A thought or two about Lewis


Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
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Firstly I hope and pray this dosn't end up in a 606 style slanging match. This is just a few thoughts I've had on Hamilton in the last few days in the wake of what has been one roller coaster season that I thought I would chuck out there for debate.

It's been a long time since I've seen a driver in F1 that has polarized opinion in the way that Hamilton has, especially in this country. I have wondered in the last few days why this seems to be.

I think one of the biggest factors is that Lewis dosn't play by the perceived rule of the British. We are not used to a driver coming in with the utter determination to win that he clearly has. We British love a determined under achiever who briefly shines in making it to the top but we tend to hope that he dosn't stay there too long or we become bored very quickly. Damon Hill is the living proof of this as he went from zero to hero and back to zero in a few short years.

The next part of the Hamilton make up is the apparent lack of fun that surrounds him and team Hamilton. Many of us have read stories about drivers in the passed playing practical jokes on one another and mucking about and this is very much absent in Hamiltons visual persona. He may very well be the funniest man on earth behind closed doors but none of us ever get to see it. We all remember the fun and games at the Brit GP press conference where Button threw down the gauntlet for the Iron man challenge and Anthony Hamilton putting the boot in afterwards. I expect there were a few red faces all around after that. Again this level of absolute proffesionalism is something of an oddity to the British in general.

There is no doubt that Lewis has a little bit of arragonce which rubs people up the wrong way as well. Two of the most quoted incidents are the "monkeys at the back" comment which, however tounge in cheek was never going to go down very well with people and his refusal to join the GPDA.

Lewis has been quoted as likening himself to Senna (for actual quote see this weeks copy of Autosport) but I think he is missing that 10 percent that made Senna the man he was. I don't think that Lewis has yet learnt that humility and a sense of fun are just as important as determination and ruthless drive. Reading of Senna's early years with Toleman and then Lotus shows just how much of a gulf in attitude that exists between the two drivers in their approach to F1. Senna was loved by his Mechanics and his team and could you ever imagine Senna telling Peter Warr the team Lotus principal to "Go Screw himself" (or whatever Lewis was reputed to have told Ron Dennis).

Everything about Lewis Hamilton is totally modern and he represents the new breed of ultra fast young drivers. Maybe to compare Lewis to Senna is unfair because they come from different era's of the sport. When Senna was starting out there wsa far less interest in F1 than there is today and there was a lot less global exposure. After all it wasn't until the mid 80's that every GP was shown live on the BBC. So perhaps the reason that Lewis seems so arragont and isolated is because that's the way he is portrayed in the press and the way that team Hamilton like ot distance Lewis from distractions.

I really hope there is a documentry during the close season that profiles Hamilton and we do get to see him show a lighter side. I have fond memories of seeing the post 1996 world championship documentry on Damon Hill and there was a fantastic sequence of a clearly very sloshed Damon trying to drive a scooter through the hotel lobby. Somehow I don't think we will ever see Hamilton try the same thing.

At the end of the day, none of this really matters one jot because Lewis is and always will be the 2008 Formula One World Champion and well done to him for that great achievement. These are only my thoughts on why some people find it so hard to like the guy.

Anyway. What do you guys think ?? And roll on next season when Williams will make a comeback and Nico will take the world title just like his dad.

Interesting post, I agree with much you say, I am the first to admit that in the past months his manner has not impressed me. However, I did see a recent interview and was pleasantly surprised. He is learning how to handle the press/media, and I hope as he matures we will see another side of Lewis Hamilton. It would be nice to see the 'fun' back in F1.
Interesting post c_a_t.

Although I think he has committed a few media faux-pas, I don't think he comes across any better or worse than the other drivers.

The triathlon thing I think was agreed to in the heat of the moment but let's face it, his manager (father) was absolutely right to knock that on the head.
I doubt very much VMM would have allowed him to compete anyway when he was in the middle of a championship fight.

What we mustn't forget is most of these guys are still very young.
How many of us at that age would be able to deal with the press and interviewers who's job it is to try and get a juicy quote?
Even when they do answer a straight question, the way it is written, edited or quoted can give it an entirely different meaning.

As for the "fun" issue, I agree that is missing from F1 these days for the most part but that is a consequence of it now being a multi-million £ business.
I suspect the teams and drivers have to abide by certain codes of conduct stipulated in the various sponsorship contracts they all have so it's unlikely you'll see any of them driving through a hotel lobby, sloshed or otherwise.

Part of the problem for me is the FIA/FOM rules.
Even when a driver has won the WDC they're not permitted to do a doughnut or burn the tyres out and heaven forbid if they forget to replace their steering wheel...
I'm surprised they're still allowed to spray champagne on the podium it's becoming such a sterile environment.

Having said all that, I generally tend to avoid or ignore most interview-type articles unless I know it's from a reputable source or, even better, on video so there is no doubt what was asked and answered.
Thanks for this c_a_t.

Again I think there is much to agree with in what you say. I would suggest that perhaps there is more similarity between Senna and Hamilton than you seem to be suggesting - certainly in his Toleman/Lotus days he was more than capable of throwing a tantrum when things weren't going his way, and many at McLaren preferred to see Alain win than Ayrton on a personal level. Of course, it is also true that the mechanics love the guy who pushes to the limit and gets the results, and Senna mellowed off the track as he got older (helped, I think, by having Gerhard Berger as his team mate).

I would recommend anyone/everyone to buy this week's Motor Sport magazine. Nigel Roebuck has an extended interview with Hamilton, and he explores the Senna connection in depth, very delicately getting some quite revealing answers out of Lewis. I must admit having read it I was surprised at what a thoughtful and knowledgeable young man he is. It was also instructive to hear how often he refers to his karting days in terms of building the driver he is today.

Anthony Hamilton is a very protective father; perhaps an over-protective one. But I don't doubt there are many off-track influences that could have a damaging effect on a young black man's F1 career if care isn't taken over where he goes, what he does and what he says.

Lewis is only ever used to winning - that's how it has been his whole life. Almost every driver who arrives in F1 has that record. But almost every driver who arrives in F1 starts out at the back of the grid, and this necessarily causes a bit of self-realisation and reflection. Lewis hasn't had that - everything he has done, he has done well, and perhaps over-confidence is a result of that. It will be interesting to see how he copes when he has a difficult season in a slower car.
Firstly, Ayrton Senna. I can imagine Senna telling his mechanics to "Go :censored: themselves". Didn't Senna once respond to accusations of racing hard with the defence "But I am Senna"? And, yes Senna's mechanics may have loved him, but don't the McLaren boys love Hamilton (from what I've seen they do, and its not unaided by the fact Hamilton dedicates every win to them).

In addition, Senna was not afraid to mix it with a highly rated team-mate (Japan '89, anyone?), although in that situation Senna was far more aggressive vs Prost than Hamilton was vs Alonso! (Yes, I agree that McLaren had a few team-mate ruptures last season, the majority of which were caused by the Spaniard!)

As for Hamilton polarising opinion, the top sportsmen do, unless they're ultra-nice like Roger Federer! Many of those who don't like Hamilton are Alonso fans who will swallow any old :censored: that Alonso spouts to the media! Some, strangely, don't seem to like to see British sportsmen get to the top through actually having talent, but prefer hard working British people. Some don't like the paternalistic nature of F1 (although they probably liked Damon Hill, and they'd probably support Nico Rosberg against Hamilton :whistle: ) and some apparently don't like his father. Another explanation, of course, is they could have the same views on race as your average South African government c.1970, although I don't like to bring that up.

It tends to be that the biggest criticism of Hamilton is the way he got a top drive straight away in his Formula One career. In all honesty, I think this was more out of necessity for McLaren after Montoya did an escape act to NASCAR, and they probably planned to "loan" him out. But you have to give Lewis credit for taking his chance in almost the best possible way! The British public at large don't seem to mind Wayne Rooney, who managed to blag his way through at least 3 years of his career on one goal against Arsenal in 2003 and a brilliant tournament at Euro 2004. (Controversial view, but look at England's record without him 2003-07 if you remain unconvinced.)

But, frankly, the only thing Lewis has done is taken the limelight too early for some people. No-one minds that Alonso got into F1 at 21(!) because Alonso is the "best pound-for-pound driver in F1!"[James Allen, imo he's got the worst pound-for-pound mouth in sport!] Alonso got a top drive at the age of 23, but just because he did a pointless year battering Tarso Marques (!) at Minardi then this is A-OK!

But what has happened to Lewis Hamilton to make him unpopular is largely not his fault. It is mainly Alonso's fault actually. I say the British public should save its bile for someone utterly deserving of it!
Some don't like the paternalistic nature of F1 (although they probably liked Damon Hill, and they'd probably support Nico Rosberg against Hamilton )

One of the problems with formula one is that it is a multi national sport. Classic examples of this are Ferrari fans supporting Mansell and Villeneuve because they drove the scarlet cars. It didn't matter that they were British and Canadian. Now I have never been a Mclaren fan, so do I support Mclaren drivers? It's a difficult one. I support Williams which is a British team but they have a Japanese driver and a German at the wheel.

Imagine in football if you supported Manchester United as a team in a European competition but cheered for a striker from the opposition every time he scored just because he was british it wouldn't make sense would it?

Up until 94 when Lotus disapeered from the grid it was an easy choice for me. If you were in a Lotus I was a fan. It didn't matter if that was a Brit, A Brazilian or Japanese it was the team I followed. This it the thing with British F1 fans. Since most of the teams are British there are a lot of people who do just that. Sincer Copersucar/Fittipaldi folded there hasn't been a Brazillian F1 team so of course Brazilian F1 fans are more inclined to support the driver than the team.

I've seen it in a number of places where people almost insist that just because Hamilton is British we should all follow him but as I've explained above, F1 just dosn't work like that.

On another aside the fact that he has jumped into a top team straight away is a bit of an invalid argument for people not likeing him. I remember the job of replacing Senna at Williams fell to David Coulthard much in the same way that Emmerson Fittipaldi replace Jochen Rindt at Lotus and neither driver arroused any where near the feelings that Hamilton has achieved and both were pretty much unknown but succesful straight from the off.

I can't wait for next season because of the likelyhood that it should be about as unpradictable as you can ever hope for in F1. There have been a lot of teams that have been working since the start of the year on their 09 spec cars (Williams and BMW to name two) so there should be a lot less of an edge between teams next season.
I like him mostly because he is an out and out racer. He has successfully pulled off the kind of moves that we haven't seen in F1 for what seems like decades. Yes he needs some polish, and yes he needs to bite his tongue a bit more than he does, but as a prospect (a WDC a prospect??!!) he leaves me very much looking forward to the coming seasons. Frankly, the last time I personally can think of that F1 was shaken up quite so much was when Schumacher arrived. Will Hamilton have the same level of success as Schumacher? I doubt it, as mentioned above he has a little less of the ruthlessness that both Senna and Schumacher had, and the stewards seem a lot less reticent to get involved as they have in the past, but dear sweet Lord the boy can race. So - Hallelujah!! - there's a new racer in town, and not only that but he's a Brit. :cheer:
For me the opinion of LH, be it good or bad, boils down to a few key issues:

1. Hamilton races hard and pushes the envelope (and occasionally gets it wrong). For me, the single most important factor. I, for one, am extremely happy that there’s someone out there now who has the balls and determination to try and win races, gain places and never give up. Inevitably there will be times where this goes wrong and mistakes will be made but when you live close to the edge I feel it is an acceptable risk in the sport of F1. F1 is a dangerous sport. Fact. The drivers are well aware of this and accept that when they get into their car and drive at very high speeds on a track with other cars that there is a risk involved to themselves. I completely advocate the implementation of whatever safety measures are needed to (as much as possible) protect the drivers and those involved in the races but if decisions, rules and changes are enforced that take away the primary aspect of F1, the RACING, then I’m afraid the futures not looking too bright.

2. Hamilton entered F1 in a car that had the potential to win a WDC. Some people don't like it, never will and will always use it as a ''he was handed everything he got'' lever in discussion and debate. Lest we not forget he'd spent years and years before that in lower series proving every ounce of his worth and on occasion, humiliating the opposition. Put it this way, if you were a young, capable, superwhizz at maths/business and you were offered a role as high flying trader in London earning 100's thousands, maybe even millions £ a year on the stock exchange would you turn around and say 'no thanks chaps let me be the office junior for a bit'? I think most of you will agree the answer would be a resounding 'no'.

3. Jealousy - this needs no explanation, says what it is on the tin. People don't seem to be able to accept that it's possible to achieve what he has in such a short time in F1 and they wish it was them. I can imagine the 'what if that was me' question rattling around many millions of heads at one time or another, and yes, one imagines they include a number of the current crop of F1 drivers.

4. Race. Believe it or not some people are actually racist and don't want to see (rather, abhor seeing) a mixed race man reach the pinnacle of his sport. Simple.

5. VMM really made a mess of some of the staged and cringe worthy PR stunts this year and made LH look like a bit of a wally. It is unfortunate that (I'm almost certain) he would have had no say whatsoever over these issues due to his contract.

6. The media, reporting and the FIA. I bundle these all into one because to a degree they have all catalysed one another at some point. Terrible decisions affecting the championship, microscopic scrutiny over every move on and off the circuit and relentless need for a F1 scoop must have taken their toll on LH. I for one wouldn't want that heat on me 24/7. Saturation coverage of an individual will ultimately lead to many people becoming restless and disenchanted with said individual.
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