Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Ego of an F1 Driver

Well, let nobody say F1 isn't interesting. Today's Monaco Grand Prix proved that even without constant overtaking you can still have a thrilling race.

So far this year we haven't seen a single safety car - there haven't really been that many incidents. Monaco changed all that today, with several safety car incidents and the first red-flagged race of the year. The race was red-flagged after a big collision between Hamilton, Alguersuari and Petrov following Sutil losing a tyre (not that this hindered Sutil too much - the red flag meant that he could simply get his car repaired on the grid). The collision was tense for a few minutes as the medical crew turned up apparently without warning. It transpired that Vitaly Petrov was stuck in his car complaining of his legs hurting. He was taken to the medical centre where luckily he was found to be uninjured. The red flag ultimately helped Sebastian Vettel to his fifth win of six races. Before the red flag, Seb was apparently struggling on his 60-something old soft tyres and was being quickly caught by Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Luckily, the red flag allowed him to switch to the supersofts and he won the race in the final five laps.

Now, what I wanted to talk about was Lewis Hamilton's race. After the race the lovely people from the BBC interviewed Lewis in what proved to be quite an interesting chat. Listen to it first, then read my opinions.

Lewis seems to be very unhappy lately - criticising the team and race officials each time something goes wrong. I hate it when drivers do this. Come to that, I hate it when teams do this too. We saw it a lot when Red Bull were exceptionally fast - McLaren, Ferrari and friends would complain that something was illegal on the car or that they were hiding something. Nobody was prepared to admit that Red Bull simply had the better car, even when the FIA found the car legal (legal even after ramped-up tests might I add). I honestly think that the teams should focus on their performance, rather than questioning the legality of the other cars.

So, back to Lewis. In the interview, Hamilton argued that it's always him getting the penalties - "I was blocked by Massa, I got the penalty". Now, this is maybe bending the truth a little - Lewis got the penalty because he cut a chicane, not anything to do with Massa. Because Lewis cut the chicane, he would have gained an unfair advantage. Therefore, is it really unfair to give him a penalty? Hardly seems personal, Lewis. During the race, Lewis crashed into Maldonado and Massa - crashes which led to both retiring. The crash with Massa has divided opinion somewhat - was it a case of Lewis pushing his luck and hoping that Massa would simply move over or was it that Massa turned in too early? Personally, I think Lewis was pushing it just a little too much. Regardless of my view, there could be another element to Lewis's drive through penalty. Di Resta was involved in a similar incident earlier on and also got a drive through penalty, so if Lewis didn't receive the same penalty then presumably we would all have accused the stewards of inconsistency. Also, it's not necessarily a case of not being able to overtake at Lowes - or being given the threat of a penalty for overtaking there either - we saw Schumacher overtake Rosberg at the same corner without incident. Whether that was just because Nico moved out of the way or whether Michael was showing his old skill is another matter, however it goes to show that overtaking is possible if you have enough luck and skill - Lewis is simply down on his luck at the moment and that's been leading to visits to the stewards.

Lewis's complaining about the stewards took a perhaps sinister turn when he stated that 'Maybe it's because I'm black'. Ok, now it's good that Lewis is being honest. He's clearly showing he's not happy, and not spouting off loads of PR stuff. However, it's not right to bring his race and colour into the sport. F1 is global - we have a range of nationalities from English to Venezuelan, German to Japanese. So, I hardly think that the stewards would discriminate against a driver because of his colour. The media so far have been kind to Lewis - it seems that it's only the F1 and motorsport media that have picked up on his comments, thankfully. Lewis has also since apologised to the stewards, which McLaren believe they have accepted.

While I can't criticise Lewis for speaking his mind, I am getting fed up of drivers complaining when things don't go their way. If you have a bad race then put your hands up and admit it. Various other drivers are perfectly fine with saying when something is their fault, and I respect them all the more for it - Sebastian Vettel is always quick to raise his hands and say "it was my mistake", as is Michael Schumacher. Similarly, I respect teams more when they look at their own performance, rather than saying that another team is illegal in some way. I think things will get better for Lewis, and his comments were obviously heat-of-the-moment, however all the while he keeps blaming the team or the officials for poor performances he will get stuck in this rut. Don't forget that Lewis is still second in the championship and it's a hell of a long season, so maybe things aren't as bad as he thinks they are.