Why Hamilton's fallen out of love with F1
Mercedes
Why Hamilton's fallen out of love with F1
Posted By:   |  16 May 2009   |  7:47 am GMT  |  116 comments

You will have seen some of the interviews Lewis Hamilton did this week, on Reuters, in the Times and on the BBC.

The Times one caught my eye because it was an open expression of regret that Formula 1 has become a job and that he does not enjoy the political environment around him.

Ham grid
Hamilton has slotted into the space left vacant by Michael Schumacher in Formula 1, clearly massively talented, unloved by his fellow drivers and always seeming to find himself tangled up in controversies. Senna occupied that space before Schumacher.

The Times interview reveals the state of mind of the driver in the third season of his F1 career. He is weary of the politics, no longer enjoys the banter with the media, he is on his guard, feeling caged and also unfulfilled because his car isn’t fast enough to get him in the game.

“It doesn’t feel so good,” he said, “Getting up in the morning and knowing you can’t win that weekend no matter how hard you drive or how good a job you or the team does.

“It’s hard to take but it’s a fact and you have to deal with it. You just have to adjust your expectations and find new goals.”

In other words he now finds himself in the same position as most drivers in F1, who have no chance of winning a race, even though their career up to F1 was probably gilded with victories and championships. Hamilton described some of these drivers as ‘the monkeys at the back’ last season and that went down like a cup of cold sick. Few have any sympathy for him now.

In Spain last weekend he found out how it felt to be at the back, lapped by Jenson Button in the closing stages of the race.

“I have known Jenson since I was 10 years old, ” continues Hamilton. “He has had some tough tough years and I think I can appreciate that even more after this year exactly how he felt. I have a huge amount of respect for how he dealt with it all.”

What is happening at the moment with Hamilton is that he is having to rebuild relationships. Imagine a telephone switchboard, with loads of leads plugged in all over the place. Well Hamilton is unplugging all the leads and taking care over how he plugs them back in again. It is a root and branch reconstruction of some of the key relationships which make up the ebb and flow of his F1 life; his relationship with his team after the lying episode in Melbourne and the human damage which ensued, his relationship with the media, his relationship with his fellow drivers.

The media one is a perpetual battle. Hamilton will have hated being made to go in front of the press in Malaysia to apologise for lying. It worked well and most of the media respected him for doing it, but the trouble now is that whenever he finds himself in the middle of another controversy, there will be the inevitable, “Are you going to apologise, Lewis?”
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Exactly the same thing happened with Schumacher. He tired of dealing with the media and always refused to give them what they wanted, when they demanded apologies for things. He was stubborn like that. I bet Lewis will be the same.

Schumacher, despite in later years growing to hate his dealings with the media, was very professional and always did what he had to do, always gave an answer. He found a coping mode, which got him through to the end of his career. He was extremely well advised by Sabine Kehm, a former F1 editor on the German equivalent of the Times.

Lewis has his Dad and the McLaren media department to help him, but no-one who’s done the Fleet Street nasty stuff and who is there to look after his interests alone. He’s lost out because of that, no question.

Lately he’s been trying the disrespectful grunt or monosyllabic answer, particularly to the Fleet Street tabloid contingent and it has got him no-where. They are a thick skinned lot, however, and he will be a big story as long as he stays in F1. I am sure Lewis will slot into ‘Schumacher media mode’ too, once he’s unplugged the leads and plugged them back in again, figuring out out who are the good guys and who are the bad.

To be reworking relationships across so many sectors at once seems to be taking a lot on. At least he has the mental space and time for that this year. He’s not under pressure for the title race. The car isn’t going to give him much this season, it will improve, but it’s one of those McLarens that doesn’t really work, so he’ll be ‘polishing a turd ‘ as racing folk have it, for the rest of the season.

Let’s hope the same cannot be said for his relationship rebuilding exercise.

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1

The reason for all of this hatred is because Hamilton came from nowhere, and challenged the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso in 2007 when he had no right too.

I remember the same with Jacques Villeneuve in 1996, and that infamous pass around Michael Schumacher. How often do we see a young driver, who few have heard of, take on the big boys and come up trumps? Not often is the answer!

Yes he is egotistical. Yes he got the thick end of the stick at McLaren over Alonso and Kovalainen! Yes, not many like him! But he is one of the most exciting drivers to watch that this sport has witnessed in many years.

We must remember, that Alain Prost was never liked by his rivals and had many enemies. He was also very political and, just as with rival Senna, was not adverse to sending another driver on a off circuit excursion. But he won four world titles, the third biggest haul in F1 history.

Lewis is still a boy, with a awfull lot to learn in an unforgiving spotlight.

2

This season clearly shows that anybody can win with the right car in the right team. All that Lewis-hype is well out of proportion, I think it’s pretty clear he’s not the next Senna, Schumi or even Damon Hill… He’s not doing himself any favors, doesn’t he? How do you Brits say it…”There’s no “I” in the word TEAM”. That’s the first lesson he has to learn. That team gave him everything: two chances for world titles, they sacked Alonso, but remember, LH is not an expert for set-up like Fernando…
Kimi, Alonso, Kubica, Massa…all 4 favorites for the title on the beggining of the season are realistic and working hard for every point, but you can only hear LH complaining about something…[moderated]. It’s hard to be corporative puppet with no character. Suck on that and start driving Lewis…

3

who cares?!!
there are so many more important things to write, read, and think about in F1 (especially with the current situation) than Hamilton!

why giving him so much attention in the media, while, in my personal opinion, he’s not worth it, we should hear more about other drivers and what do they think about what F1 is facing at the moment.
he gets priority over his team-mate, he gets the best sponsorships, not to mention the best car on the grid for the last two years, and now he lost his love to F1!?? what a drama queen!

4

When Lewis entered F1 he did not enter it like Vettal and others have in the past. (JV excluded) He was not put in the number 2 slot, or given a sub par car. No he was given a potential WC car and all the support both the UK press and McL could throw at him. While Button and DC (et al) were struggling and trying to work with what they had, LH was given the chance to win a WC right from the start. He had tons of sponsors lined up and both the money and media attention were flowing in.

Driving alongside him was the man who had had just won 2WC and beaten Shuey while doing it. Did LH try to learn something from one of the best on the grid today? No, both him and McL played this “there are no number 1 or 2 drivers on the this team” game/lie. The whole world could see where the team was leaning but the lies continued. It got so bad that both sides were asking for independent observers to make sure both drivers were in fact getting equal treatment. Who’s fault and to what extend will probably take years to work out but the fact remains.

LH was given all the chances in the world to win the WC and he did so last year just barely. Now he doesn’t have that chance and others who were once being lapped by LH are now returning the favor. So what do we get out of LH now that things are not so rosy and perfect? Whining and complaining.

It’s time to show the world who you are. Are you going to continue to whine and complain because you can’t always win, OR will you settle in and help develop the car into a WC potential again? The choice is yours.

5
InnocentBystander

It’s all a bit rich isn’t it? Surely you Hamilton fans can see why comments like these do him a disservice.

I admit I’ve never been much of a fan of Hamilton’s off track demeanour. On track I have no problems with him (with the exception of Monza last season), in fact I am quite a fan of his driving style. I was particularly excited at the beginning of 07 to see how this clearly very talented rookie would shake things up in F1, especially as he was partnered with a 2 time WDC.

Unfortunately his off track antics very quickly lost me. As an impartial (ie not Spanish or British) observer I felt neither Hamilton or Alonso came out of 07 smelling like roses. The British press didn’t do Hamilton any favours by glossing over some of the negative aspects of his behaviour, instead putting most of the blame for the issues at McLaren on Alonso. IMO Alonso went a long way towards redeeming himself last season struggling, and eventually winning, in that lump of a Renault. Hamilton would be well served shutting his mouth and doing the hard work that the rest of the field do as a matter of course.

In short Lewis needs to grow up and eat a truck load of humble pie.

6

McLaren need to take a leaf out of Brawn’s book. They should take Lewis aside and tell him to hang in there for this year, but that they are going to focus research and development on next years car especially with the additional regulation changes. Lewis should view this years car as the testing model…

7

Lewis should stick with his dad, the days when fat white boys where telling black athletes how to run their lives are well and truly over.

James cool it down your blog is turning into an anti Hamilton forum, if you don’t believe read the messages for yourself.

8

Mav, those are the words of someone who speaks sense.

I am a Hamilton fan I admit and yes some of the things that have happened over his career have been bad/ wrong. However Schumacher did far worse in my opinion.

I was never a fan of Schumacher. In fact in a sporting sense I hated him. Very much because I was a McLaren fan and he just won everything. That said he was so entertaining and his driving brilliant. However it was moments like Monaco and the parking incident that always caused me to dislike him. That was a pure example of cheating. However this is why we all watch F1. Some like Red cars, others silver ones and so on. we are all passionate about who we support and nothing gets in the way of our views.

For me, Lewis compares very much to Christiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is one of the best footballers in the world without a doubt. However his attitude sometimes annoys me. The not tracking back and the moaning when he doesn’t get his way, the occasional soft challenge “dive”. These are characteristics similar to those of Lewis. Andy Murray and Morinho would also come into the same description. The make up of a top superstar these days is exactly that. Extremely confident (NOT ARROGANT and these guys can back up there confidence), determined and selfish. Alonso displayed these attributes at McLaren but instead of getting slated like Lewis does it was suggested that McLaren slowed him down, mainly due to Alonso stating this. Fact was he just wasnt quick enough on occasions.

I am a Brit who has supported McLaren, a British team since David Coulthard a British driver drove for them. Now its the same with Lewis. However I can also admire the other drivers instead of slate them as I am a total fan of supreme sportsmen and “arrogance” is just part of that.

9

I think Hamilton is just playing a little game here, something he learned from his father… It is obvious that he is looking for excuses… If else, why didn’t we see the 09 Hamilton last year?!

And don’t take me wrong, I appreciate him as I considered him as being the most talented driver in F1 right now.

10

During the Schumi years, he was hounded by the English press for faults, some of which definitely were his own and some, which were not his too !! Words like bully were used to describe him. But now we have Lewis and suddenly there seems to be a nostalgic remembrance of those years, in a much softer way now almost like parental forgiveness !!! The word arrogance is now substituted by aggressiveness !!! Is this not hypocrisy ?? James, you begin your book The Edge of Greatness on Schumi starting with the Monaco 2006 incident. I am sure a 7 time champion deserved a much better beginning in your book. Monaco was a blot without doubt, but could have been handled by you at a later stage. There were lot of other positives that you could have used to begin. So your intent was quite evident and the approach a bit insensitive. I think if you write a book on Lewis, the approach would not be the same !!!

11

Does anyone else think that LH could do far worse than hiring Martin B as his manager? MB clearly gets the issues and articulates the way out very well when commenting on the Beeb.

Dad, you’ve done your bit…be a big guy for your family and your boy…and let MB do a better job for all of you. Most of us on here wish this kind of change for the most supportive and sincere of reasons, not because there’s some sort of ‘anti-Lewis’ conspiracy.

12

Hamilton sees F1 as a job now? Well the whimpering liar should shut up put his head down and do what he is gets millions of pounds for. If the little diddums hadn’t decided to lie his fairy-tale “hobby” could would have continued. It wasn’t an error of judgement. It was a calculated tactic.

He’s not like Schuey or Senna in that he doesn’t seem to be able to overcome obstacles. He doesn’t seem to have their continuous hunger either. He is quite cavalier with respect to the safety of others.

P.S. I thought you and Martin Brundle last season were great. It was a blow to see that you didn’t shift to BBC team also.

13

There’s a hell of a lot of hate and strong dislike going on here. Of the 60 or so comments there’s only a couple of positive ones. It’s a common theme too if you look accross the various F1 forums or some of the vile comments posted on “Youtube”.

What I don’t quite get is where (in F1 terms at least) this is all coming from. Hamilton’s “mistakes” have not hit anywhere near the heights of that of the likes of Schumacher or Senna. Even Alonso (I suspect many who have posted here are supporters of his) has done worse in terms of both “cheating” and throwing his toys out of the pram.

Hamilton occasionally makes some less than well thought out comments and everyone with an agenda just dives on them, claws out, teeth showing. Yet very few seem to remember any of the better quotes and insight. I remember last year on on one particular forum, one guy posted a “Hamilton” quote then followed it up with “What an arrogant SOB. I can’t believe him. He needs to shut up” etc. Naturally everyone piled in saying pretty much the same, when all of a sudden it was pointed out that the quote was actually by Kimi! Of course, it was ok then. Just the Iceman being his cool self…..

Fortunatly Lewis’ supreme talent and fantastic Gilles-esq driving style rises above all that pathetic rubbish.

14

I won’t be cheeky and post the link here – but I wrote a story for our site about this Hamilton prisoner comment yesterday.

Sure – he is having a tough time but there are millions of people worried about how to pay the next round of bills, me included, and frankly his bleating is getting a little tiresome.

Lighten up or leave Lewis – your call…

15

The young man can drive the wheels off a race car. With some good advice, the rest should be easy. Step back, dad, and let the pros take over.

16

It does seem like everyone is knocking Hamilton at the moment, and yes, he does badly need an independent media advisor. However, before we all jump onto the bandwagon, lets get a few things straight:

1) Right now *I’m getting tired of the politics in F1*, so I’ll forgive Lewis if he feels the same.

2) So he doesn’t enjoy loosing? Am I alone in thinking that is a good thing? Great drivers never enjoy loosing – that is just the way it is with intensely competitive people.

3) The media storm over the lying scandal, while understandable has gone out of proportion.

17

James, I love the drawn Monaco banner you have on top of the website

18

I think it’s for the best that Hamilton was pushed to the brink this early in his career.

It’s what happened to Alonso in 2007, and presumably Schumacher in the ’90s (I wasn’t a fan yet, back then). Alonso hit bottom in the English-speaking world, but then a year of perceived adversity meant his detractors weren’t rooting against him because he wasn’t going to beat their favorite driver. Since he wasn’t a threat, he was able to build up respect among them.

It’ll be the same for Hamilton. Watching him overtake people with a slower car earns our respect, and he won’t be as much of an ‘enemy’ to his fellow drivers. Hopefully he takes advantage of it to get closer to them. Joining the GPDA was a good idea.

He does strike me as political though. Yes, I think he was influential in steering McLaren to favor him in ’07, and most probably don’t, but I point to his relationship with Max Mosley as a clearer example of his political savvy. I can believe that he might not enjoy it, but he isn’t clueless about it.

19

James, which specific race did Lewis refer to backmarkers as monkeys, or is this another example of the demonization process of Hamilton. Other popular myths regarding Hamilton include, cursing at Ron Dennis during the 2007 Monaco GP, Hamilton purchasing a $400,000 dollar personalized license plate, or a 90 foot yacht, and Lewis nearly hitting the safety car while following it during the 2008 German GP, all part of the folklore to discredit him. The only source that I can find regarding the so-called ” backmarker as monkeys ” quote is http://www.LewisHamiltonsucks.com.

20

Whether you love or hate Lewis Hamilton, there are two things you cannot deny about him:

1. He is an extremely good racing driver
2. F1 would be a far less interesting sport* without him

(*I think the word sport almost requires inverted commas after the events of recent weeks)

21

I’m a big Lewis fan, but I must admit he has gone down in my estimation this year.

When it became obvious this years Mclaren was slow, the Hamilton haters said it would be good to knock him down a peg or two: I thought this could be the chance for Hamilton to gain a little more repsect from the sceptics by showing he can take the rough with the smooth and still do a great job in the car.

I think he has driven brilliantly this year, but I simply can’t argue with the criticism about his attitude, whether you blame it on media hype, bad managment, politics, team mistakes or just him. He is still only a young man, it will be interesting to see how the next few years matures him.

22

I think Lewis is not clever with words, and does not realise that anything he says can be twisted by the media in to a negative story.

He must learn to stop repeating the same old corporate political mantra “the team did a fantastic job, the guys at the factory did a fantastic job” etc.

I think Lewis needs to employ a professional PR man to advise him, someone very wise and clever at handling the tabloid press, although NOT someone like Max Clifford.

At the moment, Lewis says things which are well meaning couched in McLaren’s PR speak, but when seen in print look and read quite the opposite of what he meant. He should take lessons from Button and Vettel on how to say things from the heart, look happy and cheerful, and come across as a likeable person. In other words, Lewis needs to learn presentational skills.

As for racing, I think Lewis has performed exceptionally well on the track given the poor performance of the McLaren car. I wish him the best.

23

I almost feel sorry for Lewis as he is seriously boxed himself into a corner with no good way out.

Suffice to say that he is a very immature 24 year old. This is likely a result of all the “grooming” from the McLaren management over the years, this becoming part of his personality: professional, confident answers.

It’s such a shame because he is a brilliant racer, but all that grooming has given him this seemingly arrogant personality. I’m sure he doesn’t do it purposely, it’s just normal for him.
Can you change a personality? Not overnight for sure, but perhaps over a period of years.

As I said, he’s a VERY immature young man and it shows.
He’ll grow up eventually, probably sooner rather than later.

24

There’s something about lewis, people seem to love to hate him (if I can put it this way). there’re already more comments and replies on his article than the FIA’s 1…

25

Lewis is a proper hard core racer. His current misery highlights the fact that no amount of cash or women can fulfill his desire to win races. If i was in his shoes i would be a miserable moaning SOB. [mod]

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