Lewis Hamilton might have been beaten by Felipe Massa in Valencia last weekend, but all the Briton has to worry about in the next few races is to keep scoring valuable Championship points. Massa, who should also have won in Hungary but for an engine failure, has additional concerns over his car's reliability.
Before Massa's Ferrari blew up with three laps of the Hungarian GP to run, the Scuderia's last major race failure had been with Michael Schumacher in Japan back in 2006. But in the midst of victory in Spain the Brazilian was troubled by the similar failure which took out his team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton lost little time rubbing that in after the race. "We have great reliability, and that's down to McLaren Mercedes doing a fantastic job," he said. "Reliability is the key, finishing and scoring points has got to be the goal for everybody. I'm not worried about the reliability of my car. Over the last 18 months it's been phenomenal. And that means we can focus on developing the car, which is the main point."
For Massa, it is not quite so straightforward. "I'm six points behind Lewis," he said. "But first of all we need to look at what's happened [to Raikkonen's engine]. I have no idea. We need to work very hard for the next race because it's important to fix the reliability. It's been an issue for us this year, in the first race, the last race and now this race.
"Reliability is part of the consistency we need. A single problem and you are not consistent. So consistency is still the key to the Championship. And that means performance and reliability. All these things will be very important to the end of the season."
It is time for a revision to the points-scoring system, which awards 10 points for a win and eight for second place, whereas victory was once worth nine and the runner-up got six. The changes made to dilute the effects of Michael Schumacher's early-21st century dominance are surely no longer necessary. The playing field is far more even.
Even Hamilton, a racer's racer, admits he will be driving for points, as 60 are up for grabs in the final six races. "Clearly I want to win all the time," he said after Valencia, "but I've learned that sometimes it's more advantageous to score as many points as possible and live to fight another day. My aim is still to win the World Championship, and you don't do that by ending up in the barriers after making an opportunistic move.
"In Valencia, we scored a very useful haul of points and I've actually come away having extended my lead in the Championship despite losing two points to Felipe. I'm mentally strong enough to be able to deal with that – and I'm more relaxed about it, too. I'm playing a long game."
Both of their team-mates, Raikkonen and the Hungarian GP winner Heikki Kovalainen, need to raise their games in support of the two men, who have each won four races this season.
If driver's tracks such as Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, respective homes of the Belgian and Italian GPs, do not bring out the real Raikkonen, it will simply endorse speculation that he is considering retirement at the end of a season in which Massa seems to have a strong chance of becoming Brazil's first title-holder since Ayrton Senna.Reuse content