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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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.

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

  1. In the TV live I first thinked that Hamilton made an Ilegal move.
    But I changed my mind looking the You tube video.

    He was in more action then Vettel after de last corner, He had overtooked him at the midle of the straight and he was with almost all the car ahead when they arrived at the corner.

    But I agree with Keith that Lewis was a bit confusing in his explanation. He managed to made the corner’s apex, he wasn´t so at the outside line as it seems in his quote.And he “turned in over the guy” for sure…

  2. Anyone remember Nassir hussein in 2002.

    If it was Hamilton driving for williams there would have been the same penalties and bullying inflicted towards them. I was watching it and Lewis had no choice, he had passed Vettel before he went over the astro. He didn’t exactly pass someone by cutting a corner . i do feel as it was the first lap if he had let vettel gone thru his race would not have been ruined, well wasn’t it ruined anyway from Montreal.

    We all know what he means by ‘you’ the stewards and the FIA. it is time all this pro – ferrari jibes finish, however i do feel the mistakes which he has made in his f1 career so far is part of the learning curve.

  3. Oliver – I’m not sure about some of your points. I didn’t report the number plate thing because I thought it wasn’t an interesting story even if it had been true (which it seems it wasn’t). I don’t think I said anything about him at the first corner either?

    “Why are we having this as a discussion point?” Loads of reasons: it was one of the most important points of the race; people have been talking since the last race how Hamilton would cope with the ten place grid drop; his version of events and the facts as observed don’t add up; and as I said in the post I think there are big question about Hamilton’s state of mind right now and I don’t think the same can be said of anyone else in the grid.

    Josh – I wouldn’t say Dennis isn’t bright but I do think McLaren aren’t good on race tactics and they’re awdul when it comes to letting a bad situation get worse.

    Verasaki – I take your point about not reading too much into what drivers say but I still think Hamilton’s reaction is strange. I think he has some misplaced anger.

  4. Keith, thanks for always writing objetively.

  5. Saying that Schumi was quick with the mea culpa’s is rewriting history. Spain, Monaco, Australia, and every other time he deliberately messed with someone else’s race he claimed innocent.

    Hamilton is merely coming from the mental space of believing he is bullet proof. Every top driver has to believe that they are the best and most worthy of the Championship. He’s just not letting his state of mind drift away from that, even when he makes mistakes.

    From what I recall from the broadcast, James Allen said that McLaren had contacted Charlie Whiting to ask if they should let Vettel through and the impression they got was that they didn’t need to. We may hear more about this.

  6. LH has never been good under pressure on the track; now he’s starting to unravel off-track too. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

  7. Terry Fabulous
    23rd June 2008, 2:17

    The easiest solution to this is not to have ridiculous tarmac run offs. Either raised kerbs that will rip off your front wing, or barriers that remove your wheels.

    This would mean that when Hamilton arrives at a corner in front of Vettel, he would have to slow down and make the corner. I doubt very much that Vettel would take the position back and risk running into him. And the entire situation becomes a lot more real then scooting over the corner and getting a drive through penalty.

    ALSO, Isn’t a little rich that Vettel scooted over the last corner at Canada about four times to stop Heikki nailing him, and didn’t get penalised. RAISE THE KERBS and we won’t have to worry about it anymore.

  8. Terry Fabulous
    23rd June 2008, 2:23

    I’ve finalised realised from which angle I can enjoy Lewis… He is the centre of all the drama! He hits Fred, Hits Kimi, Gets stuck in the world’s smallest sandpits, Causes crashes behind safety cars, Get penalised continuously, Hits the wall and still wins ata Monaco! There is absolutely nothing boring about the guy. And he is massive unhumble and confident to boot! Compare him to Kimi and he is freaking fascinating!!

    Roll on Lewis, keep winning, crashing, getting penalised, making grand statements!! Carry on making the sport interesting!!

  9. In most kinds of sport young players that get a bright spotlight for sudden achievements in an early season in their careers and have trouble following it up. Will Hamilton be better in 2009? Maybe, but plenty of young players have failed to adjust to their new levels of responsibility.

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  11. Given the way the FIA is, then absolutely McLaren should have told Hamilton to give the place back. Surely they know by now that it is better to err on the side of caution when there is a possibility of a penalty?

    I know we haven’t really gone much into it on this topic, but Kovi’s penalty was BS. There were cars everywhere, yet Kovi was the only one singled out? When will McLaren learn that they not only have to be better than everyone else, but smarter too?

    With regard to Lewis, I think his major problem is that he is beleiving his own press. He needs to come back to earth with a bit of a thud, then we might have a proper championship contender. Because at the moment, it looks like hubris is fueling that car…..

  12. Welcome, Hannah. You’re right, Keith is among a very small handful of the best F1 blogs out there, and it could be argued that it is the best, but I would want to insult my colleagues at the others!If Keith doesn’t mind me recommending 2 others, I would suggest

    The thing with Lewis is that people forget that this is year two in what I expect and hope will be a very long career. Schumi wasn’t perfect in his second year, Senna took a while to fully emerge as the greatest, and every other driver had their learning curve. Remember how many people thought Dennis was crazy to take a chance on Kimi after one year at Sauber and something like only 23 races ever? It is rare to see someone do so well in their first year, and the last time someone came that close to winning the championship in their first year was Villeneuve, who had more experience and a championship at a top level.

    Hamilton is still young and learning. Remember the first half of Kimi’s 2007? Anything can happen. The pressure is huge, and I’m sure once he is in the groove again the easy wins will come back. I’m not writing as a Hamilton fanatic, although I do rate him very highly.

  13. John Beamer
    23rd June 2008, 6:26

    Interesting discussion.

    From the on board camera angle it is impossible to tell whether it was a penalty. Sure Lewis was going faster but perhaps Vettel braked early? Who knows … Lewis was a helluva lot lighter so his breaking distance would be shorter and he may be more confident on the tyres.

    The interesting thing is that there was other video which apparently show a clear infraction. Where is it? This is what annoys me about the FIA and FOM — show it!

    Lewis’ penalty was marginal (based on the video I’ve seen) as you don’t know how far past he was and whether he lost the car because of marbles or speed. If he did cut the corner due to speed then the penalty was fair.

    Peril makes a good point – Kovi’s penalty was ridiculous. With that and the Lewis call (which was more obvious that Kovi) it is no wonder that Ron Dennis is screaming Ferrari International Assistance !!

  14. Yep, John, the vid you’re mentioning (which showed Lewis going way wide) was shown, albeit later in the race. As Keith just got a YouTube vid which was a rip of the start, we won’t see it there. It might now be up somewhere on YouTube though.

    My opinion on Lewis-Vettel: penalty was hard but fair. Lewis braked way too late, which was why it seemed DC braked early in front of him (when he really didn’t). There was no way he’d make the corner properly at that speed.

    BUT… someone brought up a good point in the live blog: why are the stewards so inconsistent with these penalties? Now that I’ve been able to think it through, it could be because of the fact that there are no permanent stewards, and it’s rotated from one race to the next. That magnifies the subjectivity of different stewards: that may be fine with 1 steward, but penalizable with another.

  15. I like Terry’s attitude :-)

    Journeyer – Hamilton cutting the corner with Vettel is at 1’40 on the video that’s currently there.

  16. OK, so we are all still talking about Hammy’s weekend? Keith, is there another camera angle on the incident? The only one in the race was the on-board, so I would like to know if there is another view and we can get a better idea of what the stewards (ie Old Charlie) actually saw. I agree any illegal move ought to be penalised, but if there’s nowhere else to go to avoid contact, what are you supposed to do? Stop? (Ooops, I must be paranoid)Yes, McLaren should have told Hammy to give the place back automatically, but if they actually contacted Old Charlie for advice and didn’t get any, what does that say about communication between the FIA and McLaren?
    I also have some other points on this:
    1. Why wasn’t the Ferrari (I don’t know whose) which was seen going slowly on the racing line during Qualifying ever penalised?
    2. If Kovi was penalised for holding up Webber, why wasn’t Nakagima given the same penalty, since he was effectively holding up Kovi, who could be seen having to move out of the way of Webber as they all entered a chicane?
    3. At what point is a car Black Flagged? Surely Kimi’s broken exhaust could have been potentially dangerous to the cars behind or even the spectators and marshalls? We have seen how near-fatal the loose tyres can be, so wasn’t the FIA bothered about a broken Ferrari?
    And finally, Terrys comment #28 – thats how I will always remember a certain German who used to drive really well for Benneton, but once he hit the big time with Ferrari, it appeared he could never do anything wrong, ever!

  17. DG – Briefly on two of your points:

    1 – I think I know the incident you’re referring to and the Ferrari didn’t delay the car behind it.

    3 – Raikkonen wouldn’t have gotten black flagged for that but it might have been casue for the black-and-orange flag (‘your car is a danger to others, come into the pits and have it fixed’). I think it was last given to Schumacher at Australia in 2003 when he had a loose barge board.

  18. Scott Joslin
    23rd June 2008, 9:33

    I think what we have here is that not only Lewis is showing his fragility under pressure, but so are the team. When Lewis needs a guiding hand to help him out, he seems to be hung out to dry by the team who do not know how to help him out in their all or nothing approach.

    Lewis is in a nasty cycle of angst and he is directing it every which way but at himself. I am not doing a character assassination of Lewis because he is a truly remarkable talent, but he is becoming a one trick pony and is failing to demonstrate any depth to his driving technique other than 110% and reckless. He is reminding me of Jean Alesi where he was always over driving the car and when he was around traffic – anything could happen.

    He needs to understand that when the situation or the odds are against him not even superman could turn it around every time, and the best option is to Maximise what you can in that situation and to limit the damage, not make it worse.

    In Bahrain, Canada & France he has shown he does not have this maturity yet. I was impressed by his driving in Spain and Turkey – Agreed he did not win these races but he maximised the situation – just what he needed to do.

    He needs to be made to realise, through a calming influence, that he does not have to win every race. Surely Ron Dennis has a great case study of that approach – Alain Prost why does he not make him study his approach.

    I am worried for Lewis that the media will rip him to shreds if he fails the public at Silverstone. What he needs now is a couple of steady results, 2nd or 3rd’s is just fine. 10th or DNF would be catastrophe!

  19. Thanks Keith, ITV did mention the black-and-orange-flag, but I suppose these days Old Charlie is just as likely to email a team or phone them up! (Which, of course, the fans cannot see)
    @Scott – I agree, I wonder if Hammy has been brought too quickly into the limelight, by his father as much as McLaren. He is appearing in far too many adverts, considering he isn’t a World Champion.
    I wonder if his father has encouraged a ‘Win Win Win’ mentality into him and Big Ron and the media aren’t helping – but McLaren do want results too!
    Perhaps after last year McLaren should have imposed a media limit on the drivers – and look at all the pre and after race chats Hammy has to have with ITV this year – is any other driver having as much attention from any other country’s media?
    But I can remember the Button-mania of a short while ago, the Hill-mania and even the Mansell-mania of even further back. (Strangely DC never seemed to received such hype, even after winning Monaco….).
    Hammy is unravelling under the pressure, and McLaren need results to ensure their existence and future co-operation from Mercedes, but as Scott says he must win at Silverstone, against much stronger opposition than last year.
    Perhaps its time for Hammy to swap places with De La Rosa for the rest of the season? I am not apologising for his behaviour this year, I just want to put it more into context – since he was so cool and collected last year!
    And if you also relate it to how Alonso is behaving this year, and Massa’s sudden change of attitude too (for the better I mean), you might remember that it cannot be easy to juggle such commitments all the time in such a hyped up atmosphere!

  20. I wouldn’t want to be at the Hamiltons’ breakfast table this morning. The papers will not make pleasant reading.

    Jonathan McEvoy in the Daily Mail gives more insight into the tension between Hamilton and the press:

    Post-race [Hamilton] hid in the McLaren motorhome until his father Anthony and mercedes boss Norbert Haug persuaded him that a feeling of victimisation did not give him an excuse to ignore his media obligations.

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