The chase is on
Shanghai 2018
Chinese Grand Prix
Hamilton reflects on two sides of his life
McLaren Honda
Posted By: James Allen  |  07 Sep 2011   |  6:30 pm GMT  |  146 comments

There is an interesting story from Press Association today with quotes from Lewis Hamilton denying that he has got distracted by his celebrity lifestyle to the detriment of his career in F1.

Even his most ardent fans would admit that Hamilton’s performances this season have been uneven, with some very high peaks, such as the German Grand Prix, but also some troughs, where he has collided with other cars and wasted opportunities.

Hamilton’s high profile girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger and his friendships with music industry figures like Pharrell Williams and P Diddy have drawn him away from his roots as a racer. This is no problem in itself as long as he manages it. In a recent interview I did with Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 supremo said that the reason he admires Sebastian Vettel so much is that he is focussed only on winning and has his feet on the ground and it seemed he had Hamilton in mind as a contrast.

“I’m not searching for it, but I still love doing that stuff,” Hamilton told Press Association. “It’s still awesome when you hang around with people like that. I still feel exactly the same way about them, the way I did before I met them, even though I know them now.

“I’m still a little starstruck, in admiration. I still see them on television, exactly as I did then. But it’s strange when you look at your phone and think ‘I can call that guy.’ There will be more things in the future, but at the moment there are more important things to do.

“That is somehow to get this Formula One career at its peak because I don’t feel it’s at it’s highest.
I don’t feel the performances are at their best, and that’s what I am really trying to focus on most of all.”

In Hungary I asked Hamilton about why he felt he had been on such terrific form in Germany the weekend before, surely one of his best drives of the last couple of years. He said that it was because he had been able to focus on his preparation with no distractions. He was thinking perhaps of team sponsor promotions, having done a huge amount of them around the Silverstone weekend. If you look at the amount of videos and other activities he and Jenson Button do for Vodafone, Santander and the rest, you can see what he means. Experienced older drivers say that it’s vital to recognise that you only have so much energy when you are a top F1 driver and you need to get the right balance between the various calls on your time.

But in the end it is always the results that count.

A senior Red Bull person told me recently that when Hamilton was linked with their team around the time he met with Christian Horner in Montreal, the amount of coverage, attention and general buzz the team encountered was staggering. And this is from a team which is all about hype and communication and moreover which is dominating at the moment.

Hamilton is a huge draw, but he’s in a crossroads moment in his career. It will be interesting to see how he decides to proceed from here.

Featured Video
Sign up for Jenson’s Triathlon today!
Featured News in mclaren
MORE FROM McLaren
LATEST FROM THE MCLAREN HONDA COMMUNITY
Previous
Next
Share This:
Posted by:
Category:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

146comments

by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest
1

These comments are really interesting. It seems that Brits are really fickle. Now all of a sudden all this criticism comes Hamilton’s way?? Build them up and tear em down! Well, even if he doesnt receive support from his country men, he has a lot of support from many other nations. I think he is a young bloke and will become a very very great man. All this is just a process.

Comments I have read on this are just disgusting.

2

It seems like Hamilton is always “at a crossroads in his career”

3

I wonder how James Hunt would have survived in today’s PC times!

4

He would have adapted, as most humans are able to do

5

An aspect of this “focus problem” that hasn’t been touched on the matter of McClaren sponsor commitments. The complaint was registered earlier in the season that commercial commitments with McClaren are very heavy and because many of these may happen in conjunction with race weekends, that may be a greater source of loss of focus than hanging around with rock stars. Likewise the media attention must be really tough, and it’s a bit of a downward spiral as the more you have controversy, the more the media is around making a big fuss – see post Monaco. Valentino Rossi showed that you can be the most charismatic guy in the sport, play the media like a violin and still win five world titles though.

Meanwhile, I’m fascinated by Vettel. He has some sponsor commitments, such as driving mainstream journalists around in Infinitis on the Montreal weekend, but he’s certainly not in the english media much. Is Germany like here in Canada, where the press follows well defined guidelines in leaving athletes alone most of the time? And what about his dad? Norbert Vettel seems to be around this season but largely just watching and enjoying, as I’m sure I’d like to do if it was my kid. History is not relating the role he played in getting Seb into F1. Was he another Antony Hamilton or just the guy who drove the minivan and held the kid’s jacket on the sidelines?

RC

6

Vettel’s Dad is about the most down to earth bloke you could ever meet. He’s a little, unshaven character who shambles about, all smiley and friendly – clearly astonished by what his son has achieved

7

That’s so awesome.

8

Very few people are qualified to comment with any authority on Hamilton’s mindset or the influences (good and bad) on his attitude. A few years ago I hung out with a couple of celebrities and it didn’t affect my work – any deeper analysis than that would require detailed knowledge of his lifestyle – which I doubt many of us have

What is worrying for Hamilton is the evidence that there are other leading drivers who have improved post winning a WDC in the past few seasons (Alonso, Button, Vettel), whereas he seems to be getting worse (though he remains extremely quick). His PR skills remain poor – his rants against other drivers with whom he has had comings together followed up by unreserved apologies do nothing for him. Who knows what he really thinks about these incidents?But frankly, who cares? The big picture is, nothing matters except results, and its not happening at the moment.

9

Like it or not F1 is more about the car than the driver. How often is the WDC won in other than the winning constructors car?…….the last time this happend recently was 2008…..with Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton has probably pushed to far this year in trying to overcome the short comings of the Mclaren…….at least he trys….thats why he,s so entertaining to watch.

The reality is the RB7 is even more dominant this year than last especialy in the hands of a more experienced Vettel. The media,s fasination with Hamilton is more driven by the lack of any real drama in this years WDC which as already been decided.

10

Some really interesting points again James. [mod]

From my perspective, whenever I’ve seen him speaking at length (the FOTA fans forum we attended at MTC) and the recent Jonathan Ross interview, he comes across as a really decent down to earth guy.

IMHO, so what if he has celebrity friends. Its almost inevitable for top sportsmen to have celeb friends isnt it. I think the implied logic that this somehow means he is not focussed when he turns up to race weekends is pretty ropey to say the least.

Someone else raised a really good point in the earlier comments. Jenson in the early part of his career got a bit of a bad rep for his playboy image, and has come through the other side of it and learned/taken positives out of the experience.

Lewis needs first and foremost to just convert his pace into race finishes. He still has lots of time to mature as a driver. Incredibly people somehow see his genuine tweet saying it was his fault for the crash at Spa, as some sort of PR exercise. No pleasing some people is there.

The one thing that struck me last night was Seb is going to be a double WDC by the end of this year, barring a miracle turnaround (which I’m hoping for as a McL fan).

So potentially Seb could be a 3 times WDC by next year, and therefore noted as the standout driver of his generation in terms of titles (over and above Lewis/Fernando). I bet neither thought 3 years ago that would be the case.

11

I can’t believe I’m reading so much complaining about a Formula 1 driver hanging out with rock stars and partying on yachts. So much for tradition.

12
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

I can’t help but feel that there are some double standards amongst observers.

So what if Hamilton has celebrity friends. I’m sure that David Coulthard had plenty as well during his time as a driver but no-one ever questioned his lack of focus.

Has McLaren ever complained about Hamilton’s lack of focus or work ethic? Kimi Raikkonen was a hellraiser and described by Ron Dennis as very lazy. There are videos of Kimi in a drunken stupor on youtube but no-one ever questioned his talent and passion…and nor should they have done.

And who’s to say that these celebrity friends are a bad influence for Hamilton. These artists would have to be as single minded and dedicated to get to the top in their own field.

I’m sorry to say this but it just seems like some people just don’t like Hamilton’s type of celebrity friends.

13

Again, like many of the above posts I’m not a Hamilton fan. He IS however one of the fastest out there, and perfectly capable of dragging a dog of a car around faster than it should go – but he just seems to lurch from one race to another being very happy or incredibly angry. He doesn’t seem strong enough in the mental department to take everything in his stride, he should be a double world champion by now and isn’t. He should be beating his teammate by quite a margin and isn’t. He may have distractions, but I feel he is taking a similar journey through F1 to his teammate, a certain Mr. Button who was accused of being a playboy but seems to have come good later on.

14

Accepting that almost none of us have met him let alone know him …. my 2p worth then is a naturally fantastically fast and gifted driver (out of only 2 or 3 in the field) who has forgotten how to race an entire race (racecraft) and who is driving currently to fulfill this “image” he and his management team are building i.e the derring-do exploits of the “fastest, bravest hero of them all”. His racecraft seems to be going backwards and as it does so he blames everyone and everything else.

Agree with all those who think he should change his management team to one that is focussed on sport and racing and his results will be the better for it.

15
Mark in Australia

Lewis needs to remember how he got to where he is and how he got to have famous friends… For being a racer. Hollywood is fickle. These famous people aren’t friends with him because he is a top bloke.. They are friends with him because he is WDC; Lewis Hamilton.

All sports need personalities. But the personalities maybe sometimes need to remember where they come from and stay true to their roots… Case in point; Mark Webber, Rubens Barricello or the greatest of all Aryton Senna.

Ignore the sideshows Lewis. You will be much more fondly remembered as a multiple WDC, rather than a wannabe friend of some wannabe rapper/singer/gangster

16

As an aside to this one, I wonder what the dynamics are like in the McLaren garage between Jenson, Lewis and the crew now that Jenson has fully settled in,the mechanics must be fairly confident that Jenson will bring his car back ‘shiny side up’ but not to sure about Lewis.

17

Hamilton is a supreme talent and one of the most exciting drivers of this era. It seems to me, however, that his application and mind management are sometimes flawed. From the radio messages we hear, it also seems he can be tetchy about receiving advice.

I really have no idea how much the celebrity lifestyle detracts from his racing but I am certain it cannot help, anymore than it did Button in his playboy years.

Hamilton needs the right management/coach to help him utilize his massive talent consistently and there’s no shame in that but to fail to acknowledge it and waste the opportunities he currently has would be shameful indeed.

An entertainment-based management approach is no good for an F1 driver. They need clever coaching and understanding mind management.

Additionally, outside of the cockpit, even the biggest F1 stars are required to promote their sponsors and their teams; it is a corporate style, like it or not. Managers need to work with and for the benefit of sponsors, not on the profile of their driver – the results do that! How will McLaren view Hamilton’s desire for less corporate promotion when he can find the time for such (from a team perspective) pointless acts of self-promotion as appearing on The Jonathan Ross Show?

18

I don’t think Hamilton is at a cross road in his career.

Just cast your memory back 10 years ago and look at Jenson career, he was in the wild for a couple of year, described as a playboy.

We need to understand what it’s happening in sport nowadays, F1 is just the same as football in the UK and Europe, basketball and American Football in the US.

Young athletes become heroes, from nowhere to fame, from having a bob or two in their pockets to millionaires.

For sure this instant change of lifestyle will impact in how they react and behave and, to be fair, I don’t know how I will react to becoming a superstar in my chosen field.

So I think Hamilton will be back, he is a racer, he, most probably, will ask his dad to help him out and will eb back on track eager to win.

On the other hand I personally don’t like how people judge Hamilton and starts like him without any first hand experience.

I have played sport at national level in Italy and used to be a so called star in my region.

I saw team mates loosing the plot because they were starts and we did not earn as much money as Hamilton or a professional sportmen, we did it for the passion and love of the sport.

And Lewis has started his career because of the passion not for the money or the fame !!!

So, Hamilton fans, don’t worry, he will be back

19

I’ll freely admit to not being a Hamilton fan but do think he is one of fastest drivers in F1. In my opinion he is not the complete article due to his inability to make decisions for himself. Like Massa he seems to need a lot of hand holding by the team. Unlike Massa though Hamilton lashes out when the team make mistakes that cost him. He also needs to be man enough to accept when he has made mistakes and take responsibility. And I mean genuinely rather than just because somebody tells him to for PR purposes.

On the other hand if he is enjoying his life outside of F1 then good for him. Whilst drivers such as Vettel are incredibly successful by being so focused on F1 I do think they are missing out on life by doing so. I guess it is a question of which is most important to you.

20

Morning all, some of you may remember me from the BBC message boards, and later the 606 debacle. Good to be back, and James, this is a great website, I regularly come here to get a) indepth points of view, based on industry knowledge, and b) a more imaginitive take on the current F1 stories.

Hamilton: I agree with many on here, he is one of the great talents on the grid at the moment (with Vettel and Alonso). As we know, he is WDC material, give him the fastest car and he’s a safe bet, give him not the fastest car and he has a go anyway- last year being a good example. Despite my being a diehard Jenson fan (originally because of his early promise, then because of his underdog status, and now because of his niche talent-smoothness- along with his character), even I have to admit that Hamilton is the key talent in that team. He is the faster driver, and though consistency may be a problem, when he has a really fast car, he more than makes up for the results throughout the season.

But that is the point- really fast cars. Only Vettel is going to win the WDC this year (Webber’s results this story is another story). A McLaren driver is not going to win the championship this year because, frankly, at no point has there car been the fastest (though it may have been up there on occasion). And when your car is being strained to the limit like that, you inevitably run into more mistakes. I mean, if you had given Hamilton the Red Bull this year, do we seriously think he wouldn’t be leading the championship? Of course he would. Look at the stats- a Red Bull car has been on pole at EVERY race this year. Red Bull are the fastest, and they will deservedly win the championship.

The reality is the F1 press, like the British press in general, are (excluding this excellent website, and a few others) often reactionary and susceptible to short term memory loss. Hamilton is brilliant after Germany, now he’s lost focus because of his celebrity lifestyle. How about: the McLaren guys are straining the bit every other weekend to try and do the impossible- beat the faster team. What happens when you strain? Often, you either win heroically, or look stupid.

Hamilton, and other drivers, are rightly properly susceptible to criticism about their focus etc when they are in the car that should be winning all the races. Much as I love him, there’s one key driver this season who in my mind should be receiving this sort of criticism, but on the whole is not. Webber.

21

Webber?

How do you come that conclusion Alex?

Consider this; Webber & Vettel are in the fastest car. The car is more than reasonably reliable. In this world, there is always someone who is going to be faster than you. Mark currently drives against that person every week. Vettel is the current WDC. He didn’t achieve that by fluke. He won it fair and square. He is currently the fastest, most consistent driver in the field. He is faster than Webber. Full stop. There is no shame getting beaten by a guy like Vettel in equal equipment. Senna and Hill come to mind here. Schumi and Herbert, Alonso and Massa, the list goes on.

Lewis is among the most talented drivers i have ever seen (although I have not seen him in a B Grade team to see how he fairs in the middle of the pack each week). Be that as it may, he is having a terrible year by his own high standards. In the world of top level competition, great driver, bad season = criticism. No one said he wasn’t great though 😉

F1 is a better place for having Lewis in it (and I’m a Webber fan).

22

Alex: You make some excellent points here. I do seem to recall some instances where it seemed Herbert moved over for the boss but it is what it is. Webber did have a relatively good 2010 compared to his teammate, that can’t be argued. He got the better of him on occassion also. I guess that in response to your excellent reply, I would argue that Vettel has improved considerably from 2010, while Mark has probably gone a little backwards, or at least, not improved at the same rate as the young WDC. Had Mark won the 2010 WDC, he too may have gone forwards like Sebastian has in 2011. My point would be that Vettel has now cemented himself into the team leader role and due to the confidence that winning a WDC brings, finds himself as argueably the best driver in the field at this point in time. If not the best in the field, at least the best at RBR. With his current form and maturity, I would rate him better than Webber at this time. Put simply, Sebastian is faster than you Mark ;)I’m reluctant to compare this to Felipe and Fernando, both who have had great seasons in their careers. I hate to critise Felipe because I just like the guy for some reason. I guess it’s his humbleness that appeals to me.

Thanks Alex, good health.

23

Glenn: I like your referencing to past teammates, but I would seek to differentiate Webber to those examples. The reason being that he was in contention throughout last season for the WDC, and was even soundly beating Vettel throughout the middle of it. So we know he can do it against Vettel in the same team. So this year his failure to even take a race win seems stark. The Schumacher/Herbert, Alonso/Massa examples can in my opinion differntiated, because in neither example, to my knowledge, had either 2nd driver driven competitively in comparison to their teammate whilst in the same team.

Webber did it last year, I was hoping he could at least have a proper effort at taking it to Vettel this year. A bit like Button has managed to do to Hamilton (like Vettel, in a different league to teammate IMO) this year.

I like and support Webber, but even I have to admit he needs to find a better way this year. I hear the Pirellis are problematic. Still, top drivers find a way around it.

Hope that clarifies.

24

Absolutely correct, Alex and especially your final comment about Webber.

In passing, can there be another global sport which has such a large fanbase within one profession? That of psychology? We can be grateful that so many of them have found the time to offer Lewis the benefit of their advice.

25

Being so impressed by the social standing of your so-called friends smacks to me of someone who is deeply insecure.

26

I think one of the most overlooked element in Lewis career is that his dad did everything to support him financially.

Guys like Schumacher, Nigel Mansell struggled to financially support themselves in the early stages so, for them, making a living in F1 is a luxury let alone driving a top car.

Where as, for Lewis, anything less than a winning car is a disappointment. If things don’t go his way, he gets upset and say certain things just like most of us.

The other thing is that I think he really needs to add patient and cautiousness to his game if he wants to win more championships.

Michael overtook more than anyone this season, he had less DNF than Lewis.

I think Alonso handled the situation much better. A new kid arrived and destroyed everyone. Instead of whining and crashing, he kept his head down, working very hard to bring the team forward which is what a champion should do.

27

I’m positive it was Hamilton’s pop star lifestyle that caused Button, Kobayashi and Maldonado to drive their cars into him!

*cough*

All this Hamilton focus talk goes back years, even to his rookie season when he was photographed fraternizing with a McLaren shareholders daughter on a super yacht when apparently he should have been meditating or spending the summer holiday in an oxygen tank or something ridiculous like that.

Hamilton is fine, if McLaren provide a car capable of beating Red Bull then he will win a championship again. Jenson is no match for Lewis in a straight fight, every time Jenson “does better” it’s because Hamilton had an incident.

28

Well I for one hope he gets things sorted for himself. I miss the kid that burst onto the scene in 2007(?), qualified on the 2nd row and finished on the podium in his first outing!!! How many fans did Lewis make that year? About a zillion! Why? Because he was young, polite, grateful, respectful, humble and FAST. People like that sort of stuff.

F1 fans need someone who is going to step up and take it to Sebastian. There are not too many people who qualified for that job.

Get well soon Lewis.

29

What LH really needs is someone to protect him from himself and ‘coach’ him in techniques that allow him to concentrate on the task in hand and ignore all the outside clutter and noise that so often accompanies media celebrities. If he doesn’t manage to do this, his career will become an excellent case study in how a mismanaged talent failed to optimize his opportunities. LH should have multiple WDC to his name by now; but he keeps blaming others, rather than understanding his own limitations and weaknesses. Without a good manager, and I doubt that Simon Fuller fulfills that role well, he won’t deliver to the level he is capable of.

30

I think we need a little context here. The celebrity lifestyle of LH is a red herring, or more precisely, symptomatic of a deeper issue. He has not had a race winning car out of the box since 2008, meaning he’s had to push and struggle and rage against his machinery for three long years. This dip in the form of McLaren has coincided with the emergence of Red Bull and Vettel. But the truth is, if Lewis had a stupendously quick, ultra reliable car, capable of dominating the field, he’d be focussed on winning as well. In the meantime, showing Rihanna round his garage is a sweet – albeit scant – distraction.

31

Whilst I agree that his machinery has been a little lacking in pace over the last few seasons. I think it must gall him as the ‘Best over-taker in the biz’, that his team mate has overtaken more cars this year than any other driver. Jenson’s passes in Spa were just awesome…the little dip out & in of the slip stream upto Les Combes showed a racer who really knows his craft. I would suspect that knowing what a competative animal Lewis is, this fact could be at least as responsible for his ‘over-driving’ this season as his ‘Celebrity lifestyle’.

He’s still an awesome talent though…and reading that he’s a little star-struck by Nicole’s chums shows a refreshingly humble side to his personality.

32

What was the story with the split between Anthony & Lewis Hamilton? Someone told me the other day that he had got into a lot of arguments with McLaren and effectively been kicked out of the garage but I’ve always thought he’s a very polite individual and always seems to know the right thing to say. It will be interesting to see what he can do for Paul Di Resta.

33

I think it was at Montreal all those celebrity stars at Mclaren garage, drinks on their hands…that was strange during a race.

Maybe is got his world champion title to soon on his carear.

Top Tags
SEARCH McLaren Honda
JA ON F1 In association with...
Multi award winning Formula One photographer
Multi award winning Formula One photographer

Sign up to receive the latest F1 News & Updates direct to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!