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”

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  1. John Beamer
    23rd June 2008, 10:48

    Swap Hamilton for DLR? That is crazy. Lewis is one of the fastest drivers on the grid and will score many more points than DLR. He’s a young lad who is going through a tough time and he’ll learn a lot through this (even if he doesn’t realise it yet).

    And it is really great for F1 as a sport and spectacle.

  2. Lewis is talking too much. He’s complaining – again – about the media’s treatment of him, which will surely make things worse. Yesterday his comments (already outlined by Keith) sounded plainly and simply insecure.

    He isn’t alone though. Michael Schumacher was inadvertently very cocky in his first couple of years, and Senna rubbed plenty of people up the wrong way, including his own boss at Toleman.

  3. David Watkins
    23rd June 2008, 11:22

    Lewis’ attitude is rather adolescent at the moment. Someone should tell him that owning up to his mistakes is not a sign of weakness. His mealy-mouthed performance after Montreal was excruciating.

    I don’t think that Lewis has to win at Silverstone. He just needs an incident free race and a podium to regain some sort of equilibrium.

    Someone influential, who has been there and done it, also needs to take him aside and give him a good talking to. Jackie Stewart would be good

  4. Hamilton is just proving that he hasn’t developed one bit since last season. Still as fast as anyone, but very error prone when under pressure.
    BUT added to this is the playboy lifestyle that a certain Mr. Button started living when he believed his own hype.
    Young Lewis is living it large in L.A., the whole clan is driving around in Porsches (I bet Mercedes love every picture of the Hamiltons with a nice Porsche), he feels the media have it in for him and, most importantly, he isn’t performing on track.
    He’s not going to loose his speed the way he is going, but he isn’t going to learn from HIS mistakes either.
    As many said already, he needs to pipe down and realise that he isn’t the sun in the galaxy that is F1, even though to him it must feel that way at the moment.
    He really has to look at JB’s career and realise that if he would get kicked out by McLaren at some point no other top team will want him.
    This season he has achieved to lose his status as most desired new driver to Kubica and is close to being overtaken by guys like Vettel and maybe even Sutil.
    Not because he is too slow, but because the total package that he brings to the table is getting very flawed and I’m sure his father “the hedgehog” is not helping the situation either.

  5. Lewis cannot perform under pressure, and both he and his team seem to feel they are being treated unfairly…do they think they are above the rules?

    The penalty of a 10 place grid drop is justified, and in yesterdays race, he overtook and gained a place by not slowing down.

    Normally the press like to build ppl up and tear them down, but on this occassion LH and Mclaren are creating that all by themselves.

    The best thing they can do, is let the results do the talking. Time for LH to get a proper manager!


    Although the Magny-Cours stewards have insisted that their decision to hand Lewis Hamilton a race-wrecking drive-through penalty during the French GP was the result of a “clear” infringement, conspiracy theorists are bound to have noticed that Max Mosley’s close associate, Alan Donnelly, was part of the decision-making process.

  7. True Arnet but doesn’t Donnelly sit in all stewards’ decisions now?

  8. I had thought that a ‘Senior’ steward had been brought in to ensure all decisions were made in the same way on all the circuits, but it does still appear to be made on a race-by-race basis. Has something gone wrong somewhere?

  9. They brought in Tony Scott-Andrews as a permanent steward at the start of 2006. This did not appear to help in the consistency of decisions, so there’s now a four-steward team with Alan Donnelly as a FIA non-steward “advisor”. The new system was brought in at the start of 2008.

  10. even though i am a ferrari fanatic… i do think the drive though penalty was harsh… HAM already passed the car and was behind KOV when he miss the lane… i dont know why he was punished

  11. But seriously guys….. i think HAM thoroughly deserved the CANADA’s 10grid penalty… i mean it was absolute bazzaire to say the least… and not to mention the controversy whether he cud have avoided kimi or not…:p

  12. steve thompson
    23rd June 2008, 20:08

    Build ’em up then smash ’em down…… tired tired so very tired journalism.

  13. to say it was bizarre is forgetting that Rosberg did the exact same thing – which to my mind would infer that it was a fairly unique situation that the drivers were dealing with in the pitlane in Montreal – ridiculous at it seemed, we have no idea what it was like being in their seats, but it was obviously a much more tricky situation than it seemed, or otherwise Rosberg wouldn;t have crashed as well – are they both total idiots????

    Anyway – this concept of an FIA “non-steward advisor” is seriously ridiculous. the FIA’s only purpose it to enforce the Formula one regulations – and what the F*&^%$* is Mosley’s number 2 doing being anywhere near these decisions in a “non-steward” capacity???????? surely the only people needed to make the decision are the stewards??? If they needed Mr Donnelly for the decision, surely he’d be made a Steward?? No???

    It just sits all wrong to me

  14. “are they both total idiots????”: in that particular situation a resounding YES!

  15. Steve – if you’re referring to this article I think that’s completey unfair and I’d like to hear you explain why you think that.

  16. DG: avoiding contradictory and/or unequal and/or unproportional decisions is one of the key problems in each and every legal system… with sports regulations it wouldn’t be different. A way to minimize it would be installing and effective, constant and fast court of appeal, capable of reforming decisions in due time, which would be very difficult to create, IMO. I don’t even know if such a court exists nowadays.

  17. not “and effective”, but “an effective”, sorry…

  18. Keith, this is a very accurate synopsis of what might be going on, with Lewis, in his head and so on. Let us hope Keith, that Steve meant the rest of the media and not you.

    I see some people finally saying that Lewis talks too much(well i was flamed for that so i had to vent that one :P ). The thing is, as Verasaki pointed out, no matter how much the great grand German is hated, Schumacher did one thing right, never ever spoke out. There are more interviews of Hamilton(exaggerated, but i think not by too much, or is it :D ?) in his less than 2 seasons on the Grid, than Schumacher ever cared for through his entire career(not counting post race press conferences/ interviews). There’s one thing that Lewis could clearly learn from Schumacher, to shut up and get going with his job.

    It is interesting how nobody pointed out, that by mouthing against the penalty in public(and not by filing formal complaint), he could further be incurring FIA’s wrath. Am sure, there are people who will tell me that its bias towards Ferrari working against him/ McLaren. However, this behaviour certainly can’t be rewarded, penalised, sooner or later it will be. Let me say that if FIA encourages this behaviour of McLaren and Lewis speaking in public in an uncharitable manner, then it is with the fear of press/ public outburst at them, for favouring Ferrari(silly as it is).

  19. “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.”

    I can only call that piece, IMAGINATIVE WRITING and we saw lots of that from different newspapers all of last year

  20. I can’t really comment too much on the race, as I missed it, for the first time in probably five years, however on Hamilton I have this to say.
    Recently Lewis has come under alot of flak, most of which has been deserved, for some very high profile errors.
    We must not forget what happened in Bahrain prior to that horribly awkward Montreal gaffe. Compare all this to last year, when Hamilton was the golden boy rookie, the apple of the media’s eye.
    By media, I am especially meaning the British media.
    All that attention, and positive press. Even following Hungary, inwhich Hamilton played his part, he still emerged from it somewhat unscathed.
    Losing the championship at the last possible moment, Hamilton still had the media’s backing and support to a ‘certain’ degree.
    A new season, and Lewis is now not the golden boy rookie anymore, but he is a championship contender.
    With that, the kid gloves are off, and off bigtime!!
    The beginning of last season, a third place was a great result. Nine podiums, and a rookie to boot, marvellous.
    Now, third is nothing! Welcome to the real world of Formula One Mr Lewis Hamilton.
    In my opinion, it is this ‘new’ kind of pressure, the expectation of the masses, that is weighing on Lewis ever since the end of last year. You could see it having its effect last season, slowly but surely, as people quickly forgot that Lewis was still a rookie.
    These mistakes are no different from the ones that killed his championship bid in 2007, the real problem is that Hamilton seems not to be learning from them fast enough to save his bid for ‘this’ year’s championship.
    He is still a superb driver. You don’t become bad overnight, but Lewis needs some time looking inwards, to realise that he isn’t always right, and to be carefull what he says in public.
    The media make their living out of contorting what people say, and the truth. That is all part of being famous and in the public eye.

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