Video: Pressure on Lewis Hamilton after error in French Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Magny-Cours, 2008, 470150

The French Grand Prix went about as badly as it possibly could for Lewis Hamilton – and he has nobody to blame but himself for it.

From the moment he got back behind the wheel of the McLaren at Magny-Cours it looked as though he was still working out the frustration from his humiliating crash at Montreal. And the outcome was inevitable.

When he needed to limit damage, he threw caution to the wind, ruined his race within a couple of corners, and came away with nothing.

Driving errors

The expectation before the race was that Hamilton would use an aggressive strategy and fuel lightly to try to make up the disadvantage of losing ten places on the grid.

This included reducing his rear wing angle below the optimum to get the best straight line speed possible to have a chance of overtaking into the Adelaide hairpin.

But although he usually revels in a car with a touch of oversteer he seemed to have taken it way too far. He struggled at the right-hander at Estoril in practice. Then in Q3 he spoiled both his laps with oversteering moment at the fast Nurburgring chicane.

Another penalty

That same corner was the scene of his error during the race. He lined up Sebastian Vettel neatly to pass around the outside but went into the corner carrying far too much speed and cut across the tarmac apron inside the kerb.

There have been occasions where drivers have passed each other while cutting the track and not been penalised. But Hamilton was never going to get away with this one. The onboard camera was a total giveaway – he was heading way too fast into the corner.

Later Hamilton said there had been no conversation with the team about the move. Obviously they made a mistake in not telling him. Arguably he was in a place to judge for himself that he had done something wrong, although often a driver will leave such things up to his team as they have the benefit of being able to see more than they can.

Hamilton’s explanation is a little confusing (emphasis added):

I went into the corner. I believe I was ahead on the outside and I couldn’t turn in on the guy otherwise we would have crashed so I took the outside line, lost the back on the marbles and went over the kerb. I continued because I don’t believe I overtook him by going over the kerb, I actually took him before that.

This sounds like a contradiction to me – if he had completed the overtaking move then he could have turned into the corner without fear of colliding with Vettel. He hadn’t completed the overtaking move, so he had to go wide and cut the corner.

Nor did he only use the kerb – he was completely over it and on the tarmac apron.

State of mind

An element of paranoia crept into Hamilton’s language afterwards:

I kept pushing. There’s nothing you can do that can distract me. You can keep on giving me penalties and whatever you want to do and I’ll keep battling and try and come back with a result.

What I want to know is, who is he addressing? When he says ‘you’ is he talking to the media? Or – much more dangerously – the stewards? Asked about his feelings towards the media Hamilton answered:

I feel cool. It’s all good. Racing is racing. I’m still here, there’s nothing you can do to get me out of it.

Again, who is he talking to? And where is this idea that someone wants him out of racing coming from?

I can’t vouch for the odd things Hamilton is saying, but as after Montreal these don’t sound like the words of someone who realises he’s made a mistake and is going to learn from them (as Doctorvee pointed out recently).

And with the pressure cooker environment of his home race coming up next, I’m starting to wonder if Hamilton is mentally tough enough to cope with the weight of expectation and a dire need to end his two-race point-less streak.

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76 comments on Video: Pressure on Lewis Hamilton after error in French Grand Prix

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  1. I don’t think he is addressing anyone Keith. I think he is using ‘you’ as a rhetorical device.

  2. Snoopy said on 22nd June 2008, 22:04

    Its getting really intresting in Mclaren. After Canada Hamilton and Dennis said they think his penalty is harsh, but afterwards McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh said that penalty was hard but fair.
    Now hamilton and Dennis is saying that his drive threw penalty was wrong, and Dennis even said to finnish press that they think FIA is picking them. Well then Whitmarsh came talk to press again and try to smooth Dennis words. “He has the frustrations that happen immediately after the race. We had three penalties this weekend, we have got to accept it and move on.”

    That sounds bad when CEO has to run after driver and team boss and explain why they have said this and that. Or when CEO opinium is different that other 2.
    It looks like McLaren is having some problem inside team and they should fix those as soon as possible before it will make more harm to team.

  3. Dorian said on 22nd June 2008, 22:08

    Nice interpretation there Keith. To me also, the ‘YOU’ character almost seems like the personification of the media, his critics (both expert and public alike), the stewards and the other drivers….

    It almost seems kind of haunting the way he said the above comments.

    As a few people have said in recent posts regarding the French Grand Prix, he certainly isn’t doing himself any favours with these sort of throw-away comments both before and after the race. I suspect whatever empathy/sympathy he might have gained due to his errors of late have now been demolished as a result…

  4. Oliver said on 22nd June 2008, 22:09

    Keith, I don’t think Hamilton made a mistake at the first corner. He had to overtake some cars pretty quickly before the race settled down, and like I said during the live blog, video feed we were looking at, did not give a true representation of events in that corner. It was pretty obvious that he was well past Vettel but he could nt close the door as he was not sure of Vettels braking ability but He was actually saving his car from a spin and took it over the turf.

    And about his comments, its very easy for the news to take his statements out of context. Even so, lets be honest, Mclaren have been given all kinds of penalties since the Hungarian race in 2007.

    Going back to Montreal, Hamilton said he saw the lights but then he couldnt stop in time, Rosberg admitted himself that he didnt look at the lights. So accident in Canada could have happened to anyone because it was a very unusual scenario.

    By the way, how come I read in the news Hamilton was buying a LEW IS number plate for 400,000 Euros, and then Hamilton himself said he never heard of that, or would even pay a hundred pounds for a number plate?

    Lets not spin things out of proportion.

  5. donwatters said on 22nd June 2008, 22:19

    In my view Lewis did nothing wrong and was unfairly penalized in France. He was well past Vettel and had no place to go. Wheter or not the FIA is picking on McLaren is another question. I thought the Canada penalty was a bit harsh…a 5 place demotion would have been sufficient.

  6. Sush said on 22nd June 2008, 22:32

    Donwaters, he might have been past Vettel, but check the race again… the only reason he was past him is because he braked way too late went off track, and rejoined in front.

  7. michael counsell said on 22nd June 2008, 22:34

    On the ITV pre race show (can’t believe I actually sat through it…) Steve Rider was asking him about the media and Lewis Hamilton went off on one about the media. Then immediately following this segment Steve Rider and Blundell criticised Hamilton for briging the subject up…

  8. ninguen said on 22nd June 2008, 22:39

    For me it´s clear he used the outside of the track to gain a position in dispute, so the sanction clearly applies. Another thing is what keith pointed, the team should have told him.

    The worst of it all it´s that Hamilton it´s not learning the lessons, he prefer to see ghosts instead of catch the lesson, so he may do it next time, and may get penalised again.

    The ball is on his floor, if he starts to realise that the f-1 also has this runabouts, not only the good races of last year. the more he takes to learn from this, the more he will last till he finally gets to be a safe bet for the championship. He has proved he has the ability, now he has to prove he has the mind, and that it´s not so easy as he thought it would have been

  9. jay said on 22nd June 2008, 22:44

    looking at the video again, hamilton was just clear of vettel when the back of the car stepped out, but i think the team should have been told him to let vettel back past him, as it was only the first lap and it would not have damaged his race like the drive thru did. so it was a bad call from the team.
    lewis needs to use his anger in the right way because if he starts to let things eat at him then i can only see things from going from bad to worse for him and the team.

  10. Dorian said on 22nd June 2008, 22:50

    @Michael Counsell, I get what you mean but we really can’t pin that one on Blundell since he wasn’t the who asked Hamilton the question in the first place. But Steve Rider on the other hand, I’m with you there.

    To say the least, I’m not a fan of Mr Rider. I think he encapsulates what many folk regard as the ‘sycophantic’ ones…

  11. Architrion said on 22nd June 2008, 22:51

    I don’t know what to say. First of all the drive through penalty seems fair to me, as Canada’s penalty as well. But silly accidents exists with no doubt in every great driver Curriculum Vitae all along F1 history. So I wouldn’t take this stuff too far.

    Another question is that this guy had two weeks of a very different press he was used to have and now feels like Harrison Ford on The Fugitive, the good outlaw with the bad guys rushing after him…. nobody is going to stop me now…. This is really simple…. Hami, just grow up. It’s all you need to be a better driver (maybe even a champ)

  12. Lady Snowcat said on 22nd June 2008, 22:55

    Sorry guys but he was only partially past Vettel because he braked too late for the corner and then he had to cut the chicane… so a clear advantage taken…

    If he’d just tucked back in behind Vettel and gone again… much as Heikki did later in the race all would have been fine….

  13. David Watkins said on 22nd June 2008, 23:03

    No problem with the penalty. He had no choice going round the outside like that into the corner. He should have made an attempt to let Vettel back through but maybe he was worried that whoever was behind Vettel would nip through as well.

    The lad needs to grow up. It’s that simple.

  14. David Watkins said on 22nd June 2008, 23:04

    I meant ‘no chance’ not ‘no choice’

  15. Oliver said on 22nd June 2008, 23:10

    I think we are also caught in this Hamilton trap. Why are we even having this as a major discussion point. Other drivers made mistakes today or messed up opportunities, but its not a headline story. Hamilton is a human being like Piquet, and its the very first time in 8 races that piquet didn’t go off track twice in a race, something he managed to do in the tight confines of Monaco, barriers and all.

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