27 Jun – I Guess Hamilton Did Not Get The Memo

IT’S GONNA END IN TEARS

European Grand Prix 2012: Lewis Hamilton fury after he is run off the road in Valencia as Fernando Alonso wins“. This is the headline that appeared in the Telegraph, a London newspaper, the day after the last race.

OK, where to begin? Well stating the obvious it was a crash that did not need to take place. I am going to state for the record that I feel both Maldonado and Hamilton are equally to blame. I have read as much as I can on James Allen’s blog, the BBC website, at least ten other news sources and all of my favorite racing blogs in regards to who did what and who is to blame and how the penalties are not consistent, blah, blah, blah, blah. There seems to be a greater negative opinion against Maldonado than Hamilton, despite the fact that David Hobbs, a SPEED TV commentator and former race car driver, laid blame clearly at the feet of Lewis. However, he is in the minority.

Here is a poll that appeared in the aforementioned daily from which I grabbed the headline.
Was Pastor Maldonado to blame for Lewis Hamilton’s retirement?
Yes 77.87%  (8,423 votes)
No  22.13%  (2,394 votes)
You can read the article and see the poll results at this link. (Editor’s note: The Telegraph is a British newspaper and Hamilton is British so you could see how that was going to go down.)

I can see the justification for blaming Maldonado, as even the race stewards did in the end, but in my opinion, I just don’t think it’s right that you can point your car at such an angle when the approaching car is past your rear wheel or at the middle of your side pod and drive them off the track. I didn’t like it when Kubica did it to Alonso in the British GP a few years ago, I didn’t like it when Kimi did it to Hamilton back in 2008 in the Belgian GP, I never liked it when Michael did it to Rubens, or to Kimi, or the countless other drivers, but of course Michael is Michael and he doesn’t really like to follow the rules anyway. So suffice to say that as usual the F1 community is divided if not evenly, at the very least in such a way that everyone has an opinion they feel is more right than the next. I am no different. 😉

That is not however the point I am going to bore you with today. Instead I am going to flatly lay blame on Hamilton for something else — for not finishing the race and therefore missing out on collecting valuable championship points. Now you might say why am I going to hate on Lewis for this and not Pastor and the simple reason is because I expect so much more from Lewis. He is a world champion, drives for a world class motor racing organization (not that Williams isn’t) and quite frankly, after Hamilton’s dismal performance of last year, I thought he would have matured as a person and racer.

I just can’t for all the podium champagne in the world figure out what was going through his mind with tires that were completely worn out, one lap to go and a DRS that was still in operation in the race. Did he really believe he would keep the position? It is one thing to fight for the position when your car is still able to deliver what you ask of it. But in this circumstance it clearly was not and no one knew that better that Lewis. If there was ever an appropriate use of the phrase “Retreat is the better part of valor”, this is it. This does not even take into account that Pastor drives very aggressively and that Hamilton and Maldonado already have a bit of history between them, and I don’t mean that they go and get a beer together on occasion. I’m pretty sure they don’t consider each other buds (mates if you’re British).

Hamilton has been down this road many times, but the one that sticks in my mind the most is when he and Webber came together in Singapore in 2010, preventing Lewis from finishing the race. Before the race, he was still in the mix for the championship, but after scoring zero points for that race, he all but took himself out of the championship. And if I remember it correctly, his reaction was very similar, to disconnect the steering wheel, and throw it out of the cockpit vehemently. Assumably indicating that he is completely surprised at the outcome. To be fair, Lewis was on the attack in that race and his car was not suffering from tires that were going off, but the result was exactly the same. Could Lewis have approached that pass in a different way? And likewise, in the last race, could Lewis have driven differently to ensure Maldonado did not take him out?

As I mentioned, I’ve read as much as an American can about this recent incident, in fact for the last few days it has teetered on the edge of obsession (which makes me the crazy one, that is just how it is sometimes if you are an F1 junkie) and this is the one quote from Lewis that I think really gets to the heart of it. As reported in Autosport.com, when asked if he would have been able to hold off Maldonado to the end of the race if the collision hadn’t happened, Hamilton replied: “No, my tyres were gone so I don’t know where I would have finished.”

The author goes on to write that Hamilton also dismissed the notion that he could have relinquished the position more easily. “You never let people past, you’ve got to race for every position you can get.”

Here is where I see that he is really missing the point, like a young child that can only think about the present moment and not the long-term goal. For all of Hamilton’s incredible racing talent, raw speed, and ability at pulling off spectacular passing moves, he is currently missing one very elusive element: intelligence. It is something that you can’t teach, it is similar to an ingredient that goes into a crucible and is mixed with the pestle to create a magic potion. I have seen it before in Hamilton’s driving in the early part of his career. I can’t remember the race but it involved Massa and it was the best example of setting a driver up for a pass that I have ever seen. I also witnessed it in his finest moment on the last lap of the Brazilian GP in 2008 when it would have been easy to panic and overdrive his car, but instead he calmly reclaimed fifth position (and no more) which was just what he needed to be world champion that year. So I know for a fact that it is there.

Here is another quote, also from Autosport.com. Hamilton said that while losing a podium in those circumstances in Valencia was disappointing, it did not leave him feeling he should do anything different. “It doesn’t really alter the way I go racing because I race to win, and that’s what I’ll be doing, especially at my home grand prix.”

Seems to me that the last couple of seasons Hamilton’s way of racing has not yielded the results that it should have. At best he has the occasional amazing race, say Canada of this year or Abu Dhabi, last year. Then there are a whole series of OK, mediocre and just plain bad races in-between. Of course there are many reasons for this, but Lewis needs to understand that it is not always the mechanics, or the engineers, or the other drivers that are at fault. And when he starts to realize this, really and truly understand this, then I think we will see that intelligence again.

Lewis is now 23 points behind Alonso who is leading the championship (for now), so lets see how the year develops, how Lewis copes with it, and if he, as is mentioned in yet another interview, ‘stays out of trouble.’

So, memo to Hamilton: “The championship race lasts ALL season. Any points in a race are way better than no points.” The memo is still posted to the bulletin board in the commissary. It will be up all season; it was also up last season. I am pretty sure it will be up next season as well … jp out.

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