Many pundits have apparently been getting at Lewis Hamilton in the British tabloid press. I gave up reading UK newspapers some years ago they invent and write what they want just to sell advertising, no longer the truth as was once the case. But that’s another story.
Whatever, the situation certainly hasn’t been made any easier by McLaren who have completely mucked up Hamilton’s race stategies lately, perhaps because they are giving the second year rookie just too much slack. I mean, he even chose his own teammate this year. Then there’s the McLaren race strategy record which seems to be stuck on “Try to win every race” rather than ‘Focus on the long view and win the Championship”.
That’s very strange because last year Hamilton was Mr Consistency, and was peacefulness and calm personified. This year he has transformed into the rookie that he patently was not last year. This year, the Mr Consistency badge has been taken over by Robert Kubica, who has managed to lead the championship already despite being in a slower car than his rivals.
The problems seemed to begin in those last two races last year, when Lewis only needed 4 points from the 20 available in the last two races to clinch the Championship. Instead of playing it safe, and going for those points, Lewis and the team focussed on winning, winning, winning, on seemingly showing the whole world how superior Lewis was – at all costs.
OK, anyone can make a mistake in their first season, but you would have expected such a harsh lesson to have been learned back then, and not repeated again in 2008. You can clearly see that Kimi aims for every last point: he clearly did learn from last year.
But there we were in Canada, with Lewis not content to just be first, he seemed to be attempting to lap everyone as well. Naturally, he is a gifted driver, and can do things in a car that many others cannot, but clearly he should have been told by his team about the red light, if they didn’t drum it into him before the race. So many drivers have been caught out by this silly rule this year.
So, there we were with Lewis going for track position even in the pit lane when it was clear the other cars were on a lighter fuel load and so not really a threat to him despite being in front coming out of the pits. That was the team’s fault, of course. They have the strategic displays of possible outcomes on their laptops, they should read the race better and provide Lewis with better info in a more timely manner. Like, er, shouting “Red Light!” a bit earlier, perhaps…?
Anyway, after the ten grid position penalty was imposed, it should have been clear that the team should not be focussing on a win in France, but on gathering more points. It seems they took the risky option again though, allowed Lewis his head, and while overhyped and possibly over-confident, the unrestrained Hamilton once again tried to barge into the lead from thirteenth on a track renowned for being difficult – if not next to impossible – to overtake on.
Pre-race interviews with Lewis Hamilton himself clearly showed his over-confident, rap-star influenced ego poking through, and a strategy of light fuel load and soft tyres added to the disbelief that there was any focus at all on winning over the course of the season, rather than just at this race.
Post race interviews with Martin Whitmarsh show this emphasis is unlikely to be changed by anything he will do or say to Hamilton. The McLaren Managing Director went on record saying that Lewis “has got to believe that he can win in Britain and come out on equal points.” Again, no mention of the long haul or the Championship, just another attempt at full points again, like scoring 8 or 6 points is somehow failing.
The team really should be giving Lewis more direction, and more capable direction at that. Still, maybe they are and Lewis listens more to his “friends” now. In one pre-race interview he was talking of a text message he received from a great friend before the race about how greatness comes not from winning a race from the front, but from the rear and fighting your way through. A shame that person didn’t remember how difficult passing at Magny-Cours always is…
Churchill said that “Politics is the art of the possible” and maybe that’s a lot more transferable than we think. But maybe Whitmarsh just doesn’t have the broad grasp of things that Lewis needs him to have. Whitmarsh seems to be no chess player.
No wonder Anthony Hamilton looks glum in the pits these days.