Time for Lewis Hamilton to take responsibility for his own actions on and off the track

Apr. 04, 2010 - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - F1 GP of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur 02.- 04. April 2010..Lewis Hamilton (GBR), McLaren F1 Team.

Australian 2010 was tough on Lewis Hamilton, very much like it was hard on him in 2009.  In both cases off track shenanigans effected the 2008 World Champion in a negative way that put the Briton in the world spotlight for the all the wrong reasons.  Despite both these transgressions in 2009 and 2010, Hamilton’s speed and ability in an F1 car was enhanced by great drives on race day.

On the Friday evening after practice for this years Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton was caught by Melbourne Police being reckless at the wheel of his hire car, with reports suggesting Hamilton was wheel spinning at a busy intersection and had his car impounded as a result. The bottom line here is that even considering his age, it was stupid and dangerous behaviour and whatever the law is in Australia, Hamilton deserves whatever comes his way in terms of punishment from them.  He was and will be vilified by the worlds press and has yet again brought negative pressure upon his team. But before we get too carried away, a sense of perspective is needed here.  A flick across the news channels on Friday and you would think that Lewis Hamilton had carried out similar acts as Tiger Woods considering the reaction and coverage this got.  In fact it is not even in the same universe as Tiger Wood infidelity issues.  It was such a minor transgression that, it boarded on the embarrassing and trivial.

Let’s pick another point of reference.  Ross Brawn, the then team leader of the 2009 World Champions Brawn GP was caught speeding at 100 MPH on roads in the UK.  Did he receive such widespread condemnation? Was it global news? Did people think that Ross’s performance was lowered due to his knuckles being wrapped – No. So why do we think it would to Hamilton?

One reason why I feel Lewis is negativity perceived in the press is because the Mclaren team have orchestrated the image of Lewis being innocent all the time.  In effect, those managing Lewis in Mclaren and his personal image are always keep to portray the bullet proof reputation and squeaky clean “Hamilton Brand” What this means is that there is always someone publically to take the heat or be the fall guy of situations Lewis finds himself in.

Recently Lewis had separated from his father Anthony Hamilton as his Manager, and was currently without a full time advisor going in the 2010 season and in Melbourne on Friday, Lewis fell foul of this and had his fingers burnt. Many people were quick  to reference the fact his Dad was missing to manage everything for Lewis as the reason he was caught out.  But Lewis is 25 now and it is time he was left to make up his own mind and build his own boundaries of what is right or wrong, he perhaps needs to learn that there isn’t always going to be someone else there to help him make up his mind. This principle also extends to the race track.  

In Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, Lewis drove a stunningly aggressive race, to storm up from 11th on the grid to be battling with the front runners and to be contending the win.  His driving skill was supreme, his braverly was daring and must have had fans across the world in awe of his ability in those difficult wet-dry conditions. However a day after the race, we are not talking about a Hamilton win. We know Jenson Button won, in fact the press are talking about how Mclaren lost Hamilton the race through poor management of the situation.

The majority of Hamilton’s frustration towards his team comes not just because he drove a brilliant race, “The best race of my life” was how he so calmly put it, but because he was out thought by his team mate Jenson Button.  But he wasn’t really out thought by Button, because we know Hamilton is reliant upon the Mclaren team to make all his in race decisions for him. What Hamilton is really angry is about is that he didn’t seem to know that drivers can think for themselves in the race. His beliefs are that the race team tell him what to do all the time.  I certainly don’t know if Lewis questioned the logic to pit a second time, but he seemed to follow the orders instinctively.  Ok, alright, it shows he has up most faith in his teams ability to call race strategy, but previously this was a 2 dimensional landscape. It concerned Hamilton and the rest of his rivals, none of which were his team mates.  

This time he has a team mate that is a thinking man’s driver, and one that has the ability to act on the spot on information based on his own experience and feelings to make race strategy calls.  All this outside of the eyes of the Mclaren pit wall and the egg heads at “race control” in Woking.  Meaning, if Hamilton goes with the team, there is a good chance that his team mate might get the better of Hamilton and the Mclaren strategist. To Hamilton, his first thought on Sunday would have been that his team purposely did him out of a win. I am sure he would have questioned if he was started to be treated like he was in the first couple of races of his career at Mclaren when Alonso had a grip on the team.  Remember Monaco 2007.  However it was Button alone that out thought them all. Credit where credit is due,  Button drove superbly and his decision won him that race, and Hamilton needs to now grow and step out of the teams shadow and start to drive using his own mind.  Because without it, Hamilton will find these situations crop up again, and it will be a shame for him to lose race wins and possibly championships if he doesn’t develop this ability to question or call his own decisions. This is why I think both of these on and off track events are linked.  

Jenson seems to be mature enough to think for himself, on the track and away from the track.  Gone are Jenson’s play-boy days, and he had to work hard at changing this perception,but I think Button deserves credit for the way he is now off the track to go hand in hand with the plaudits he receives for his on track driving.  Can Button manage himself better than Hamilton can? On impression from Australian, I feel that Jenson holds the better hand here, and perhaps he should, being older and more mature that Hamilton. I have no doubts that Hamilton can get to where he needs to be – In total control of his own actions, on and off the track. Just how quickly he can step up to this only time can tell, but the structure around him needs to change and that means giving the lad freedom to decide his own destiny.

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