As the rain lashed the Montreal circuit yesterday, forcing the race to be stopped, all of the leading drivers knew that this day was an opportunity. Canada often presents them.
Admittedly Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who has dominated the season so far, was in the driving seat at that stage, but with constantly changing conditions, safety cars and chaos, there was a chance to make something happen. As Jenson Button did.
Hamilton was surrounded this weekend by a glamorous crowd in the McLaren hospitality area. Pop stars like Rihanna and Ice T, NBA basketball players towering over other guests, this was like a night at the MTV Awards, more than a race meeting. Ron Dennis looked on quizzically at all the bling.
“That’s where Lewis’ head is at right now,” said one seasoned F1 insider as we stood together surveying the scene.
Who knows where his head is. Certainly he seems to be going about his business in a different way from before, no less intense, but somehow desperate at times, impatient and clearly frustrated. He’s a brilliant entertainer, but he’s fluffing his lines at the moment, unlike the 2009 and 2010 seasons where he took every half chance that was going.
Vettel, having set himself up with for the win with pole positions and then measured performances, has found himself under intense pressure at the end of each of the last four Grands Prix. And yet he’s only won two of them; he is beatable. Hamilton got him in China, Button got him spectacularly yesterday and in Spain Hamilton almost had him in the closing stages, while we were robbed of the attacks of Alonso and Button in Monaco by a red flag.
Vettel has ridden his luck, but has made things happen for himself, as did Button yesterday.
I think Niki Lauda goes too far when he says of Hamilton, “You cannot drive like this any more, someone is going to get killed.” At a time when the poignant movie about Ayrton Senna plays to huge audiences in Europe, that comment seems out of joint, inflammatory, tabloid.
But Hamilton knows that he had the equipment to win three of the last four races; he was clearly the fastest man on the track in the brief period at the start before he crashed out.
He said he had calmed down after the clamour of Monaco. If anything he was even more hyped up in Montreal.
The outcome is he falls to fourth in the championship. Talk is one thing, actions another.
But in the end all that counts is results.