The most hated man in Formula 1

Comment

Lewis Hamilton, Laureus awards, 2008

Lewis Hamilton: Formula 1’s most successful rookie, 2007 championship runner-up, five times Grand Prix winner. And the most hated man in Formula 1.

From the banners at the Spanish Grand Prix, to the streams of abuse on internet forums, the crop of hate websites that have sprung up and even the series of anti-Hamilton Youtube videos, the British driver has taken over Michael Schumacher’s mantle as the man who is liked and loathed in roughly equal measure.

Why is that?

Popular is uncool

Lewis Hamilton, 2007 Canadian Grand Prix victory newspaper coverage, 470313

Hamilton may be hated, but he is also very popular. Taking Britain as an example, F1 fans today can be broadly divided between those who have followed the sport for years, like myself, and those who’ve been drawn to it recently by the popularity of Hamilton.

According to ITV, their F1 broadcasts were watched by 40% more people last year because of Hamilton, so we’re talking about a significant number of newcomers to the sport.

Now I like F1 a lot (you may have noticed) and I’ve got nothing against Hamilton, but even I find the saturation coverage of Hamilton a lot to take.

And I think a lot of other people react negatively against the fawning, sycophantic tripe written about Hamilton, and don’t like him as a result.

‘Twas ever thus, of course. Before Hamilton the British media’s darling was Jenson Button, and it was pretty clear from the debate we had about Button earlier this week how his over-exposure earlier in his career had coloured people’s opinions of him.

With Hamilton, there were some insinuations last year that his value to the sport made the governing body reluctant to punish him, which no doubt deepened the growing dislike.

Insincerity

Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Nurburgring, 2007, 470313

There is a perception that Hamilton has a false media persona. A typical example of which was be that painful interview with Heikki Kovalainen ITV broadcast before the start of the Australian Grand Prix, with all that unconvincing chummyness. It brought back memories of the photo calls with Fernando Alonso last year when the two plainly weren’t getting on.

Hamming it up is one thing, but Hamilton’s not shy to use the media for his own ends either. His frustration at the team’s strategy in the Monaco Grand Prix last year, which he felt cost him the chance of beating Alonso, bubbled to the surface in his now notorious words: “it says number two on my car and I’m the number two driver.”

This, his critics say, is the real Hamilton: sweetness and light until something goes wrong – and then he bares his teeth.

The Fernando Alonso factor

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, 2007, Interlagos, 470313

It should have been a perfect match. Experienced, confident, double champion meets paired with the rookie to whom everything is new. Alonso does the winning, Hamilton does the learning.

But it became clear things were not going to work that way as early as the first qualifying session of the season, when Alonso reacted to Hamilton’s speed in Q2 by choosing to do an extra lap to guarantee himself first choice on strategy.

As we all know all hell broke loose between the pair in 2007. There are essentially two competing explanations for why that happened:

(a) Hamilton was so quick it rattled Alonso, leading him to demand preferential treatment from McLaren and, when he didn’t get it, blasted the team in his home press. He leapt at the opportunity to blackmail Ron Dennis when the spy scandal blew up. Alonso’s fans sympathised with their hero’s plight, believe everything he said, and hate Hamilton as a result.

(b) McLaren misled Alonso over whether he’d be the number one driver in 2008, and then undermined his efforts to win the world championship. Ron Dennis lied and claimed Alonso threatened to blackmail him over the spygate affair after Alonso had been double-crossed by Hamilton in qualifying at Hungary.

What do I think? As with most things I think the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes – although not halfway between.

Hamilton is no angel. What he did at Hungary last year was clearly an attempt to provoke Alonso. But the idea that McLaren would bring a double world champion into the team specifically to compromise his ability to win the championship defies logic, common sense and history. Even Pat Symonds of Alonso’s beloved Renault team acknowledged Alonso could not stand being beaten by a team mate even if Giancarlo Fisichella only managed it once or twice.

I don’t think there’s any doubt Hamilton’s catastrophic relationship with Alonso is the largest cause of the widespread hatred of Hamilton – whichever explanation for it you agree with.

Incomprehension

Fernando Alonso brought legions of new fans to the sport in Spain. You only have to look how packed the Circuit de Cataluya has been in recent years compared to the late 1990s to see that.

Inevitably, many of those fans may have little or no knowledge of F1 prior to about 2005. As far as they are concerned, Alonso is number one – this is the man that beat Michael Schumacher, after all.

Many have reasoned that it is simply not possible Alonso could have been beaten by a rookie, and as Hamilton is a British driver in a British team they suspected a conspiracy.

Racism?

No. I honestly don’t think racism has anything to do with it.

I know many of you disagreed with me when I said I supported the FIA’s anti-racism campaign. I still think it’s the right thing to do.

But I do think the racism that was displayed at the Circuit de Catalunya in testing in February (and may have been seen at the Chinese Grand Prix last year) was intended as an expression of hatred towards Lewis Hamilton the person and not his race. That does not excuse it, of course.

Over to you

Do you agree Lewis Hamilton is the most hated driver in Formula 1? What has he done to provoke it? Is it deserved or undeserved?

If you’d like to dip into the stack of articles that touched on this subject last year – which provoked pages of debate – here are a few places to start:

Lewis Hamilton biography

Promoted content from around the web | Become an F1 Fanatic Supporter to hide this ad and others

Advert | Go Ad-free

154 comments on The most hated man in Formula 1

  1. Martin B said on 3rd May 2008, 14:24

    I don’t like Hamilton. I think he is two-faced and calculating with a smooth, PR-trained facade. He is like the smoothie son of a Mafia don. And I blame Ron Dennis.

    When Ron started last season with the World Champion and a rookie, I think he anticipated the Alonso/Hamilton pair would be like Schumacher/Barrichello, and would prove to be just as successful.

    Then Hamilton turned out to be unexpectedly, blindingly, fast. So Ron Dennis got a new dream. His protege would become the first rookie in the history of F1 to be champion. And Ron Dennis whispered his dream in Hamilton’s ear and led him to believe he would be the anointed one.

    And Hamilton bought the ********, and became puffed up and proud and grasping and arrogant, all behind that smooth PR facade, of course.

    Meanwhile Alonso, who was sold the old Alonso/Hamilton dream, saw his boss turn away from him and his teammate become his rival, and realised he would have to fight a bitter fight to get what he believed to be rightfully his. And it all fell apart.

    What Ron should have done was what he has done now. Firmly declare a No 1 driver, Alonso, and explain to Hamilton that, fast as he was, he was getting a lot of input from Alonso and the team and he should be a good team player in his first season, learn the ropes, make friends, build up a personal following, and the future would belong to him.

  2. Kanyima said on 3rd May 2008, 15:47

    Lewis Hamilton should not change his personality to court fan support. When things are going right, I don’t see anything wrong with smiling and waxing lyrical? On the contrary, when things go wrong, why not bare his teeth as indeed he did in Monaco and tell it as it is? Methinks that’s absolutely a normal thing to do. People like Kimi don’t smile or talk to the press alot and they are not less liked because of that. Every F1 driver has his unique personality and people should just accept it. The most important thing is if they get out there and do the job and entertain us.

    I live and work in Spain and I can tell you there’s no way I can see the majority of Spanish F1 fans never hating Lewis for what they saw as their star’s missing out on the championship trophy. In case you didn’t know, F1 here is called "Alonso". That should tell you where their loyalty lies.

    If you find the "fawning, sycophantic tripe written about Hamilton", hard to take, you should be thankful you don’t live in Spain. I know this may be a bit of an exegeration but there’s always a risk that if Alonso crashes or goes out of a race for a particular reason, they might switch off the whole thing altogether.

    Finally, please do not undermine the effect of racist acts if you have never been at the receiving end of such. It is all very easy to say "it is not racist", "they are not racist" etc but until you fill the victim’s shoes, you will probably never know how it feels.

  3. Rabi said on 3rd May 2008, 17:17

    De:
    Wow 70+ comments already! Rabi, what if ITV talked about your favorite driver/team all of the time? You’d be hoping them to retire early too? If you dislike LH, just admit it!

    I said I don’t hate Hamilton, and yeah I always want my team to do well but even I get sick of it when the commentators start spewing crap about how great they are when they aren’t even 1/10th of what the commentators claim for them to be. I hate the hype and overpromoting of certain drivers/teams. Why? Because in it’s midst there are teams and drivers who deserve media attention that don’t get it just because someone is running a biased coverage. Fine for the average joe blog and sickening to the purist – it’s the same in ALL sports.

    matthew: You are watching the same coverage as us, but perhaps you have the ITV sound off and Radio 5 Live on, in which case I envy you for that. It is plain as day that the ITV coverage is hugely biased – ok we’re in England and I can understand the promoting of British teams and drivers, but to harp on and on and on and on and on and on and on …… and on about a single driver ignoring the plights of Coulthard, Hamilton and Button is just pathetic. What I am sick of which I’ve stated enough times in here is the 24/7 broadcasting of how Hamilton is the saviour of motorracing. Yes F1 needs a saviour and I’ll tell you now it’s not Hamilton, it’s whatever uncorrupted prick that replaces Mad Max they are the only ones that could be the saviour of F1.

    Martin B: I reckon that your theory of what could have happened last year at McLaren is pretty spot on and the two spoiled brats just threw their toys out of their own prams, and at Hungary they threw the toys out of one another’s prams meaning the situation had already spiralled out of Ron’s control. Keith did say there was a middle ground where the truth lies and I reckon your pretty close to it.

  4. Shahriar Ahsan said on 3rd May 2008, 18:46

    Well… to be honest i dont DISLIKE him but i certainly DO NOT LIKE the guy… yes… the guy can drive… awrite… but so can Robert Kubica… I say put this guy in a Ferrari or Mclaren and he wud out-perform Hamilton. Hamilton got the focus because of him being a “Good Rokkie” + because of him being in a “Top” car. Media has somewhat exaggerated the matter. 

  5. De said on 3rd May 2008, 19:02

    Rabi: OK. My point is that, because of some people’s personal dislike of Hamilton at first place, they must find ITV’s bias extra hard to take.

    I admit I only see ITV coverage once or twice through live stream. But still, it’s hard for me to believe that a person who is objective towards Hamilton, will claim that he is not even 1/10th of what the commentators claim to be, it couldn’t be. 
    German TV has biased coverage towards german drivers, spainish TV has biased coverage towards spainish drivers/Alonso. How comes I hear no one want those drivers to retire early, but Hamilton? Because there are much more purists in the UK?  Sorry I’m just not convinced. I believe that people who hate the biased coverage so much simply because they feel the show was stolen form their favorites. It’s not like ITV was showing nothing but Hamilton’s car, other teams and drivers deserve more media attention because their fans care much about it.  (BTW I’m interested, who’s your favorite?)      

  6. Astur said on 3rd May 2008, 20:24

    Hamilton + Mclaren = cheaters

  7. Jolene said on 3rd May 2008, 20:39

    What is it about us humans that we have to trample on those who are successful? Most of the F1 drivers have acted unsporting at some point in their career yet we hardly hear about it. We only hear on and on about the behaviour of the very successful ones. Schumi is a perfect example, till today he is mentioned coz some still refuse to acknowledge him for the dominant driver he was and the same will go for Hamilton ( not that he is anywhere near Schumi’s greatness ). The guy is young and will make mistakes,let him be. At least he is more exciting than Kimi ( I switch off the tv when it comes to the interviews coz he has been winning and is soooooooooo boring ). I am just so grateful that we dont have to listen to the commentators droning on about Jenson Button. At least Hamilton has talent.

  8. Robert McKay said on 3rd May 2008, 21:15

    “Hamilton + Mclaren = cheaters”

    It’s stuff like this that frustrates me so…

  9. Kanyima said on 4th May 2008, 0:20

    Robert McKay, there’s no need to get frustrated. Astur can’t hide the fact that he’s from Asturias, the birth place of Spain’s F1 favourite son, Fernando. I live in Spain and hear this every single day. As I mentioned earlier, F1 here in Spain is called Alonso. You hear people asking, “What time is Alonso?”, “Have you watched Alonso”. Most of them are not F1 fans but just fans for the one and only “piloto” in the whole race. Therefore, save your frustration for something more worthwhile, Robert.

  10. Kanyima said on 4th May 2008, 0:27

    Rabi, you don’t need to please anyone by telling us you don’t hate Hamilton. Your postings smack something totally different, my friend. I think they are a little strong on the language used to describe someone you don’t hate.

  11. frecon said on 4th May 2008, 0:38

    Kanyima, i guess for you there is classes into the F1 fans world. And of course you can share your space with beginners.

    I’m spanish, i have been watching F1 for several years before Alonso start racing, and all i can say is, thanks God for the Alonso fans. Because before Alonso it was almost impossible watch a race. Sometimes you could only watch the last lap. There wasn’t internet, and no oportunity to download the GPs, and most of the papers didn’t say anything about F1. Only in Catalunya they were lucky enough to have a regional TV that broadcast F1.

    Now, with all the Alonso fans, we have newspapers talking about F1, and 3 TV channels fighting for the F1 TV rights.

    I don’t need to justify why Hamilton dislikes me, or why Bourdais likes me. But i like to discuss about F1, with arguments, and not offending people.

    I would like you consider don’t talk about spanish people like a flock of wannabes.

  12. Any dislike of Hamilton is the fault of one man and one man only: Ron Dennis. Even though LH is a home grown protege of the team, Ron should have managed LH and subordinated his expectations to that of the team. For someone who professes so much gratitude to the team he practices very little when it gets in the way of his personal glory. Rookies should be seen and not heard, regardless of how precocious they are are.

    That would have probably yielded a McLaren 1-2 in the drivers’ championship………and an immediate disqualification from that S.O.B. Max Mosley!

    In all honesty I was hoping for more from Lewis this year but I guess the car is not up to it, and Heikki is/was outperforming Lewis anyway. Perhaps the team is missing Fernando’s input more than they care to admit.

  13. NDINYO said on 4th May 2008, 9:18

    Bernie and Max The Perv may not have created the opportunity by putting Alonso together with Hamilton at McLaren but that does not mean they won’t exploit the opportunity now that it is there. Bernie is on record severally saying controversy, especially driver controversy is good for F1.

    Nonetheless, to be truthful, i have no idea why Lewis is so hated even in Spain. I just wish that was not the case.

  14. Rabi said on 4th May 2008, 11:30

    Kanyima if you feel that I hate Hamilton that’s ok because I’m telling you I don’t hate Hamilton as a person or a driver, what I hate is the Hamilton persona created by ITV and the constant worshipping of it by them.

    And De if I had been in Germany or Spain and having to watch their coverages and worshipping of their respective drivers my comments wouldn’t have changed I’d be sick of that too. That’s not to say purists are only in the UK they are all over the world you ask any purist and they would say they despise HEAVILY biased coverage. As for the 1/10th comment I was exaggerating it to make my point.

    Astur that comment was pure rubbish everybody knows that all the teams cheat none of them are angels.

  15. TeamOrders said on 4th May 2008, 11:41

    I don’t remember the exact quote, but the one where LH compared himself favourably with Senna and Prost didn’t endear him to me.

  16. The Hamilton´s problem is that he speaks too much about his next performance and then he never gets the line.
    Probably he thinks that the team is all about, and that he will have the best car, but does not realize that his role is very important in setting up the car, that is why he always fail to achieve. That is why he talks too much about beating everybody next race . As long he realizes he is a great driver but a standar pilot he will stop talking and everything will be calmed down.

  17. KB said on 4th May 2008, 14:23

    Hmm Its Official Keith….Hamilton is the most hated driver in F1!

    He shouldnt give so much time to ITV, its their fault LOL

  18. Sush said on 4th May 2008, 15:53

    TeamOrders, Hamilton reminds me alot of Senna to be honest, not in attitude but in racecraft.

    Fast over one lap, but chews up his machinery quickly.

    he is NO Prost though.

  19. S Hughes said on 4th May 2008, 17:42

    Stew, in post no. 14, actually has to “dare” to say he likes him. That’s the state the hatred, yes hatred, has got to.

    He’s hated because of his colour. Those of you who know it but deny it, and those of you who don’t know it because you are psychologically pre-disposed to be racist in our disgustingly racist society (read ‘Stupid White Men’ by Michael Moore who at least recognises the truth), please don’t have an apoplectic fit when someone actually speaks the truth.

    He’s hated because he is supposed to be false. I’ve read many articles/books and seen programmes about him, and everyone who has ever met him, be they interviewers, fans, sponsors, his own team, have all said how remarkable and genuine he is. But of course, the haters must be right even though they’ve never met him.

    I read an article in May 2007 about how he would probably have to move abroad to save on tax. So he didn’t hide the reasons for his move at all, and I do believe he doesn’t like the intense media intrusion into his life. He is very good with his fans (I met him) but don’t blame him for being fed up at all the made up stories about every woman he bumps into in the street, or has people following him on holiday. No other driver has that kind of media scrutiny.

    All the F1 drivers are tax exiles, but no-one criticises them for it so why Lewis? Maybe because he’s black he should be “grateful” for his start in Britain, but no-one expects a white British driver to be grateful for anything.

    People get annoyed by his father being there all the time. For God’s sake, his father has been instrumental in the LH story/phenomenon, and is interesting to talk to. Button’s dad and Massa’s dad are often in the garages, but probably no-one spots them because a. They are white and don’t stick out in such a white-orientated sport, and b. No-one knows what they look like.

    I think Lewis is a fantastic driver with a wonderful personality. He can be ruthless and competitive, but that is what makes him a winner. He comes across as honest, polite, articulate and just a lovely guy and if anyone doesn’t buy that, they have to be racist. How can anyone deny that racism has a part to play in the hatred if they see the YouTube videos and comments after them? I saw a comment that actually asked someone to kill him for them.

    If Lewis says ANYTHING, it is analysed and scrutinised by scumbags on the forums, to detect “arrogance”, “falseness”, “nastiness” or any other awful character traits. While all the other drivers can say or do whatever they want without the slightest bit of attention or scrutiny, even boasting about bringing 6/10ths of a second, or threatening to kick 10 kinds of **** out of someone. If Hamilton had said those things, or even the comment Kimi made about “having a ****” when missing from the grid, you can imagine the furore. Hamilton wouldn’t have made the Kimi comment anyway, as he’s too well brought up.

    Hamilton does luckily have thousands of fans in Britain and throughout the world, and has increased interest in F1 from people in countries who would never normally bother with it. But maybe these people are absent from the forum hatred because they have a life, and forums are notoriously peopled by those who love espousing hatred.

    To conclude, Hamilton is hated because he’s black, he’s nice and he’s bloody good.

    Now all froth at the mouth and deny until you explode, which I’m sure you’ll do!

  20. S Hughes said on 4th May 2008, 17:48

    Aaah, just read a comment from Steve Thompson – well done, the TRUTH at last, hallelujah!

    Another thing some people don’t like is he’s not an Uncle Tom type black man like Frank Bruno was, who was really popular with the white audience. All thick and thankful. Lewis is neither, except thankful, rightfully, to his team and his mentor Ron Dennis. Lewis knows he’s got where he is through talent, hard work and the efforts of his remarkable father, not to “Britain”. He is humble where appropriate, but not humble enough for the racist mentality in the West.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.

Skip to toolbar