One of the themes running through the second half of this season has been Lewis Hamilton’s troubled demeanour and the way issues off the track have affected his performances on it.
Here in the Yas Marina paddock yesterday Hamilton offered a window in to his troubled soul, confirming many of the things commentators have been saying for months about the effect his private life have had on his professional life. He explains some of how he is feeling. He envies team mate Jenson Button’s protective “bubble” of friends and family and faces the prospect of being beaten by a team mate for the first time in a championship season.
After the Indian GP McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh said that he felt part of the reason Hamilton’s head was elsewhere was that he was being beaten by his team mate Jenson Button. That seemed a surprising thing for him to say, not the arm “around the shoulder” approach team bosses normally take when their driver is struggling.
Hamilton dismissed Whitmarsh’s comments as “rubbish” and explained how he is really feeling,
“He made some comments which I disagree with,” said Hamilton. “It’s rubbish. My issues have been much, much bigger than that – more personal. Jenson doing great is great for the team.
“Jenson has done a great job to get things in the right place. He’s got his Dad, who’s there at every single race, he’s got his manager, he’s got his friends and his girlfriend there all the time. He’s got a great bubble around him and with that he’s able to go out there and perform without any worries on his mind.
“Jenson’s in a much stronger position than me so I wouldn’t expect anything less than the results he’s been getting. But that’s not affecting the way I’m performing.”
Every driver is different; some need an emotional life support system around them, others, like Robert Kubica, are more self contained and need just a manager by their side.
Sebastian Vettel is a bit like that; he has his trainer Tommy and his father Norbert is around but very low key in the background.
Most people don’t take their parents or wife to the office, but in a sports context, whatever makes you perform is the right set up. It’s an important thing to get right, because a driver has to focus on getting the maximum from himself throughout a race weekend and he needs his life to be in balance to achieve that.
I remember seeing Jacques Villeneuve having a blazing row with his girlfriend minutes before qualifying for the Argentinian Grand Prix in 1997.
“They (relationships) affect everything you do, the things you say, the way you act, the groove you get into,” admitted Hamilton.
“It’s not an excuse it’s just the way things have gone. I feel quite confident that I know the right direction for next year and how I can get things better – it’s just about doing it. I don’t plan on being single for very long. It’s nothing to do with being single or not being single. When I was in my relationship she was probably the most positive thing that was in my life – and maybe that needs to be back there.
“I’ve just been a bit unfortunate and I’ve got my own problems. I lost that bubble. It is a priority for me to create that atmosphere around myself because it’s a happy bubble.”