In a season of momentum swings, the race for the 2016 Formula 1 title took another possibly decisive swing at Singapore last weekend as an out-of-sorts Lewis Hamilton struggled around the streets of Marina Bay.
From a 43-point lead for Nico Rosberg following the first four races of the season, to a 19-point lead for Hamilton at the summer break, the pendulum swung firmly back in the German’s favour on Sunday as victory left him eight points clear of his teammate and rival with just six races to go.
Sure, there are enough points still available for the Brit to pull things around
but it was the manner of Rosberg’s win in Singapore, and most notably the difference in their qualifying times, that has got experts suggesting that something is up with the reigning world champion.
Rosberg’s advantage over Hamilton in qualifying was 0.704 seconds, which may not sound like a lot, but in the world of Formula 1 it is massive. By comparison, the last time Rosberg enjoyed a similar advantage over Hamilton in trouble-free qualifying was two years ago in Brazil.
Hamilton did struggle throughout with the setup of his car and had trouble with locking brakes, but strangely for him, never looked like posing a threat as a lightning-fast Rosberg stormed to victory.
Mechanical issues aside, it could just be that the Briton is experiencing a dip in form that affects top-class sports stars from time to time, although experts have already begun questioning whether his playboy lifestyle is finally beginning to affect his desire to win.
That kind of talk may be a bit premature, and the three-time world champion has been in similar positions before, but if Hamilton continues playing second fiddle to Rosberg over the next couple of races then those questions will only get louder and the doubts will begin to multiply.
Everyone knows that Hamilton has the ability to pull himself back into contention, but continued technical issues could prove fatal.
He needs to get back on his feet next week as the Formula 1 roadshow moves on to Malaysia, a circuit where Rosberg has never won in 10 attempts.
Should the German manage to break his duck in Malaysia for a fourth consecutive victory and Hamilton fail to overcome the continued nagging problems with the car that have affected his recent races, then he may well be forced to conclude that 2016 is finally Rosberg’s time in the spotlight.
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