilton has going for him.

After just one season in F1, he hasn't come to totally rely on the driver aids that others may have been taking for granted.

His inherent skill and smooth approach should keep him out of trouble on the track in what is big year for the Herts driver.

No longer the rookie, but still inexperienced after just 17 races in the sport, he is the man charged with driving the McLaren team forward after a season last year where they took a bigger battering than a chip shop full of sausages.

Hit with a $100 million dollar fine, thrown out of the Constructors' Championship and then forced to change aspects of their 2008 car when the FIA's investigators found features that could have been influenced by Ferrari design, McLaren start the season on the back foot but determined to make amends and win some silverware.

Fernando Alonso has gone with Heikki Kovalainen taking his place and whilst the team insist that equality will continue, make no mistake Lewis is the de facto number one, and the man who will be expected to deliver.

Ferrari though won't make life easy.

Their car over the winter has looked the one to beat but as we saw in 2007, Lewis is more than capable of taking the fight to the big boys.

The trouble for him is that he's now one of those big boys, so any mistake will be criticised far more heavily than in his rookie season.

He has stated that his aim for the year is to better last year's performance, to win as many races as possible and finish all of them.

Whether by bettering last year he wins the title or just finishes with more points he's not saying yet.

Good move.

The last thing Lewis needs is the extra pressure of declaring that he's going to take the silverware.

He does believe that the car is better than in 2007 with improved reliability as well, which it will need to be.

The key factor of the 2007 McLaren was its bulletproof reliability, well at least until the final race.

Anything less in 2008 and McLaren can kiss goodbye to their chances.

What counts against Lewis though is that his role within the team is not one normally occupied by a driver with just 17 races in the sport.

Yes, he showed in his first year that rookies can win, but now he needs to prove that in their second year they can assume greater responsibility and make the right calls at the right time.

If he can, well we could be in store for some story in 2008. If not, then Ferrari's red flag will continue to fly high.

One bright piece of news for McLaren comes with the location of their garage and motor home this season.

After losing their constructors' points last year, they should have been relegated to the far end of the paddock, where space is at a premium.

But a deal has been struck so that Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen's cars will sit in garage number five now and the three-story McLaren Brand Centre will take its place opposite.

More room for the engineers and not as much distance for us journalists to walk, which is very good news indeed!


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