A year ago Lewis Hamilton went into the French GP on top of the world. He had qualified on pole and completely dominated both of the previous races, taking consecutive wins in Canada and the USA, the former being his maiden win in only his sixth GP. Also, he thoroughly out-raced and out-psyched his illustrious team-mate, double World Champion Fernando Alonso. The British Media was in complete melt-down over him.
This year could not have been more different. He went to France faced with a ten place penalty in qualifying for making that strange mistake in Canada and was upset by the media's treatment of the incident, them having seemingly forgotten his superb, if somewhat lucky performance in Monte Carlo. I commented on his strange post-race utterings and later he said that the pressure was beginning to get to him.
Sir Jackie Stewart's "Well in my day" may be a bit tedious at times but there's no doubt he does know what he's talking about and on the RBS website he reminds us of Hamilton's lack of experience and urges him to be patient. We tend to forget that 40 odd years ago Jackie Stewart was a similar phenomenon to Hamilton today. He had progressed meteorically through the lower formulae and joined the B.R.M. Formula 1 team in 1965 when they were one of the top three teams, with ex-World Champion Graham Hill as his team leader.
He won his first GP that first year at Monza but in November, B.R.M. Team Manager Tony Rudd reported a conversation with him to team owner Sir Alfred Owen "Stewart does not wish to be the person who pushes Graham Hill either out of the team or into the background: on the other hand, he feels that by 1967 he will have the driving ability to lead a team"(*). Stewart giving himself two full years before he felt he would be able to lead a team. Of course, he went on to win three World Championships, then after retiring as a driver to run the family racing team with huge success - ultimately reaching F1 and winning a GP and throughout had an unrivalled reputation as a nurturer of drivers.
Last year of course, Lewis was in a World Champion's team - this year
he isn't and his team mate is equally inexperienced. There's no one capable
of giving the team direction and it shows. Of course Stewart did not have
to deal with the immense media pressure that Hamilton does and he felt
that they had treated his Canadian mishap unfairly, but he is everywhere
you look and the "build 'em up one day, knock 'em down the next"
is a well known media tactic for celebrities. Attending Nelson Mandela's
birthday party complete with your Pussycat Doll girlfriend and allegedly
wearing make-up is hardly indicative of a desire to shun publicity, live
the quiet life and think about understeer in turn two. A number of apposite
proverbs come to mind involving sowing and reaping, cake and eating, let
alone the Devil and a long spoon....
Hamilton and McLaren's nightmares continued in France. He qualified third,
but started 13th due to the penalty imposed in Canada. In the race, he
swiftly disposed of Vettel, but had to miss the next corner. He was judged
to have gained a place by this and received a drive through penalty. Neither
he nor Big Ron were amused. However it is clear that although he was past
Vettel, there was no way he would have made the corner, not for the least
of which reasons was that there was another car there. A drive-through
penalty was imposed by the Stewards, this being the least severe penalty
open to them. Before he served it he managed to hit his team mate and
afterwards continued to drive in the same ragged style to finish 10th.
Nil points for the second race in succession.
On now to Silverstone. With only ten points separating the top four drivers
it's got to be time for team orders soon, especially at Ferrari as they
are the only team with two drivers in the hunt.
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