Where has Lewis Hamilton gone?

Lewis Hamilton c/o http://www.sutton-images.com

Lewis Hamilton. 2008 Formula 1 World Champion.

Is that how the history books will record the career of one of the greatest enigmas of the modern era of our sport? It is a question being asked for the first time not in hushed tones, but in open conversation in the Formula 1 paddock. Was that one season as good as it is ever going to get for him?

We’re a cynical lot, and we always look for a story. But this isn’t one that brings along any sense of satisfaction. Because the guy looks lost. He looks dejected, desolate… destroyed.

The Japanese Grand Prix was a microcosm of the situation at McLaren. Hamilton pushing above and beyond; Button serene and imperious. How times have changed at the team.

Jenson Button’s move to McLaren in 2010 was considered by most in the F1 paddock to be a brave one. Going one on one with Lewis Hamilton, at a team which had been built around the 2008 world champion, where the youngster had been a part of the furniture since he was a child… that’s no easy task. But it made perfect sense for Jenson. It was his best opportunity to get to a guaranteed top team, and the expectation would be that Hamilton would tear him apart. Anything Button did of worth at the team would look good.

So when it was Button, not Hamilton, who took the first (and second) McLaren victory that year, Jenson didn’t just look good. He looked mega. He’s continued to look just that.

Jenson Button has settled in well at McLaren. c/o http://www.sutton-images.com

Button’s stock has risen and risen. His racing has improved every week, to the extent that in my opinion he is driving better now and is more complete a driver than he was when he won the title in 2009. And McLaren know it. They’ve signed him up on a multi year contract to extend their relationship up to an as yet unspecified date.

Lewis Hamilton meanwhile is out of contract at the end of 2012. This is Lewis Hamilton we’re talking about here. Hamilton IS McLaren. At least, he was. By extending Jenson’s contract, he now has the longer term future at the team. In the war of F1 psychology that is huge. By signing that contract, McLaren has essentially said that Button is their man. And you can bet that hit Hamilton where it hurts.

It’s why I believe Hamilton was so gutted to miss out on pole. Button, with a new contract, had been top of every session in Suzuka. If Hamilton could have taken pole, it would have been more than just P1 on the grid. It was a message of intent. A message that this was still his team. But he choked. He went against the requests of the team not to leave a gap to Button and he missed the cut. Far from showing the team that he was still top dog, he made a basic error while his team-mate was only denied by the slimmest of margins and after a little bit of magic from the world champion.

The race itself saw Button take an emotional victory in a country which has always embraced him. But it saw another Hamilton implosion. Not seeing Massa in his mirrors, running the wheels off his McLaren in that first stint. That wasn’t the Hamilton that blasted onto the scene in 2007 and made such an impression as an aggressive but classy driver. It had all the hallmarks of a drive from a guy with so much to prove that he’s pushing beyond the sweet spot. Hamilton himself described the race as “shocking.” And it was. But not so much for the gap between Button and Hamilton, but for how much Hamilton seemed to have let himself go.

Lewis Hamilton c/o http://www.sutton-images.com

He’s had a rough season, everything considered. He’s had decisions go against him and has felt the weight of expectation more keenly than ever. And all the while he seems to have lacked the guidance to deal with these situations in the correct fashion. His Monaco outburst against his fellow drivers, his ill judged quip over his colour, his post-race moment with Massa in Singapore.

Personally, I though he handled Singapore fabulously. He took himself away to cool off rather than react. Very mature. He’d learned from Monaco. The problem was he never came back. And so all the quotes after the race were from Massa and were negative. Why on earth did nobody from McLaren or from 19 Management tell Lewis to get back outside and talk to the press? To give his side of the story? Why did nobody advise him to take Massa to one side and talk it out as men on Thursday in Suzuka?

All Lewis Hamilton wants to do is concentrate on racing and winning Grands Prix. But the external pressures are a necessary evil of the sport. And those pressures are showing.

It is interesting to read the two McLaren drivers’ twitter feeds. Jenson tweets photos of himself, his mates, his girlfriend Jessica. Always smiling, always laughing, at race weekends. He is so comfortable at McLaren, so comfortable in himself. Lewis meanwhile will make a few post race comments, and little else. Sitting in the McLaren motorhome and people watching has been interesting this season. Lewis is the one who will skulk in, shades on under his cap, barely registering those around him. Jenson is quite the opposite.

Is that focus? Perhaps. But I’m not sure.

The 2011 spec Lewis Hamilton is not the same person I met at the tail end of 2005 on a windy day at Circuit Paul Ricard. He’s a Formula 1 world champion now. But he also strikes me as a troubled soul, and one who is not enjoying his racing as much as his incredible talent should allow him to.

Hamilton appears to be a troubled soul of late. c/o http://www.sutton-images.com

The ultimate question remains, if he cannot pull himself out of this funk, and if his management continue to apparently let him get on with things of his own accord rather than putting their arm around him and giving him the emotional support he so clearly requires, could Lewis Hamilton leave McLaren? His contract is up at the end of next season, and so are many others. If McLaren is now Button’s team, will Hamilton leave the nest of the squad that created him?

I’m sure that 19 Management would love to put Hamilton in a Red Bull, and I’m sure it is something Hamilton would relish, too. Put him into the team alongside Vettel, give him the best car in F1 and allow him the chance to do to the German, what Button did to him. Go into his team, where he’s been since he was a child, and take it away from him.

There’s just one problem. As we understand it, Red Bull doesn’t want him. Neither does Ferrari. Which leaves only one real option… Mercedes. Michael Schumacher’s contract runs out at the same time as Hamilton’s. Might we yet see Hamilton link up with his former karting team-mate and good friend Nico Rosberg? Or might Rosberg jump into Hamilton’s vacant McLaren?

Nico and Lewis at the 2004 Bahrain Superprix. c/o http://www.sutton-images.com

Or, and this is a thought myself and a colleague had over lunch today, might Hamilton just throw his hands up and say, “Sod it. I’m not enjoying this. I’ve had enough.” Could he simply walk away? Would he simply walk away? There seems little doubt that he would be a huge star in the States, whether he was racing in Indycar or, as might be more likely, NASCAR. He could live in LA, hang out with his hip hop mates and spend more time with Nicole. 19 Management would turn him into motorsport’s David Beckham.

I’m sure all of us hope that the final option does not happen. Because there’s got to be more to come, right? That 2008 title… that can’t be it. Can it?

I’ve seen Lewis Hamilton pick himself up after crushing disappointment and put in the performances of his life, time and time again. But over the last two seasons that self-belief, that resilience, just seems to have slipped.

It’s got to the point where I almost want to grab him and slap him and ask where the hell Lewis Hamilton is? Where’s the friendly, open, passionate racer, who used to laugh off adversity and show the kind of racecraft on track that left you with your jaw on the floor? Would he thank me? Probably not. He’d probably slap me back and I’d deserve it. But I just feel for the guy. I want to see him back to his best. We all do.

But right now, he is far away from being at his best. And I worry that Japan could have been a tipping point for him. Drivers like Lewis who are driven by emotion are the kind of drivers who split opinion. But they are the kind of drivers that you want in the sport. History shows us, however, that the passionate ones are often the ones to make rash, hasty decisions.

For his sake, and for ours, I hope he’s getting the right support, and that somebody, somewhere, can be the motivating factor that gets him back to basics and gives him the wake-up call he so clearly requires.

Because if that 2008 title is to be the only one of his F1 career, it’s not just Lewis that’ll be short changed. It’ll be all of us.

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89 thoughts on “Where has Lewis Hamilton gone?

  1. I almost want to grab him and slap him and ask where the hell Lewis Hamilton is? Where’s the friendly, open, passionate racer, who used to laugh off adversity and show the kind of racecraft on track that left you with your jaw on the floor?

    I suspect a lot of people would agree with that. It’s been a baffling season for Hamilton.

    It’s hard to believe this is the driver who began his F1 career with nine straight pole positions. Yes, some of it’s down to the car. But to achieve something like that you need to operate your best week-in, week-out.

    Right now he can’t get spend half an hour on the track without getting himself in some kind of needless incident.

  2. Don’t forget he had a puncture during his first stint this weekend. Without that he would have been first or second quite easily.

    Lewis I think has suffered from two things, the emotional affects of missing out on the title in his rookie season and the tyre changes which hamper his agressive driving style.

    But he’ll be back to his World beating best, people just need to stop being over critical.

  3. In some ways, F1 drivers are similar to fighter pilots. They both need huge self-belief and huge talent to get anywhere near strapping into a cockpit. All those who get there have had to claw their way up, goal after goal, win after win. Few of them have any ‘failure’ in their lives, and the maturation that – later – goes with it.

    In an activity where ‘win’ and ‘not win’ is measured in microseconds, and where the dice-roll of incidents ( collision, puncture, wheelnut…. ) can block even the greatest talent from winning, it matters that one’s whole self-image and belief system is not dependant on always winning, always being Number One.

    I’ve seen gifted pilots ‘crumble’ when something in their life cannot be fixed by extra effort – like a marriage – and they brood so much that everything else degrades. It can, and does, turn into clinical depression for some.

    Let us hope that Lewis Hamilton – who has done litle else with his life than race cars – finds a way to fight through this and emerge on the other side. His is a huge talent. He’s entitled to enjoy it.

  4. I said basically the same thing this weekend to my husband. Lewis doesn’t show the joy that Jenson does. How can you be your best when you are so angry. Excellent analysis.

  5. 100% my thoughts. I hope he reads it. Because he really hurts to see him becoming slowly a number 2 driver. I’m completely lost with him. I don’t know what’s going on with him. Does he know what’s going on? Do Mclaren know or they know but don’t care much because they have Button? It’s all a mystery.

    • McLaren know – i can bet Whitmarsh knows. The problem is they may not be inclined to solve the problem if they are the cause.

  6. Lewis reminds me of an Olympic team (whom I’ll leave unnamed) who went thru a similar story. This was considered a dream team, world champ material, when they got started & set their sport on fire. But as they got their momentum going, cracks started to show. One side of the team was running into the same errors over and over, blowing fundamentals that shouldn’t have been an issue, even though the more complex, dangerous elements were never getting in the way. First the troubles were private, whispered about, but then the outbursts (“what the f is the problem!”) started happening in public. The team’s coach, a noted sports medicine doctor, got them into working with a sports psych/therapist in their off-season, though…they talked through stress management, success anxiety, mental blocks. The team came back transformed the next year. Took the sport by storm…won world championships, lined their walls with gold medals, & took Olympic gold. And one of the elements to which they credited their success was that sports psychology.

    I have no doubt that this is where Lewis needs to improve. I think he’s head-gamed himself out of the cockpit this year. He needs a helping hand, and not from someone on the team or even connected to F1. I had wondered if McLaren had thought/hoped that bringing Button on board would be of benefit to Hamilton, but now maybe I think that the last thing Lewis wants to hear is “Look how Jenson’s handling it…”

  7. Very interesting insight.

    Regarding the contract situation, I have for some time thought McLaren were looking to reduce Hamilton’s bargaining power by signing JB to the (mysterious) long term deal.

    As you say, the door’s closed at Red Bull and Ferrari and although he has ties with Mercedes, would they be in any position to offer more money than McLaren and if they were, what are the guarantees of competitiveness or even long term participation?

    I’m fairly certain that as long as Lewis remains marketable that he’ll stay at McLaren. It’s still worth remembering that Lewis is 10-5 up in qualifying against JB. He is still the fast, committed driver. But I sadly agree he appears to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, his demeanour after qualifying was quite sad.

    Out of interest, who actually is his manager?

      • If you ask me, it seems to have all gone downhill since he split with his dad as manager. They clearly both knew and loved each other so deeply and support, understanding, compassion and motivation were there in spades when Lewis needed it. Just can’t see that Lewis would be where he is now if he was still managed by his dad and not some talent agency

  8. Spot on Will and very timely. I watched Lewis at the weekend and he seemed a shadow of his former self, both on and off the track. Some will say that’s because of Button’s imperious driving this year, but I don’t believe that.

    I’ve been watching Lewis since he was 12 years old and he inspired my own sons to get into karting. Both he and his rival at the time, Fraser Sheeder, were a delight to watch and as I followed his successes through all the feeder series (F3, Formula Renault, GP2 etc) I firmly believed he would be seen as one of the best drivers in the history of the sport.

    But he’s lost his focus in F1, looks chastened and distracted and most crucially I believe – he’s lost faith in his own abilities. Remember that comment on Sunday after the race, “…I don’t know why I’m just not fast enough”. That’s not Lewis, he’s never been that way and I can’t help feeling that he desperately needs an end of season break in order to sort out himself (and his entourage).

    This comes at a time when Sebastian Vettel is driving better than ever, likewise Jenson. Even the previously volatile Fernando Alonso has settled down and now drives the wheels of whatever car he’s in. Mistakes by Lewis are being punished ruthlessley and whilst some might say this is how it should be – they forget just why McLaren put their faith in him all those years ago.

    Lewis at his best, is virtually unbeatable and I for one already feel cheated that ‘the real’ Lewis Hamilton is no longer competing in F1.

  9. Pretty good article. Do you think that Ron Dennis’ departure from day to day has taken the luster off Hamilton?

    Also, can’t help think that the split between the father and himself (in the managerial sense) has come in as a disadvantage.

  10. I completely disagree with this opinion. Oh to be consigned to the rubbish heap so quickly! We know Suzuka was tough on the tyres which probably explained the difference between Lewis and Jenson. he says he thinks he didn’t dial the car in properly – properly for him and his style, I suspect. He had a slow puncture in his first stint. The McLaren is only just coming into it’s own and while Jenson’s 2 previous wins were imperious they weren’t on the level playing field of a dry track. Up to now, both drivers have been struggling and Jenson’s had some quali/starts to forget. Why is it, when a British driver has a lean patch of good luck, everyone jumps into apocalypse mode. Do you seriously think there isn’t a contract for Lewis at McLaren? Do you really think Ferrari or Red Bull wouldn’t jump if they thought there wasn’t even half a chance? If Lewis is unhappy about anything it’s probably the ridiculous expectations burdened upon him by the UK media and blogospere alike. I look forward to seeing a bit of perspective on the whole matter…. One day (Is that a pig I seeing flying across the sky).

    • Hi Laura.

      I’ve known Lewis for a long time, and to me he simply is not himself at the moment. In or out of the car. The piece wasn’t intended to be seen as one pulling Lewis apart, but merely to reflect my hopes that he is guided in the correct direction in order to get him back to his best.

      • Red Bull & Ferrari have their own up & coming drivers, and long term structures to mould them into the type of drivers that would suit their teams (Torro Rosso & Sauber). Why would they throw away long term investments to sign Louie?

        Excellent story Will, glad I found this blog, good to read informed, intelligent commentary, instead of the pap on other “F1″ sites. Thank you.

  11. Spot on Will, To me he seems to take everything so personally, if he just chilled out and enjoyed things a little, live life without worrying about everything he does or says. He’s always going to get some bad press whatever he does, so just forget about it and get on with it!

  12. I watch F1 for entertainment and used to enjoy what Lewis showed from time to time on track.
    Alas with the years the incidents grew, was it not on-track than off like lying to the stewards in Australia and Malaysia 09. The ratio entertaining vs irritating has gone completely awry.

    Lewis has lost focus and doesn’t want to be the best F1 driver in the world but a star or a brand.

    I’m afraid that F1 is also done with the Lewis Hamilton of 2011, he better take 2012 off and get his head screwed on properly.
    Perhaps leaving for the USA to become a star together with the pussycat is what he should do.

    If he can find a way to get the Lewis of 2007 back in F1 that would be great, if not I say good riddance.

  13. Fantastic article which I think has hit the nail on the head. He doesn’t really have a sparkle any more. And whilst I agree with some of the other comments here that he obviously had a puncture etc in Japan, this has been going on for most of this season. Doesn’t seem like a happy chappy to me at the moment.

  14. Superb article.

    Personally, I think Jenson has gotten inside Lewis’ head. He’s never had to watch a team mate outperform him and simply doesn’t know how to cope with it. He’s doing the only thing he can – drive harder than ever and it just isn’t working.

    • I don’t think his problem is Jenson. He still faster than Jenson but he is unable to put a weekend together for whatever reason. And all started before Jenson started to outperform him. He was doing great at the start of the season. All changed after Monaco. What surprise me the most, he did recover in 2009 after the lie-gate drama. Can’t understand why it’s taking him so long to recover now…

  15. He is a world champion he is expected to act like one. He hasn’t this season. For christs sake how could you not be happy driving an F1 car and getting paid to do it.

  16. I think it’s interesting you mention Indy and Nascar, because Lewis’s situation is reminding me of Montoya’s prior to his departure from F1. I think the tipping point will be if Lewis feels he has to leave McLaren. And those reasons could be real or perceived..e.g. Not No1 driver, non-competitive car or lack of team support.

    • If what happened with Montoya, knowing you’re out of the car, and there are no other drives out there, I could see him leaving for another series completely. He’s not going to drive for FI for a year or anything else like a Heidfeld or a Liuzzi would/have done to stay in F1.

  17. Exactly right Will. I said not long before the race that someone needed to take him to one side and have a long chat with him. You don’t need to be a body language expert to read Hamilton.

    The one thing I would be interested to see is a comparison of his performance this season with that of Heikki Kovalainen in 2008 and 2009.

  18. Good Stuff Will.

    Lewis is defiantly in a slump.. Working too hard to pull out of it. He really seems to be missing a good Manager to talk him through it.

    But hey what do I know??

  19. Hmmm… I disagree with your assessment.

    Absolutely Hamilton has had a disappointing year, but I don’t think he’s on the verge of quitting F1. He’s still won 2 races this year. He still has 6 front row starts. He’s always had a risk taking driving style. When he wins he’s happy, when he doesn’t he isn’t – that’s not abnormal.

    In Japan he was staying with Vettel up until the puncture. That was the butterfly effect that ruined his race. Without that he might have won.

    I do think he’s had more issues than when his father was managing him, and perhaps he’s missing the family bonding that someone like Button benefits from every race.

    But I don’t think you can write Hamilton off. The accumulation of circumstances this year would take their toll on any driver.

  20. Spot on, not sure if I would give him a slap or a cuddle, probably the latter.

    He is so off I think he is just looking to next season, that said his race wins have been brilliant, especially Germany.

    The contrast with Jenson is stark and he just needs to chill out and race for fun for the next few races, he ain’t gone yet and will be on the top step before the end of the season, I hope.

    Enjoy Korea, love the early starts……..


  21. Great article Will, and it raises some very interesting questions.

    In my opinion, the thing with Hamilton is he wears his heart on his sleeve and is too compulsive. He is very quick to blame those around him for what has happened to him which makes him very bitter, both on and off track. He needs to find his passion again.

  22. Amazing article…. Lewis has shown the world the kind of driver he can be when he has the FULL support of the team and a car that he feels he can drive….that’s why he was the world champion. The team needs to focus on Lewis and the car so Lewis can relcaim his spot on the top of the podium. I still Believe in You Lewis, and am looking forward to chearing you on in my living room and in Montreal!!!!

  23. Great perspective Will. As a huge Button fan, I am happy for Jense but I hate to see Lewis suffering as he is. While he needed to change from his Father’s management, it seems he needs to can his current handlers as they are completely failing to act with his best interests in mind.

  24. Superbly written commentary. I couldn’t agree with you more Will.

    I’m surprised no one has brought up his girlfriend Nicole. I know she’s been very instrumental in supporting his “other” career options. Her growing popularity in the US has kept her from attending a lot of his races and I’m sure it’s had an effect. He’s clearly distracted and I’m sure she is one of those factors. I just see the guy getting no support from anyone. He’s on the rocks with his team and 19 Management is more concerned with crafting his “celebrity”. Reemploying his father as manager may be the best thing he could do at this point.

    Lewis needs an authority figure who isn’t willing to back down on him.

  25. Excellent points and questions raised, Will. I am SO thrilled that we have you on our F1 broadcasts in the States.

    What comes to mind when reading the 2nd last paragraph is the scene at the end of SENNA when Ayrton recalls his toughest rival as Terry Fullerton – who raced karts not for fame or money, but for the pure passion of the competition. THAT is where Lewis needs to get back to – that pure pleasure of competing at the highest level. That place where he can enjoy the moment rather than push, push, push to the point of misjudgement and recklessness.

    Methinks it’s time to change management for Msr. Hamilton. He needs to get back to that passion and enjoyment he had as a young lad.

  26. For me it has been fascinating to track the relative speed of Jenson vs Lewis as this season and last have progressed.

    Last year, I would say that Lewis dominated in terms of raw pace (not necessarily race craft), with Jenson’s wins coming in non-dry race conditions. I think this was in line with Lewis’s expectations. However there were times when Jenson’s pace spooked Lewis eg the 2010 Turkish GP. It was then that we saw our first real glimpses of the moody, angry Lewis, an attitude which seems counter productive in terms of speed.

    This has come to the fore again, particularly as this season has progressed and I think the pace of Jenson has been a major contributing factor.

    The McLaren seems notoriously difficult to set up and Jenson seems to have a much smaller sweet spot than Lewis in this regard who seems much more able to get speed from a non-optimal set up. This has been characterised by Jenson’s qualifying struggles. Good results have come from excellent race craft making up a starting deficit. As such Lewis has often been untroubled by Jenson in race conditions.

    The last quarter of this season however has seen Jenson tap into the McLaren sweet spot. In this zone, he is incredibly quick and a good match for Lewis in terms of raw pace. I heard that Jenson has only ever achieved 6 fastest laps in his career – 2 of which have been in the last 2 races!

    I believe that we are seeing the culmination of the impact Jenson has had in developing the McLaren to his own driving style. This development has taken time given that he will have had no impact on the design of the 2010 car.

    As Jenson has excelled these last few races, Lewis’s mood seems to darken and he has become more ineffectual. This has been exaccerbated by Jenson bedding himself into the fabric of the team and emerging as a team leader at an ‘ambassadorial’ level.

    I’m intrigued to see how this will further develop with the news that Jenson has signed for 2012 and beyond. If his input into the design and development of the 2012 car sees him hit that sweet spot more regularly, what will Lewis’s response be and how will affect his mood and thus speed?

  27. I *seriously* hope that Lewis can to put in some strong performances at the close of the season so he doesn’t have to endure a winter’s worth of ‘analysis’, advice, and speculation from parasitic twit journos, arm-chair fans, and former world champions alike, who have managed (in the course of 3-4 races mind you) cast him as a broken figure, worthy pity (or else outright smugly revel in him being by the new darling of the day, ‘our Jense.’)

    I don’t why Lewis wouldn’t be on gaurd and full or rancor these days as far as his interaction with the media is concerned, as clearly “the fall of Lewis” is the story of the day…and we have seen much effort (half-truths, innuendo, and even outright lies – i.e the supposed Suzuka drver’s meeting to discuss ‘The Lewis situation) to ensure the narrative is steered it in this direction.

    Never have some many words been launched by some simple front-wing clippage.

  28. If you look at the last few races the reason Jenson has finished in front of him, is because Jenson has had luck. Monza Lewis was blocked by Schumacher ruining his race, Singapore a puncture during qualifying left him with only 2 sets of soft’s then to top it off a refuelling problem so he couldn’t improve his time, and in the race he had no where to go and was once again blocked by Webber ruining his race. Japan in qualifying he was quite happily going to make the line had Webber or Schumacher not rudely passing him causing Lewis to back out of it, he was just about to put his foot down before they rudely passed him and would have made it. In the race he suffers from yet another puncture unsettling the rear of his car for the rest of the race massively affecting his pace.

    I think Lewis recent results are nothing more than wrong place wrong time and that it has just gone the other way for Jenson, but unfortunately these results have over shadowed Lewis’s brilliant performances, remember Spain Lewis finished the race 2nd 35 seconds in front of Button in the same equipment,and has qualified on the front row 7 times this season. People report on Lewis not being happy but judging from this interview in Singapore he looks very happy where he is now.

    • On the other hand, and I’m in no way a “Hamilton basher”, in Monza Jenson drove straight around Michael as soon as he had chance, in Singapore we don’t know *how* he picked up the puncture when others didn’t, and in Japan Martin Whitmarsh was fairly clear that they had told him not to back off from Jenson – and if he hadn’t done so then the others (who had a keener eye on the clock) would have had no need to pass.

      There’s a saying in sport “you make your own luck” – I think in this case it might be about concentration more than fate.

      • if Louie wasn’t “rudely” blocking the chicane, Mick and Mark would not have had to ruin the start of their flying laps trying to avoid him.

        it’s F1, not lunch at the Savoy!

  29. Will, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you posted, I was watching the suzuka race on speed, and I came to the realization that ol Hammy is now getting consistently outpaced by Jenson. I have been a diehard Hamilton fan since he came onto the f1 scene in late ’06, by the USGP in 2007, I was a hardcore Hamilton fan. In my eyes who could do no wrong.

    But after the last few races, and Jenson out pacing him of late, something is definitely off about him, he just does not seem happy, I think for sure he has lost some confidence. And if there are any mind games going on in the background at McLaren HQ in Woking, Button for sure has the upper hand at the moment.

    I really think his season has been going off track since he made those Ali G comments at Monaco. Maybe 2012 will be a better season, but right now I’m 50/50 on whether he can dig deep and re-gain that raw speed and form he once had.

  30. Will….an excellent article! I think we should send you to talk to Lewis. I said to another friend of mine I don’t understand why he didn’t just go and speak to Massa, basically man-up to being wrong and apologise. I do hope that his support system is giving him all the nuturing required to keep his head in the game cause he needs it……he is frustrated but it is those around him that can help him rise. But just to throw another argument in here……he did qualify third……….so his head is still very much in it…….top three drivers we seperated by two-tenths of a second……..we just can’t measure that and say that either driver made a mistake. So I think Lewis’s head is still in he game……I just believe that some of his decisions on race day need to be evaluated. He needs a proper publicist cause his current management company is assisting in the destruction of a talented racer.

  31. Excellent piece on LH, Will. Very well thought out and hugely personal – perhaps a side we don’t often think about. Your points are outstanding. There is one side that isn’t discussed much, at least from where I sit.

    After his maiden WDC, it was one disappointment after another. After brilliant 2007 and 2008 seasons, 2009 saw he and McLaren desperately trying to keep pace with the Brawn and the upstart Red Bulls. It was clear this Vettel guy was something special. But wait, Lewis was supposed to be the chosen one, right? It was HIS turn to dominate.

    2010 saw a hard fought battle, but the writing was clearly on the wall, regardless of just how close the WDC was decided. Vettel is faster. Vettel is in a “more competitive” car. Vettel is the youngest to [fill in the blank]…ad nauseum.

    2011 exploded into what many already knew – Vettel is unstoppable. Vettel, Vettel, Vettel. I don’t think this was in Lewis’ plans at all. ‘How dare this young German come into my sport and spoil the ride’. The next post-schumacher dynasty was supposed to be Hamilton’s. It hasn’t quite turned out that way.

    It is clear he is driving out of desperation and like quicksand, the harder he fights, the deeper he seems to sink.


  32. Beautifully written Will. I really feel he needs someone to tell him he is great and help him believe it himself again, instead of flashing his “platinum card” at the stewards office again.

    In a sense he is going through what Alonso ran into in 2007, only its worse as he really knows the team is not favouring Button and is not able to react as violently and get it over with (although I think Alonso is only this year fully recovered from the shock).

    Its curious how Button tells the world he wants Hamilton to stay in the team as well. It might be positive, but can be hard to accept it’s Jenson saying it, as if he calls the shots.

    I am fully with you in hoping Hamilton regains the fun in doing this and finds back the self esteem needed to be great on track.

  33. Lewis: Please terminate your contract with 19 Management – 2011 has been an unmitigated disaster for you. You are a shadow of your former self ….. full of negative emotions and an open goal to your critics.

    May I suggest you re-sign your father again … you were at your best from 2007-2009.

    Jenson has taken over at McLaren … he took you out of the Canadian GP, and has capitalised with all of the fake passing aids (DRS etc). I think it’s time to drop the “best friends” facade. Jenson .. I can see straight through you :(

    • I agree i think Button is more devious than people think, he comes across as this happy don’t care person, look how he got into rubens head, he was a broken man on a few accasions.

  34. The flip side of this is that if Vettel crushes the opposition again in 2012 without any real challenge from within (if he is in the best car) what value will it really have? And how will F1 sustain interest if next season is effectively over as early as this again? For me Schumi’s many titles don’t have the kudos of Senna’s fewer simply because Ayrton wanted to measure himself against the best driver (Prost) in the same car – I want to see Vettel do the same with Hamilton or Alonso.

    Beating Hamilton in a Red Bull would enhance Vettel’s reputation no end (or vice versa), invigorate the sport and provide the team/brand with a massive PR-boost. I want to see the best take on the best – the sport needs a Prost-Senna titanic struggle to create true legends.

    Hamilton is pure box-office, a true fiery racer – when he isn’t in contention for the win then the race somehow just isn’t that exciting. I just don’t see Button in the same vein. Perhaps all he (and maybe Webber) really need is a move towards harder, more durable tyre compounds to enable maximum attacking – not sure what Ferrari would make of this though!

  35. Lewis with the yellow Senna helmet, the Senna comparisons, the Senna obsession. He has gotten way to far ahead of himself, he is a triple world champ in his head. He is feeling the heat of underachieving and it’s doing his head in.

  36. Great article. Have shared it on Facebook.

    Hamilton needs to find a deserted island, and go there for a month, on his own, to get his mindset back in order.
    He has progressively gotten worse since he won his drivers championship in 2008.
    More fame = less wins and more hangers on.

    He will never be compared to his hero, Ayrton Senna, as Senna was dedicated to his racing, above everything else.

    Hamilton likes the glitter far to much. I wonder what Ron Denns thinks of his prodigy now?

  37. Wow. Lewis is a failure because he got a tire puncture ? ? ?

    Lewis is the most talented and aggressive driver on the circuit.

    I wish we had 12 more like him.

  38. Excellent article Will, I enjoy your reporting. I am a big JB fan but I have great respect for Lewis’ abilities – he is even with Vettel and Alonso on pure pace in my mind but can’t seem to be consistent – even when he isn’t having bad luck which has been often in 2011. Nobody has said anything about Massa who has recently become a crybaby – yes he and Lewis are getting into it a lot but usually it is because Massa is holding Lewis up. Sam Posey once said that the defining characteristic of a great driver is an insatiable desire to pass – Lewis has this in spades and it has cost him this year.

  39. To be honest Will, Lewis championship was grey. In the last corner, Glock brakes for Lewis to win it….. My personal point of view is Massa deserve it more than Lewis. Right now I see Lewis as the next Montoya, an arrogant driver who thinks he is better that everybody else, that F1 doesnt deserve him. That is the reason nobody likes him and hopefully, for the F1 sake, he’ll end up in NASCAR. Jenson as you mentioned is by far a better driver than him, more complete and more profesional. There are other drivers in “smaller” teams that show more driving attitude cause they have worked to earn a spot on the sport. Just look at Perez and Di Resta. Hulkenberg is an underrated driver that has’nt had a real opportunity and how about Kubica, too bad for his accident, but right now, I can assure he would be in the top too. Not because you drve fast means you are good, you need common sense, and Lewis lacks that. To be honest with you, Vettel is a hell of a driver, when he is in front, but he is still green and he is going to become a leyend, cause he has that determination, but still has to learn one thing or two. Hell, Webber has been unlucky, cause everytime you see him drive you can notice the will to win. Alonso, he is arrogant sometimes, but his determination can’t be compared with no one out there. Probably with Schumacher when he was at his top level, but now he is enjoying the drive and still showing who he is (or was).

    To end this, I think people overrate Lewis Hamilton, and my personal opinion is he is not that great.

    Best regards mate

    Sergio Gonzalez

    • @Sergio

      You really think 2nd rate driver Massa deserved the 2008 title more than Hamilton? Massa was only in with a chance becasue Raikonnen gave up half way through the season.

      Massa has, and always will be, a poor racer. He’s been number 2 driver to every team mate (the whole charade about him letting Alsono through last year bugged the hell out of be cause he’d already set a precident by doing the same for schumy and raikonnen in the past).

      Hamilton is an amazing racer, him and Alonso are the 2 best drivers out there because no matter what, you never see a dull moment with them.

      Vettel is a bloody dull ass driver, he just plays the PR game very well. No way would you ever see him try pull off the moves Lewis can do in his sleep.

  40. Its my personal opinion. Just before everybody jumps and tries to kill me lol.

    And just to be clear. Im not saying he is a bad driver. Im just saying he isnt as great as people think.

    Cheers everyone


  41. Lewis will be back next year. To me the problem is Martin Whitmarsh & JB. all Lewis’s Problems started at the Australia 2010GP. the team brought him(Lewis) in for a tire change when he was in for a top result. He was catching the leaders fast. he didn’t need the tire change he said. who was in first place in the race?. jenson button. button comes to Mclaren everything starts going wrong for lewis, he’s pit stops and strategy. they(Martin Whitmarsh) try to cover Jenson over Lewis as much a possible. That’s why lewis is the way he is, Lewis has been getting robbed of good qualifying results & race results from his own team just to look out for jenson. there’s no doubt McLaren favour jenson over lewis. id be losing my head too if i was Lewis. And Mclaren Need A Real BOSS To Take Them To The Front. I cant be the only one too see it can i?. Just My Opinion. Have A Good One All.

  42. Excellent article, and a very well thought out summary of what many of us see. I would like to pose the question: In light of the many years of penalties and inconsistent Stewards rulings, as well as the flood of negative media reporting at every misstep, can it be that Hamilton has not lost his passion, rather it was taken away from him?

    I would ask that any objective person looking at this subject watch the following three videos:

    -Hamilton / Button in Canada
    -Hamilton / Kobiyashi(sp?) Spa
    -Hamilton / Masa Japan

    All three incidents were very similar, and in all three incidents Hamilton took the blame, and the negative press. Yet in only one of those incidents was Hamilton the following car. If Hamilton was too aggressive in Canada, why was Massa not too aggressive in Japan? If Hamilton’s move was clumsy in Japan, why was Button the class act of the race in Canada?

    We have not only taken his passion, but we have instilled fear.

    • That is very true. Leaving aside the outright pace, there does seem to be a blame attached to Hamilton for every incident. As I said on Sunday, in Singapore Hamilton lost a piece of front wing on turn-in and got the blame, in Japan Massa lost a piece of front wing on turn-in and Hamilton got the blame.

      This wasn’t necessarily helped by David Coulthard, who was immediately shouting for a penalty to Hamilton having spent the opening laps declaring that there was nothing wrong with Vettel shoving Button on to the grass.

    • Massa was alongside Hamilton, at the extremity of the circuit. Lewis veered off the racing line and collided with Massa who was left nowhere to go. I advise you to watch the replay again, both onboard Massa and external camera looking backwards from the chicane.

      Button was the class act in Canada because he came from dead last to win. Not because of his misunderstanding clash with Lewis.

      • Interesting to hear the stewards claim Hamilton took the same line on the previous lap considering your claims of him moving off the racing line.

        “Having viewed the video evidence in relation to the action of the driver of car three at turn 16 and after comparing the line that Lewis Hamilton took on the previous lap, and having noted that car six Felipe Massa was attempting to overtake on the left into a right hand corner the stewards decide to take no further action.”

        I have watched all three replays plenty, the point is he cannot be at fault for all three.

  43. Pingback: Hamilton: “I just wasn’t quick enough” | F1 Fanatic round-up | PooZ

  44. Guys this is such a fabulous discussion. I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on the matter. I think the one thing that everyone (well nearly everyone) agrees on is that a strong Lewis is much better for the sport than a weak one. Let’s hope whatever is eating him gets sorted soon and we can have an amazing fight for the 2012 title between 3, 4, maybe 5 drivers.

  45. Lewis will be just fine once this season is done and dusted. I think people are getting a little carried away. JB is only 32 points ahead of Lewis in the championship and I would say both drivers have had fairly volatile seasons. Lewis was better in the first half and JB in the second half.

    I also don’t think JB’s new contract is symbolic in any way what so ever. Lewis and his management are wisely sitting it out until they secure one of the fattest contracts in F1 history. His contract situation is a positive thing as he can put all the pressure on Mclaren to deliver a great car out of the box next year. The only negative is that he will have to answer a lot of questions about where he is going to be in 2013, but he can prepare for that.

  46. I have seen people act like Lewis has at “work” a few times before. 9 times out of 10 it is because of “wife” or “girlfriend” problems…

  47. I’ve never witnessed so much ridiculous amateur psychological babble in all my life. What a bunch of bollocks! Lewis is a winner and doesn’t like to lose, no, hates to lose. Detests it with all his being. He’s put a tremendous amount of pressure on himself to win and is, ipso facto, taking more risks, some of which haven’t worked out well.

  48. Word to Lewis – PLEASE, allow dad back into the roost; drop the high-profile song-and-dance girlfriend; allow dad back into the roost; realize now that a high octane hip-hop lifestyle and racing fuel don’t mix too well; allow dad back into the roost; return to who you were when you were winning; allow dad back into the roost.

  49. Lewis, one’s ears are one’s premier balance mechanisms. Modify the ears in any way, add anything to the ears, and one’s balance suffers. Trust me, for a return to balance, drop the ear studs.

  50. I almost feel that the Hamilton/Button scenario is very Senna/Prost in the regard that Senna couldn’t understand how Prost could “race for points”, i.e. have a measured approach to achieve the maximum, rather than be all out crushing the machinery for all out speed. Not to say that Button plays the mental war Prost did, but he seems to excel in adding a great feel for strategy and intelligence to his pace.

    Comments above mentioned Hamilton/Alonso, as seeming to be a tougher proposition to deal with. However, I think in some ways maybe that was easier for Louis in a Senna/Mansell way, as both new that they were always foot to the floor committed to speed and using that as the ticket to have the team around them. It just seems to me that in addition to the management issues, worries about having a rep that leads him to reprimand, that this difference in style (without outward malice) is what is also perplexing to Hamilton.

  51. Pingback: 2011 FIA Formula 1 World Championship Thread - Page 34

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