British press on Hamilton’s troubles

Lewis Hamilton has found his McLaren MP4-24 is a handful

Lewis Hamilton has found his McLaren MP4-24 is a handful

Lewis Hamilton has been the golden boy of Fleet Street since he arrived on the F1 scene two years ago. While the national football and cricket teams have struggled, his has been one of few success stories for Britons in international sport.

But facing a potentially un-competitive season with the McLaren MP4-24, Hamilton can expect a very different kind of press in 2009.

Here’s how the British media covered McLaren’s admission that the MP4-24 isn’t up to scratch:

Lewis Hamilton in trouble as McLaren falter

“The world champion has crashed twice during testing in Barcelona.” (Daily Mirror)

McLaren admit their car is not good enough to help Hamilton defend his title

“So slow was Hamilton?s McLaren in pre-season testing at Barcelona this week that Martin Whitmarsh, the new team principal, and Norbert Haug, boss of engine suppliers Mercedes, took the unusual step of making their plight public.” (Daily Mail)

Lewis Hamilton’s world title hopes suffer

“Lewis Hamilton is a great talent ? potentially one of the greatest to drive a Formula One car ? but if he does not have a vehicle under him that can compete with the best on the grid, then even he will end up looking ordinary.” (The Times)

We’ve built Lew an old banger

“It could be several grands prix into the 17-race season before he is able to challenge Ferrari, BMW and Brawn GP who have been setting the pace.” (The Sun)

Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren ‘not fast enough’ for new F1 season

“The news will come as a blow to the legions of Lewis Hamilton fans in this country, although McLaren do still have time to rectify the problem.” (Daily Telegraph)

McLaren: Car is not quick enough

“Reigning Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will head into the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in just 16 days’ time with a car that is not quick enough.” (Daily Express)

Today the stories are about how the car isn’t up to scratch. But what will the headlines be once the season has started and the press have to get used to Hamilton not standing on the podium every other weekend?

The British press – especially the sports press – has a reputation for being fickle. Hamilton’s coverage so far has been largely positive, aside for some sniping over his decision to move to Switzerland. But he faces a tougher time from the national press as he faces the prospect of defending his world championship in a weak car.

For the press, reasons will have to be found for why he’s not winning, regardless of whether he does anything wrong. Everyone knows how well newspapers sell when there’s an established star who can be taken down a peg. The Sun will probably accuse him of spending too much time on the yacht it claimed he bought last week which Hamilton later denied.

Hamilton has already complained about how media intrusion has changed his life. But how will he cope when the press love-in turns sour?

Read more about Lewis Hamilton: Lewis Hamilton biography

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74 comments on British press on Hamilton’s troubles

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  1. I can’t remember, but did michael schumacher/ferrari suffer the same criticism in 05 when ferrari were relatively uncompetitive compared to renault and mclaren?

  2. Filipe said on 14th March 2009, 22:23

    Also, Lewis gonna get to live with Alonso’s shadow and I’m pretty sure that while Alonso will get all the credit for whatever improvements Renault has throughout the year, most of McLaren’s will be given to the team’s “amazing resources”.

    • Spot on, Filipe.

      The only problem is that if McLaren arrive in Melbourne faster than Renault, nobody will claim that it was Lewis’s input that made the car faster.

      And we will stop to hear such a nonsense!

    • Senor Paz said on 16th March 2009, 0:30

      Baby chatter, poor little Lewis… If you know he is a great driver, as I know he is, then the press coverage and the opinion of others shouldn’t bother you.

      So what if Lewis struggles this season, in and out of the track? Every driver gets that at some point of their career, big deal… Let’s enjoy the season for what it is!

  3. pSynrg said on 14th March 2009, 22:59

    If you believe in Hamilton, as I do – then non of this really matters. Best driver I’ve seen in my lifetime (born 1968.)

    • derek said on 15th March 2009, 9:58

      I agree to a certain extent, certainly since Senna and I was watching F1 in 1968 the year Clark died .

    • varun said on 15th March 2009, 15:45

      you must be kidding calling a kid who always had the best car under him all his career. lets see how he behaves and what he says when he is in an uncompetitive car. this is the real test for the so called “greatest driver since 1968″

    • pSynrg said on 15th March 2009, 17:23

      At the time I was incensed with the usual british press starting up their libel-engines.
      A small correction, ONE of the best drivers I’ve seen in my lifetime. The gorgeous black and gold Lotus JPS and then James Hunt my earliest F1 memories.
      But yes, I do rate ‘The Kid’, as much as Senna. He is as you say “a kid” and F1 World Champion…

  4. pSynrg said on 14th March 2009, 23:00

    F1 that is…

    • Terry Fabulous said on 15th March 2009, 7:30

      Ohhh what an opening pSynrg!

      Who is the best driver full stop?
      Walter Rohl? Seb Loeb?
      (Please don’t say Digger the NASCAR gopher or your credibility will be sorely tested.)

  5. S Hughes said on 14th March 2009, 23:04

    Keith, as a Lewis maniac, I read all Hamilton’s press and believe me, it has been far from positive whether he wins or not. Especially the ‘Daily Heil’ which publishes the most vicious stuff about him, lies and snipes mostly. Nothing will change – it will still be negative with added gloating and nastiness. I have already heard murmurings in forums about how the poor car is Lewis’s fault because “he can’t give back constructive data to his engineers” and “he can’t develop and set up a car and hasn’t bothered to do any testing”. I can’t remember any other driver who has ever been made responsible for poor cars over seasons whether it’s Rosberg at Williams or Sutil at Force India or Button at Honda, but when it is a Hamilton drive, he gets the blame. That will be the next thing the media picks up on, mark my words. Lewis’ fans will stick by him through thick or thin though. I am disgusted with his treatment in the media and in forums but we all know why he is picked on more than any other driver and I bet he does too though he’d never admit it as it would result in another heap of rubbish falling on him.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th March 2009, 9:26

      In terms of the “Hamilton doesn’t give good technical feedback” stuff, a couple of people I know whose F1 opinions I especially respect tell me the same thing. I don’t know if it’s true or not and I guess unless you’ve worked with him at McLaren you’re not going to know.

      But this year will give us a good chance to put that theory to the test. It’s going to be difficult for him/them though, with in-season testing banned.

    • S Hughes said on 15th March 2009, 10:12

      Would you be able to tell me who those people whose F1 opinions you respect are? I am not leaping to refute what you have said, but I think a lot of negative rubbish re. Lewis flies around the F1 forums and as you say, we really would only know the truth if you spoke to his engineers. So speculation is not only futile in this instance, but opinions not based on fact are damaging to Lewis’s reputation.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th March 2009, 14:43

      speculation is not only futile in this instance, but opinions not based on fact are damaging to Lewis’s reputation.

      Speculation is not ‘futile’ and Hamilton’s a big boy, I’m sure he can deal with it. I doubt he even cares, right now he’ll be much more worried about the state of his car.

  6. SLKManiac said on 14th March 2009, 23:29

    I should admit from the start that I’m not a Hamilton fan. I’m sure he is very good driver and has definitely had a great car up until now along with tremendous support which must have been a great help to him. But he hasn’t really needed to prove himself in a difficult car while getting bad press, such as Schumacher frequently had at various times throughout his career. Alonso too had a lot against him during 2007 and yet still managed to finish joint second, a fact that many people, especially Hamilton fans, seem to have forgotten. Occasionally when he hasn’t been in front Hamilton has done some really crazy things, so maybe a season where he has to battle against the machine will make him a more rounded driver and give him the extra experience I think he needs in order to be considered a truly great driver. Until then go Kimi and Fernando.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 15th March 2009, 9:35

      But he hasn’t really needed to prove himself in a difficult car

      True, but that’s not the only way a driver can prove himself. Hamilton scorched through the lower formulae, matched a double world champion in his debut season, and won the title in his second year.

      If we’re looking for ‘true greats’ on today’s grid then we also need to look at which of them have taken on strong team mates in equal equipment and won the title – and by that measure all of them are found wanting.

      Alonso too had a lot against him during 2007 and yet still managed to finish joint second, a fact that many people, especially Hamilton fans, seem to have forgotten.

      I don’t think it’s a case of ‘forgotten’ – it’s a case of which version of events you believe. I’ve never subscribed to the Alonso conspiracy theory nonsense.

  7. If Lewis is smart, he won’t bother reading the headlines anyway. It would be too easy to take the criticism to heart. Far better to ignore it.

    For me, I think Lewis is really in a win/win situation. If the car is good & challenges for the title then it’s a win. If the car is a dog & he proves he can wrestle with it (a la Alonso last year) then he can silence some of the doubters, and develop his car craft which is also a win.

    I look forward to the season either way. Just watched Brazil 08 again last night to get me in the mood for Melbourne – what a fantastic race !

    • And if the car is a dog and he struggles, the rabid tabloids will destroy everything he has built.
      From the Spanish point of view, a slow McLaren is undesirable, since it will spoil The Duel between Lewis and Fernando. It is true that watching HAM at the back would make a lot of Spaniards happy, but only for the first races. In the end, we all want to see a fair competition.

    • Gman said on 17th March 2009, 2:08

      Brazil 2008- one of the only races I bothered to tape record last season :) I’m also quite excited for the new season. Luckily for you Pink, I believe you are in a far better position in terms of time zones to watch the first three rounds without depriving yourself of a good chunk of sleep :(

  8. Motion said on 15th March 2009, 0:26

    Alonso crowned himself a true star last year by dragging Renault forward. We had seen it before in parts & potentials but he brought it all together in 08. That same mantle is an awfull lot of pressure for Hamilton (both in the way he conducts himself and seeking to get incremently better results by staying cool and creating a halo around the team like Rubens describes where they all win and lose together) . Hamilton has already been vulnerable to cracking under adversity and being a blamer, he has also not given many signs of being a great development driver.

  9. tEQUILLA sLAMMER said on 15th March 2009, 1:33

    over to you Keith! #:)

  10. Mig said on 15th March 2009, 1:42

    I thought Portuguese press was bias and, to put it in finer point, LAIRS – and their only goal is to sell their product – newspapers, magazines, TV ratings, websites ratings… but there’s also others that can ‘be bought’ for the right price to say what the ‘buyers’ want…

    So… My opinion about British pres is that it is (I wouldn’t think it was possible) WORST than the Portuguese – sports and politics and all.

    I only wish they can’t find anything to slam – that would mean McLaren is on top.

    We’ll see in a couple of weeks in Australia.

    Until then, who’s reading that ********? Desperate Housewives, probably :)

    • Phil said on 15th March 2009, 10:33

      This is Britain’s (not so) dirty little secret. We abhor success and award mediocrity and failure – just look at the myriad of people working in the public services in this country.

      When someone in the United Kingdom is successful it suddently becomes en vougue for us to criticise, snipe, pull down a peg or two and generally act like jealous litte children. Any part of their life is fair game, Hamilton moving to Switzerland? He becomes a nasty tax avoider (despite many british F1 and other sporting stars doing exactly the same thing).

      It makes me want to leave this petty little island for something nicer to be honest.

  11. ajokay said on 15th March 2009, 1:53

    I struggle to find anything about F1 in any newspaper, good or bad. You wade through 15 pages of football ‘news’, then theres maybe a page each for rugby and cricket, then the day’s horse racing, then it’s the small ads.

  12. Lynn said on 15th March 2009, 1:55

    To be honest, what ever the press want to throw at Lewis is up to them. All he has to do is to remain calm, cool and dignified and don’t react. It’s not his fault that the car might be slow and he might not be able to defend his title this year. He just has to do the best he can, for himself and the team.
    But hey, it’s not the end of the world, just a set back. It happens in life. Lewis is a winner everyone knows that, some don’t want to face that fact.
    But he will come back stronger and hungrier if he needs too, because as gloomy as it looks, no one can really predict what the outcome will be come November. It looks like it’s going to be a tough season for Lewis and the team, but it’s not over yet.

    • S Hughes said on 15th March 2009, 10:09

      Hear hear to that Lynn. Nice post, but I can’t help getting dismayed at the unjust negativity thrown Lewis’ way. He’s going to get a lot of that this year unfortunately.

  13. todd said on 15th March 2009, 2:42

    I’m with SLKManiac

    hamilton was helped throughout his whole career by mclaren, and when he entered f1 he entered with a team and a car that could win championships.

    he’s never had to prove himself, schumacher joined a losing team after a stint with a lower team (ferrari were not close to winning when he joined, took years and he helped them build that car)

    aside from that, there’s many other great drivers in f1 that given the right hardware will win championships, kovalinen is not one of them, but heinfeld, kubica, vettel and others are.

    lets not forget alonso here either, he’s not in a fast car and has been desperately looking for one, he’s hungry for more wins and championships while he’s young and he cant get them with that renault, but he’s arguably the fastest driver out there who’s the hungriest, he can still win races with that dog of a car.

    kimi is fast, but he just likes driving fast he doesn’t have the passion or hunger that alonso has, he just wants to go fast.

    hamilton hasn’t had to drive a back marker car yet or fight for track position that’s not in the points, i have far more respect for the drivers lower in the order who are fighting their way forward than hamilton and his silver spoon.

    if they aren’t competitive this year, i’ll be playing my tiny violin while i barrack for button, barichello, sutil and vettel.

    • Phil said on 15th March 2009, 10:37

      Why do you think McLaren chose to mentor him? Because he proved himself to them in the very junior ranks.

      If you don’t think he’s a fighter look at some of his blistering performances in GP2, fighting from the back at the Turkish race to come 2nd – no mean feat.

      Look also at Monza last year, bad quallifying, but then he spent the race fighting for places aggressivly (nothing wrong with that, apart from the delicate flowers that are the other F1 racers getting their knickers in a twist – look at some of the great duels in F1 and you’ll see Hamilton at Monza was pretty damn tame by comparison). He murdered his tyres hauling the car around the track. What did Massa do? Finished where he started.

  14. dmw said on 15th March 2009, 3:06

    Vapors again. Hamilton won’t be challenging Brawn GP?! If you have followed F1 for any amount of time, and if you believe that testing times doom some team or another to backmarker status, you are not paying attention. Some teams, say, Renault, are not even running 09-legal cars at all times in testing. McLaren and Ferrari will be at the front in plenty of time to contest the WCC this season. $=wins.

  15. tomobng said on 15th March 2009, 3:08

    In my view, perhaps this is the right time for lewis to show the public the talent of his own! kinda reminds me of what Schumacher did in 1992 with Benneton Ford, he manage to win Belgium GP or in 1996 with Ferrari (4 wins) even just like Alonso did last year (2 wins).
    For me every special driver has their own way to demonstrate how good they are even in a disadvantage situation. Imo a real WC in F1 have to be facing some situation like this (mid field running car), and yet always capable to draw some praise from the media.

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