“What I have decided to do this year is just focus on the most important thing and that’s racing,” Lewis Hamilton told the media today at the launch of his 2012 McLaren car.
After a 2011 season that was overshadowed by stories of his troubled personal life, Hamilton has hit the reset button over the winter and is ready to do what he does best: take the fight to the other F1 front runners.
But its hard to completely shed baggage in this game; at the same time he got a brickbat from his old friend Adrian Sutil who was angry that Hamilton had not given evidence at his trial for GBH nor sent him a message of support. He called the 2008 champion a “coward” for ducking the call to appear in court.
A frustrated Sutil told Bild newspaper in his native Germany, “Lewis is a coward. I do not want to be friends with someone like that. He is for me no man. Even his father sent me a text message and wished me luck for the process. Lewis came with nothing. He has changed his phone number. I could not reach him any more.”
There have been no denials about this quote – unlike a recent quote from a McLaren Applied Technologies boss which appeared to heap praise on Sebastian Vettel over the McLaren duo, which was denied by the team.
Hamilton was with Sutil in the Shanghai nightclub where the offence occurred, but has since distanced himself from the episode and ducked questions about it today, with a team spokesman intervening to say that as the verdict may be appealed, it was inappropriate for Hamilton to comment.
It’s a sad episode where no-one comes out a winner. The victim Eric Lux wanted Sutil to pay a price for leaving him bleeding in the club, photos of the wound in the hospital showed a savage gash to the side of Lux’s neck. The Lotus Renault team boss could not understand how anyone with any compassion could leave someone in that state without offering to help.
Sutil became damaged goods in the eyes of some of the team bosses in the round of negotiations over 2012 seats and this leaves him without one.
Another off track distraction Hamilton is keen to avoid developing into a saga is his contract renewal. “That’s going to be a big topic,” he admitted today.
Hamilton’s long term deal expires at the end of the year. Jenson Button is already confirmed for a minimum of three more years with the team. To get his price up at McLaren, Hamilton’s agents may flirt with Mercedes. Or he may play for a short contract to leave his options open with Red Bull, with Vettel’s deal due to expire in 2014.
“I think probably after the first couple of races it’s something we will probably want to get out of the way so we can focus on the rest of the year without the team being concerned and without it being something that’s just hanging around for us so then you guys won’t be having to ask questions about it,” said Hamilton.