F1: So, is Hamilton a menace on the track?

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarFriday, October 17th, 2008

 
 

It’s the eve of the Chinese Grand Prix, a race at which this year’s drivers’ championship could be decided, and it’s been greeted with a press backlash against Lewis Hamilton.

The subject? Whether or not his driving style is so aggressive as to be dangerous. Certainly, a slew of recent penalties and remarks from disgruntled drivers have given the story legs.

So, is there anything in it? The story is based on remarks made by Mark Webber in his role as a director of the safety organisation the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.

He has said that he will be having a chat with Hamilton regarding some aspects of his recent performances, revolving around late braking and the chances of having a crash as a result.

And then the world went mad. The stupidest headline was in the Daily Mail – no surprise there, then – which claimed Webber had said Hamilton could kill someone.

Something the Red Bull driver has since angrily refuted.

For a reasonably balanced account of what’s gone on, we’d suggest taking a look at the report in The Independent, as linked to below.

That has a damn good go at putting a great big ‘tensions in the dressing room’ spin on the thing, but does also quote Webber and colleague Jarno Trulli very extensively.

If this is an accurate account of what Webber said, then it looks to us like a model of balance and fairness. He appears to have justified concerns but does not get personal about them.

Instead he picks out those actions which he feels need to be addressed and puts the whole thing in context of a young driver in his second F1 season. Here’s what he had to say:

Hamilton faces wrath of fellow drivers

“The braking areas are an issue because you cannot move around in the braking areas like that,” asserted Webber. “We lost a marshal at Monza (2000 Italian Grand Prix) when there were guys moving around in the braking areas.

“It is very hard to change your line if you don’t know what is going to come. That is the only thing that we need to look at. This has all happened because the braking points have become so short and it is over so quickly.

“If any guys moves two or three metres left or right then you have contact and you have tethers (on the wheels) going off, so that is what we want a chat about.

“When you look at the first corner in Fuji it was pretty wild. He (Hamilton) was having a crack. But if someone had been sitting on his right rear when he pulled out there, then that was a crash.

“There was also no way he was going to make the first corner, and whilst it is not illegal to outbrake yourself, we want to have a bit of a chat about moving around in the braking areas.”

[snip]

Webber maintains Hamilton is “a phenomenal talent,” and recognises he is on a steep learning curve as it is still only his second year in Formula One.

However, the Australian believes Hamilton could show greater regard for his fellow drivers than he appears to be doing at present.

“I haven’t seen what he did with Jarno,” added Webber. “But Monza was a tough race for him in terms of what he did to me, to (Timo) Glock and to Fernando (Alonso).

“He didn’t get a penalty in Monza, so he didn’t do anything wrong in anyone’s eyes, so that was fine.

“But his respected colleagues are sometimes saying, ‘mate, it doesn’t need to be like that all the time.’

“I am not smashing Hamilton, but it is about how you move on. Tiger Woods learns. Roger Federer learns, and Lewis is going through that.” Read full story here…

We certainly don’t think Hamilton is (or should be) above criticism – but we also think things have reached a pass where a young and still-inexperienced driver is damned by someone whatever he says or does.

So its good to see Mark Webber handling this situation well. And clearly only too well aware even as he spoke that his words would be picked up and misquoted somewhere.

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