Posts Tagged ‘Lewis Hamilton’

I was lucky enough to be at Silverstone last Wednesday, to spend the day with McLaren, driving the 650 bhp Mercedes SLR and being driven in it by the reigning world champion.

This was part of the Lewis Hamilton British media rehabilitation exercise, particularly targetted at the Fleet Street guys after things got a bit out of control post the Melbourne-lying-to-stewards business.

Hamilton got pretty wound up by some of the coverage and initially tried a route of non co-operation, but then recently the team has changed tack and this day at Silverstone was a way of hitting the reset button. He spent most of the day there and was very affable, even to some journos he’d been monosyllabic with a month ago.

It’s all a giant game, with the press, and you just have to accept that and learn how to play it. Nigel Mansell was the same and Damon Hill too. The advantage they had was that they were far more mature than Hamilton at the time they had to deal with it and also they had both had a life before becoming famous. Hamilton has had a lot to come to terms with this year; an uncompetitive car as well as question marks against his integrity, so troubles with the press are perhaps the easiest to fix of his problems.

Damon Hill was there too on Wednesday and made the astute observation that for a British driver at the British Grand Prix, “It is difficult not being competitive at Silverstone.”

Hamilton wowed the journos with his sublime car control on a miserably wet day. I went first because they did it alphabetically and so it was a voyage of discovery as much for the driver as it was for the passenger on the shiny wet track. I can honestly say that the car was rarely pointing straight, apart from on the Hangar Straight. The rest of the time it was fishtailing around, as we hit the standing water at tremendous speed.


Afterwards we were offered a cup of tea and a scone (yes, really) in the BRDC clubhouse and Lewis gave us his views on what it will be like racing at his home Grand Prix with no chance of winning.

What is your target for the British Grand Prix?
“Points are the goal for us, you have to adjust from last year where we were targeting the win. Now it’s a struggle to get into the points and you can see how close it is. To score a couple of points would be good, I haven’t scored for a couple of races now.”

Last year the fans were cheering you on to the win, this year it will be Jenson Button. How do you feel about that?
“I’m already egging him on. Maybe I should put some money on him! It will be a proud moment to have a fellow Brit win, but then I will understand exactly what he is feeling. I’ll know what he’s going through — the feeling he’s getting from the fans and fulfilling his lifelong dream of winning at Silverstone. Is this more special than winning Monaco? Yes. Winning Monaco was very special for me with the way it all went it was such a fulfilling race, then you have other wins which are not as exciting.”

It’s been a while since your last win. How has life changed?
“I didn’t expect to change. Everyone said to me, ‘When you win things either get harder or easier.’ What I wanted was to go into my third year and go with the same approach and double up and be better than I was last year, with less mistakes and fight for the championship. I arrived and I couldn’t do that, then a wave of different things happened, but I would definitely say that I’m enjoying myself now as much as I ever have.”

How tough is it to accept not being competitive?
“I think I’ve always known how to deal with it all but it’s about knowing how to accept it. I won’t accept that the car is not quick enough, keep pushing, keep pushing, but then you have to accept that this is probably around the place you are gong to finish, But you keep pushing and keep your mind in a certain readiness for the potential to win. It makes you stronger, it’s not all about running at the front. ”

Isn’t it hard to lose as a champion?
“Not really, because I’d be sitting here and you’d be saying, ‘Could you have done it?’ Could you still do it I’ve proved I can do it. In 2007 I nearly won the world championship. It was only because my car stopped in the last race on the second lap that I didn’t have the chance to score the points I needed. Last year I got in and finished the job, despite all the trouble we had with points being taken away and penalties here and there. It was a disaster full of dramas all year, But to have it and know I have a world championship in the bag is a good stepping stone, a good foundation for me to build upon.

So you’ll be wanting it to rain, to give you a chance?
“No. I won’t be able to turn my tyres on in the wet, so it might be worse for me in the wet.”

It looks like no more GP at Silverstone, but it could be no more GP in Britain, what do you think about that?
“F1 would never be the same without a British GP. Personally I think it’s out of the question. I don’t know how they can even think about it.

“Last year was incredible for me, I don’t know how we won by a minute and eights seconds but it was a very special day. This one coming up I’m just going to make sure I enjoy it and embrace the fans that I have here, because they were so supportive last year. I could see them every time I came past they were cheering and waving the flags. It was soaking wet, raining non stop.

Where do you stand on the old tracks/new tracks debate?
“You don’t feel the same excitement as you do on the old circuits. Silverstone has such a great heritage and the way that the track is laid out is unique, it has such a high speed combination of corners. When you drive here you are flat out all over the place, you don’t brake until turn seven at Stowe, then you come back here into the last complex and there is always a chance to lose it and go off into the gravel. It’s a technically demanding circuit.”

Read Full Post »

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?”

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.

Read Full Post »

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton has today backed Brawn GP’s Jenson Button, the runaway championship leader, to finish the job off and take his title.

“I think Jenson’s got a great chance, a great shot at it so I wish him all the best,” he told Reuters’ Alan Baldwin today.

“I think if I were to wish anyone (else) to win, it would be him.”

It’s quite an exciting prospect for British F1 fans to have two consecutive world champions. This used to happen in the 1960s when British drivers dominated the F1 scene. In 1962 to 65, we had Graham Hill, Jim Clark then John Surtees, then Clark again. And a few years later Graham Hill won the 1968 title and Jackie Stewart won in 1969.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa said to a group of us on Sunday that he believes it is impossible for him to catch Button now, with only 12 races to go and a 37 point gap. He would have to outscore Button at an average of 3 points a race to get in front and he doesn’t see that happening.

Hamilton also appeared to rule himself out of the equation,
“We’ll keep pushing to try and win races in the year but clearly defending the world championship is out of the question, ” he said.

And looking forward to next Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, it looks very much as though the track will suit Brawn, perhaps more than any track we have visited so far. The Brawn was easily the fastest car in sector three of the lap at Barcelona, which is all stop and start and traction out of slow corners. Button and Barrichello must start favourites there,

“I think it’s a great story, so I wish him all the luck,” said Hamilton. “They (Brawn) are going to have a great car there (in Monaco) so to beat them will be very tough.

“I don’t think he has ever won there … it will be a very special one for him to add to his list.”

Special doesn’t cover it. This is a fairytale season for the almost ‘forgotten man’ of F1. The championship beckons, but if he could win Monaco along the way…

Read Full Post »

If you liked that James Bond sequence where he drove the BMW Q had given him using by remote control using his phone, you’ll enjoy this wacky bit of video.

I remember a few years ago F1 engineers were talking about how it was possible for an F1 car to drive itself. Well take a look at this. It’s a Vodafone viral for the Blackberry Storm, but it shows McLaren are getting funkeeeee!

And please, no comments about how it might be faster than the car they’ve got at the moment!

Read Full Post »