Good guy; bad guy
JUNE 1, 2011
Who would be Lewis Hamilton? Quite a few of you, if responses on Twitter are anything to go by.
Before writing this column, I asked for opinion on Hamilton's antics in Monaco. I wanted to know what you made of his overtaking moves. And what about his outburst afterwards?
The response was quick and clear. The majority (roughly 70 per cent) would rather have Hamilton remain as he is, warts an' all. It seems that you appreciate his love of racing; his willingness to have a go; the sheer brio that he brings to the race track.
He may wear his heart on his sleeve once he climbs from the car - but you like that too. Or, put another way, the preference is for a driver who says what he thinks even if, as in Monaco when talking to BBC TV, some of his immediate responses might have been better left unsaid.
In general terms, you would rather have that than a driver who issues sound bites which you and I could write almost word for bland word before the camera has started rolling. That was the broad tone of the Twitter responses.
As ever - and with the comfortable benefit of hindsight - there is perhaps a balance to be reached. Let's look at his overtaking, starting with the move on Michael Schumacher into Ste Devote. This was total perfection - from both drivers. Schuey saw him coming and left just enough room. Respect all round.
While we're at this corner, let's fast-forward to the Maldonado incident in the closing stages. The positioning of the cars is almost identical. But the difference is the race has restarted and Maldonado is concentrating on that and the car ahead. According to Hamilton, Maldonado had made the allowed blocking move, so he knew he was there. But I don't think Pastor believed Lewis would keep coming.
You could argue - as Sir Jackie Stewart does - that Hamilton, as the attacking driver, should not put himself in a marginal position where he is laying himself open to risky contact with a driver over whose reactions Hamilton has no control. Hamilton would argue that if he took that approach, he would sit there all day and go nowhere. Williams technical director Sam Michael describes it as a 'racing incident'. That's probably a fair summary.
Moving on to the Massa collision at the hairpin. On the first lap, Schumacher had pulled off the move on Hamilton - and Lewis gave Michael room. That initiated the mutual respect referred to above when Hamilton retook the place at Ste. Devote. Hamilton probably expected the same from Massa at the hairpin although, on this occasion, he was not as squarely alongside the Ferrari has Schumacher had been with the McLaren.
Hamilton attacked quite late. But Massa must surely have seen him coming - and yet he turned into that very tight corner in the normal way. Collision was inevitable.
Anthony Davidson, summariser for BBC Radio 5 Live, described it as 'clumsy' on the part of both drivers. Again; that's a reasonable conclusion. You wouldn't expect Massa to simply stand aside at that late moment and let Hamilton through. And the argument about Hamilton is whether he should have tried it on in the first place. Which brings us to the central issue of this discussion.
The Twitter response indicates that race fans want to see a driver who goes racing. It has to be said in this instance, however, that Hamilton's actions were perhaps more highly charged than they should have been - certainly at a track such as Monaco. There is no doubt that Lewis had wound himself up from the moment a red flag had wrecked his last lap in qualifying and then a chicane-cutting penalty dropped him to ninth.
Add to that the sight of team-mate Jenson Button starting from the front row - where Lewis clearly felt he should have been. Plus the fact that, at his first pit stop, Hamilton arrived to find the McLaren mechanics unprepared and costing him valuable seconds. When the drive-through for the Massa incident was delivered, Hamilton's adrenalin must have been pumping off the clock.
I agree with the sentiments about enjoying someone who drives the wheels of the car and says what he thinks; but, perhaps on this occasion, Hamilton needed to apply a degree of calm. Or, as Sir Jackie would say, 'proper mind management'. Indeed, you have to ask why no one at McLaren saw this coming and had a quiet word with Lewis on Sunday morning.
Of course, the positive to come from all of this is that Hamilton is not the sort of driver to sit and mope. Who would bet against him destroying the opposition given half a chance in Montreal, another circuit he loves? I don't need to go to Twitter to find the answer to that.
Maurice Hamilton , a freelance motor sport writer and broadcaster since 1977, is the author of more than twenty books and contributes to websites and magazines worldwide.
His weekly column for Grandprix.com was Highly Commended in the 2011 Newspress New Media Awards.