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

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

    It’s because Lewis proved last season that when he’s on his game he can be the quickest driver on the grid. At the moment he is being sloppy and careless and that’s the only reason he is ten points back of the leaders.

  2. verasaki-not to be confused with a hamilton apologist said on 22nd June 2008, 23:20

    i think it was a fair racing move- a stab at making up a position early on and might have paid off but he really was going in too hot to either abort or recover. that on it’s own is pretty forgiveable and let’s be honest, if he were a 10 year veteran it might not have gotten the scrutiny it did. having said that, someone really does need to convince him that you can’t win a race in the opening laps (ok, monaco and hungary being exceptions) but it’s really easy to lose one that way.

    but speaking of scrutiny-and this is not a criticism f1-f ,it’s your job to get a dialog going-i think everyone is digging way too deep into what these guys say and begging for controversy and at times taking a sentence completely out of context. the “you” here is the same “you” we all know we’re talking to when we use it, you know?

    i do think you’re onto something in the mental strength area, though. i’m hoping it’s just him trying to cope with finding himself not quite the prodigy this year he was last year and too silly to not be honest about it. ego is good, i’d say it’s essential in this sport but for someone as obviously talented as he is to also be completely lacking in an ability to honestly assess his own actions could end up being disastrous if not dangerous. i for one would not be looking forward to a smirking bully dominating the next 10 years of championships. the things that made me like schumacher in spite of some of his er,weaknesses was he did play down his own perfection, even if he didn’t admit to many faults and his obvious love of and joy in the sport itself. i don’t see any of that in hamilton yet.

  3. Josh J said on 22nd June 2008, 23:25

    I think the salient point in all of this is the team. There is NO WAY that the team should have left themselves vulnerable to the possibility of a penalty after they saw that move. If it had been schumi, he’d have been on the radio discussing the matter in depth with his engineer and Ross Brawn and god knows who else. The fact that there were no communications between hamilton and the team, to me, speaks VOLUMES!!!

    I have to admit that I’m beginning to wonder if Ron dennis is actually not all that bright. I mean, even James Allen wa able to realise that there was a pretty likely chance of a penalty (especially given the fact that it was a Maclaren), and I’m sorry, but the only smart move would have been to instantly tell lewis to give the place back to vettel and try again.

    It really seems to me as though they don;t have good leadership at that team. I don;t think they have anybody with enough clout who also has a quick enough mind to think on his feet in these situations, who can in any way oppose Ron.

    there was no reason lewis should have got that penalty, and to lay it on lewis is ridiculous, he was just doing what he does, it was entirely up to the team to make that called and they royally cocked it up or him. once again. How depressing.

  4. I agree – he has to grow up. Even two weeks after the pit lane incident he ‘still does’t know what happened’ ! Lewis needs to put his hand up when he makes a mistake and admit it – he’s only human and can make mistakes. DC is always quick to admit ‘driver error’ even when it turns out not to be his fault. Lewis needs to accept responsibility for his actions and move on not have this ‘it wasn’t me’ attitude and blame everyone elso for being out to get him. In this instance if he had been sufficiently past he would have been able to take the corner without crashing – he could only ‘keep’ the place by straight lining so he did have an unfair advantage. Lewis and Ron should be honest about it. (It’s reminiscent of Lewis as a cadet/junior when he thought he could do no wrong and blamed everyone else drivers and officials)

  5. Terry Fabulous said on 22nd June 2008, 23:32

    Veraski those are some great comments there about humility

  6. Brar Soler said on 22nd June 2008, 23:51

    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…

  7. Sassan said on 22nd June 2008, 23:59

    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.

  8. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd June 2008, 23:59

    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.

  9. Daniel said on 23rd June 2008, 0:14

    Keith, thanks for always writing objetively.

  10. Arnet said on 23rd June 2008, 2:00

    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.

  11. Green Flag said on 23rd June 2008, 2:08

    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.

  12. Terry Fabulous said on 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.

  13. Terry Fabulous said on 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!!

  14. 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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