“McLaren's drivers are hardest-hit in this respect, since McLaren
have a different business model to the other top teams. It involves a few high-profile sponsors such as Vodafone, Hugo Boss and Johnnie Walker, who all have a specific number of days with the drivers written into their contracts. In many respects, it is good for Lewis that the equally marketable Jenson has arrived to shoulder some of the burden, because when it was him with Heikki Kovalainen, it did not take a genius to guess which driver the sponsor was going to want for their contracted time.
“Red Bull, by contrast, bought a team to market its brand and sell fizzy drinks. Other sponsors have since arrived, but essentially the team is its own advertising vehicle and the external demands on the drivers are far less than at McLaren.
“It is all about finding the right balance, because there is no doubt that mental and physical fatigue will cost a driver in terms of his performance. These are finely-tuned athletes we are talking about – believe me, they are supremely fit – and in a sport where hundredths of a second can make all the difference, they need every ounce of concentration they can get.
“It would not surprise me in the least if Lewis' time off last week to rest and train – he cancelled a sponsors' trip to India a fortnight ago to help him in this respect – had a major bearing on his sensational performance in Germany. We will never know for sure, just as we will never know whether Sebastian Vettel's unusually subdued performance was in some way linked to the additional demands he felt racing in front of his home crowd – the increased PR demands, media coverage, weight of expectation, family and friends in the crowd etcetera.
“I believe the last driver to win his home grand prix was Felipe Massa
in São Paulo in 2008, so perhaps there is a direct link between PR demands and performance? It's one hypothesis, anyway.”
Coulthard went on to opine that with Red Bull
all so evenly-matched at the Nürburgring, the German Grand Prix
has 'brought the season to life once again' – and fresh off the back of his second victory of the F1 2011 campaign, Hamilton is palpably up for making it two-out-of-two in Hungary, even if he fully anticipates Vettel to bite back. The only stumbling-block, he fears, could be McLaren's performance in hot conditions.
“Sebastian has been massively consistent since last year, but you can't win them all,” he mused. “You can't get out of the right side of the bed every day. This was a small glitch over a long period. I have no doubts he will have some interesting comments made about him, but he still finished fourth and the rest had a slightly better weekend. He will be back, no doubt.
“We are good when the conditions are cool and wet. The McLaren
has always been able to switch its tyres on; we are able to do it more than others. We might get to the next race and be massively off because we might overheat our tyres, [but] if the car behaves like it did this weekend, we will be there again. I have won in Hungary before – so I can do it again.”