The Ben Evans column: Hamilton’s Mansell moment

Posted on | Author Ben Evans

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Shanghai, 2007 | DaimlerWatching Sunday’s Chinese GP, I found that Mark Blundell’s summation ‘I believe Lewis did nothing wrong’ – bordered somewhere between the scarcely credible and utterly preposterous.

Is that ‘nothing wrong – aside from crashing in the pit lane and dicing with Raikkonen when it was totally unnecessary’?

Much as Nigel Mansell did in Mexico in 1986, on Sunday, Lewis Hamilton did his best to snatch defeat from the jaws of World Championship victory.

As it was I could barely sleep on Sunday night for the fear of tabloid headlines along the lines of ‘Hamilton in 7mph horror smash’

Hamilton is an extremely talented driver but aspects of his performance on Sunday bordered on the ridiculous.

The dice with Raikkonen in particular seemed unnecessary. At the first pit stop all but the blind could see that if it rained Kimi was ok but Lewis was in trouble. As it was it rained and sure enough Raikkonen was soon on Hamilton’s tail and looking for a way through.

Although Lewis could have let Kimi through to win with enough time in hand that he could perform the Macarena with his mechanics before the second place car came home, Lewis decided to dispute the matter further trashing his already tired tyres and losing valuable seconds.

Eventually Kimi got through and several laps too late Lewis decided to come in for fresh rubber at which point he found the pit lane was rather damp and promptly fell off.

McLaren gallantly fell on their own sword declaring the whole episode their fault, Ron Dennis practically vowed not to smile for another four years. Admittedly this is only one day more than was already scheduled.

The main point of contention is the pit stop – did McLaren leave their man out too long?

Well, had I been at the wheel of the McLaren on bald tyres on a wet track I’m fairly confident I would have been in the pits whether the team were ready or not, after all the worst it would have cost me is a second stop if the track had dried out, landing me a 3rd or 4th place finish, all but securing the world title.

Interestingly, following the European Grand Prix in July a racing acquaintance who ran a Formula Renault team at the same time Hamilton was in the series commented ‘He’s bloody quick, but has no feel for the car in changeable conditions’. Thus it was at the N??rburgring and again appeared to be the case on Sunday.

Had any other driver, in any form of racing, conspired to throw away a championship as Hamilton did on Sunday they would most likely have been castrated by their team and sponsors – as it was ITV were unsure whether it was the weather, McLaren’s pit strategy or the presence of Fernando Alonso on the same continent to blame for Lewis’ downfall.

The upside of all this is that Brazil in two weeks time will be a fascinating event.

My patriotic side would be delighted to see Lewis clinch the title. But Evil Ben wants to see Alonso prevail, solely because the shot of Ron Dennis’ face at the chequered flag would send me to sleep with a smile on my face for months to come??????

Photo: Daimler

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Ben Evans

Contributing writer.