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

  1. NickO said on 15th March 2009, 3:19

    All the above further reinforces notion that F! is defined by the idiosyncrasies and uniqueness of different teams’ chassis and approach to design.

    The calls for standard engine and advocacy for a common chassis would have yielded none of this kind of pre-season excitement.

    Things were becoming anodyne and predicable enough, but now we be have a genuine dice between the manufacturers and the potential of some faces at the front of the grid.

  2. Eduardo Colombi said on 15th March 2009, 3:45

    Sure Hamilton is as good driver, but I think that’s it, just another good driver. He takes risks when he doesn’t need to. We don’t see drivers that can drive just with 2 or 3 gears to finish a race as it was in 80′s and 90′s.

    The cars are so advanced now with the Traction Control and other improves that can correct some errors of the drivers.

    Alonso is my hope of watch overtakes like the one that Piquet did agains Senna in Hungary 86′ ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeemlgJkjUs )

    • Phil said on 15th March 2009, 10:39

      Traction control was banned in 2008, which is why Massa spun out so much, especially in the early races.

  3. theRoswellite said on 15th March 2009, 4:07

    If the press chooses to degrade Mr. Hamilton’s skills because he is unable to overcome an uncompetitive car, they only reflect poorly on their own lack of journalistic sophistication when it comes to F1. Anyone who understands the sport will understand this, and the opinion of anyone who doesn’t understand the sport isn’t worth serious consideration.

    • S Hughes said on 15th March 2009, 10:18

      True, but these reports only feed the already enormous Hamilton-hater bandwagon, and they’ll have media quotes to help them.

  4. F1Yankee said on 15th March 2009, 5:20

    hahaha, the season doesn’t start for 2 weeks and they’ve already turned. easy come, easy go.

    hear that whistle? it’s the train to Jensontown. now boarding, have your tickets ready!

    • Gman said on 17th March 2009, 2:11

      Very nice- do you think everyone will be digging out the old black and red Honda gear if Brawn GP really turns out on top in the first few races? ;)

  5. Eh, I think the press is still pretty fawning so far, from what I’ve read.

    If Hamilton has a bad car, he will get sympathy.

    If Heikki outperforms him, the press will be merciless.

  6. Hello

    I think that lewis and heiki are a little bit slow maybe not becasue mclaren is slow but maybe they dont know how to setup it. From 2007 to 2008 there were not so much changes in setup of the car department because rules didnt change so much but from these year and those massiv changes i think that this is the problem. Maybe yes they lerned from alonso but now balance susspension front downforce back and returning of the slicks changed everything. I really dont think that mclaren is so slow on there own. Please give pedro de la rosa a test drive and watch how he changes mclaren 2009 into a faster car

  7. Chaz said on 15th March 2009, 6:42

    In fairness I wouldn’t say Lewis’s press journey has been a bed of roses to date. I seem to recall that when he lost the title in his first year the British press were not very supportive objective and indeed pleasant.

    And frankly I expect the same again as now they have a hook to hang their nastiness off, that being the McLaren is not a great car for him to defend his title. All I can say is hold on to your hats folks and prepare for the poison pens to start gushing spurious vitriol as the red tops so love doing.

    As ever I apologise for the cynicism and will be happy to be proved wrong…

    • S Hughes said on 15th March 2009, 10:21

      No, you’re right. Add to this a “middle England” “true British” Jenson to support instead, and it will be Hamilton-hate coupled with Jenson-love all the way. Note the euphemisms as I am sure the way I’d like to post wouldn’t be allowed.

  8. Martin Bell said on 15th March 2009, 7:30

    What irks people about Hamilton has been described as his sense of “entitlement”, which translates into the press/public feeling that he somehow hasn’t paid his dues. This is of course nonsense, but perhaps a season in an average car may dispel this perception. There will always be people who say, for instance, that Damon Hill only won in 96 by having the best car. Formula 1, like most things in life is about making the most of an oppurtunity, and Lewis has done this. To win in the best car still requires you to drive like a champion and beat your team mate. It is unfortunate for Lewis that even Bernie Ecclestone seems to have suggested that he didn’t deserve to win last season, that we need to change the rules to reward race wins rather than give it to a driver who drives a scrappy race to finish fifth. They repeatedly changed the rules to try to stop Schumacher from winning, and he kept on winning, so whilst I was no Schumacher fan, his talent and skill are beyond question. His entitlement was deserved. What we will remember are his extraodinary drives in underperforming cars, the strategic masterpieces, the sense that you could never count him out. I’m no Hamilton fan either, but perhaps this season I could start to believe the hype, start to enjoy watching him simply because he is so good. Perhaps. However technical F1 becomes it is still the human elements that fascinate us all so. Oh dear, I seem to have rambled on a bit.

  9. Chalky said on 15th March 2009, 9:01

    McLaren quick or slow, I can’t wait. Either we have the McLarens challenging Ferrari \ BMW and maybe even Brawn or we get to see what Hamilton does mid pack.

    I don’t think a slow car and the press will upset Hamilton. If he starts to DNF too much due to overdriving a slow car, then maybe he’ll flip out with frustration. Who knows? All fun for us anyway.

  10. Owen said on 15th March 2009, 9:27

    @Martin Bell
    Feel free to ramble on some more. A voice of reason among so many anti-Hamilton “silver spoon” comments that will no doubt spring up on every Hamilton related article this season.

    To say he hasn’t paid his dues when he’s had immense pressure to produce the goods in every season since he signed his first McLaren contract. He then matched his double world champion team mate in his first F1 season and delivered the world title in his second. I think even the most bitter Hamilton-hater would have to concede he has some ability. Anyway, I digress.

    I refuse to follow the links to the red tops, they aren’t even journalists who write for those comics. The British press is a joke most of the time, treating everything as a pantomime. Hamilton will be praised beyond reason one minute then crucified the next. Most of the time for reasons utterly made up.

    I probably consider myself a Hamilton fan mainly because I’m British and will always want the Brits to do well, but it’d be very interesting to see the McLarens (and the Ferraris for that matter) amongst the field. It would make for a great season if there were several teams capable of winning.

    Roll on March 29th!

  11. Smitty said on 15th March 2009, 10:08

    Sorry for sounding so harsh, but if Hamilton didn’t do too well this season and had to crawl around the midfield like many many others have had to…that would be so deliciously tragic. :-)

    Roll on Melbourne!

  12. Samuel said on 15th March 2009, 10:20

    I wonder what will happen if Button is a champion contender while Hamilton struggles to get points. Button used to be british press’ golden boy but almost completely disappeared from headlines when Hamilton irrupted on F1. Will all that journalists suddenly remember they were long time Button’s fans? Will Hamilton be ostracized as Button was?

    • S Hughes said on 15th March 2009, 10:25

      Er yes, not just ostracised but ridiculed and hated and lied about and berated too! You know, just the usual British press stuff.

  13. Martin Bell said on 15th March 2009, 10:48

    @owen, Just for the record, I didn’t say the Lewis hadn’t paid his dues, but that there is a perception amongst some people that he hadn’t. From the outside, we can only wonder at the kind of pressure he must have been under to perform from day one, a kind of intense scrutiny that none of us will ever by subjected to. The point I was trying to make is that public perception does matter, because it comes to define how you are remembered, how your place in history is accorded. It would do Lewis no harm to be perceived to be working a bit harder this season, fighting an underperforming car, developing it’s competitiveness. This goes to the heart of a peculiar part of the British character, we love a winner, but only if they have struggled and overcome, and if they are not too succesful. We look for, and cherish, a fatal flaw, a kind of James Bond-esque weakness for a pretty girl. I think we would have really struggled to love Schumacher. Lewis, to some, appears to have it all, without the endearing weakness. Even though it would appear to be technically possible to drive a Formula one car by remote control, it is the human element that keeps us on our sofas (and computers). I have been a Formula 1 nut since 1976, and seen British world champions come and go. Think Hunt, Mansell, Damon Hill, all brilliant but flawed in a perfectly British way. All Lewis seems to have are slightly irritating sideburns. Well, you did ask me to ramble.

    • Owen said on 15th March 2009, 18:31

      Sorry for the confusion Martin, I wasn’t referring to you saying that he hadn’t paid his dues!

      I’ve often wondered the same about Schumacher. I doubt whether he would have been accepted as the ruthless winner he was. He would have been too successful for Brits to accept.

      So maybe Hamilton needs a couple of seasons of hardship to win the hearts of the British sporting fans?

  14. James said on 15th March 2009, 11:09

    I will be supporting Hamilton in the midfield this year. I’m sure that he will battle just as hard as ever and will get some good finishes in an inferior car.

    And then I will sigh with dismay when the British Press slaughter him for only finishing seventh whilst reading rumours that he has cracked up/has had a falling out with Dennis/Whitmarsh/his dad/doesn’t care anymore/doesn’t know how to set up his car/has let his relationship with that pussycat doll go to his head.

    But I think it might be good for him, as he will be in the unique position of having to prove himself in a slow car AFTER he has won the WDC.

  15. The British press were pretty merciless in 2001 when Jenson Button’s form slumped after switching from Williams to Benetton. If Lewis can’t deliver the goods in 2009 then there’s good reason to suspect the same would happen again. The British media tend to work on the “build ‘em up, knock ‘em down” principle.

    From my perspective, however, it would be interesting to see how Lewis responds to being given a car that isn’t anywhere near the front of the field. I’m not willing him to fail or succeed, but as someone who follows F1 without ever having supported any particular driver or team it would add an extra element to the season.

    The talents of Senna, Schumacher, etc shone at their very brightest in cars that were not the best.

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