Lewis Hamilton was particularly frustrated after the French Grand Prix and youd be very surprised if he wasnt. The McLaren driver produced a scrappy performance on a day when his main goal should have been damage limitation.
A qualifying penalty for his actions in Canada put Lewis behind the eight ball before the weekend had even begun, but he was unable to salvage a decent result.
A few people may have been concerned about Hamilton’s approach when he said on TV before the start that he was aiming to become a “legend” during the race. Passing Vettel through a chicane and driving into his teammate was presumably not what he had in mind.
Lewis had a solid start and made short work of Nick Heidfeld although his early efforts were ruined before the end of lap one.
In a move that echoed last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton arrived at the Nurburgring chicane with too much speed and scampered over the concrete runoff. This normally wouldn’t have been a problem, but Lewis unfairly overtook Sebastian Vettel by cutting the corner and copped a drive through penalty for doing so.
The FIA’s decision was harsh, but Lewis wouldn’t have cut the chicane or passed Vettel if he had been travelling at the right speed for the corner. I share Martin Brundle’s frustration at drivers who gain an advantage by using runoff areas so it is a shame that such penalties aren’t dispensed on a more consistent basis.
It was interesting that McLaren did not discuss Hamilton’s move with the FIA at the earliest opportunity because they could have addressed the issue before stewards made the decision for them.
The incident totally ruined Hamilton’s afternoon.
McLaren was never in contention for victory, but a podium was there for the taking. Ninth was clearly not the ‘legendry’ result that Lewis was aiming for.
Hamilton shares a lot of driving characteristics with Michael Schumacher. They both have the same ruthless approach behind the wheel, and match that with extreme confidence and unbelievable skill.
Perhaps another quality they also have in common is the inability to execute a solid ‘recovery’ drive.
In his later years, Michael Schumacher was often ragged and unconvincing when problems came up against him. If a gremlin in qualifying pushed him down the grid, Schumacher would almost certainly struggle in the race.
At the final Grand Prix of the 2003 season in Japan a wet qualifying session placed Schumacher 14th on the grid. Rather than storm through the field as expected, Michael crashed into Takuma Sato not long after the start and then had another incident with his brother towards the end.
Twelve months later at the 2004 Chinese Grand Prix, Schumacher had to start from the pitlane after spinning on his qualifying lap. Once the race got underway he spun again, crashed into Christian Klien, and picked up a puncture for good measure.
Only a few weeks after that disastrous Shanghai effort, Michael spun during the Brazilian Grand Prix where an engine change had forced him to start 18th.
These were not one-off performances.
On Schumacher’s second visit to China in 2005 he had to start from the pitlane again because he crashed into a Minardi on his way to the grid. Instead of calmly picking his way through the backmarkers, Michael spun out of the race whilst behind the Safety Car.
A qualifying penalty at Hungary in 2006 pushed Schumacher into 12th at the start. The wet Grand Prix gave Michael a great opportunity to make amends, but he collided with Giancarlo Fisichella early on, before later clashing with Pedro De La Rosa and Nick Heidfeld. The last of those skirmishes put him out of the race.
Michael Schumacher will rightly be remembered as one of the greatest drivers of all time, but as his career drew to a close his damage limitation was surely a weak point.
The same can be said of Lewis Hamilton.
Last year’s European Grand Prix was the first time that Hamilton had experienced any problems during a qualifying session. A wheel failure pushed him into the wall and he was forced to start tenth. Although Lewis made a great start, he got involved with the BMW’s and collected a puncture on the first lap. He later spun into the gravel when the rain fell and was lucky to restart the red flagged race, albeit two laps down.
This year in Bahrain Hamilton’s McLaren had a technical glitch at the start. As the 23 year old began making progress through the field he drove clean into the back of Fernando Alonso.
After that embarrassing mistake Lewis was critical of himself and said “As a professional if you start off bad you need to sort of pick the pieces up and still deliver at least some points.” He seemed to have forgotten those wise words this weekend.
Some clear thinking might do Hamilton some good right now.
James Allen suggested during the race that Lewis has a bit of an attitude at the moment, and his reluctance to accept blame after the Canadian Grand Prix accident is strong evidence. Hamilton has been similarly defensive about his driving at Magny Cours, so hopefully he can screw his head back on and start winning races again before too long.
The mistakes by Hamilton and Schumacher are easily explained. If you start further down the grid, you have to push harder to make up ground, and you’re more likely to have an accident. It makes sense but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
Perhaps Lewis Hamilton can learn a lesson from Kimi Raikkonen.
In 2005 Kimi had all manner of problems in qualifying but bounced back on every single occasion.
His unreliable McLaren resulted in engine-change penalties at the French, British and Italian Grands Prix. He also had to start the Australian Grand Prix from the pitlane due to a technical glitch, and lined up at Suzuka in 17th because of rain on his qualifying lap.
Amazingly, Raikkonen scored four podiums (including a win!) from those six races. He finished the other two in the points.
That is a brilliant effort.
Admittedly the 2005 McLaren was an awesome machine much unlike anything at Hamilton’s disposal today but Raikkonen made up for his problems by using his head. He didn’t try to win races on the first lap and he didn’t make any silly errors. Kimi simply drove as quickly as he could and pulled out the quick laps when they mattered most.
He is the modern master of damage limitation.
We saw that in a different form during yesterday’s Grand Prix. Raikkonen’s laptimes gradually improved after the exhaust issue initially took him out of contention, suggesting that he worked out a way to drive around the problem. For example, he might have tried braking earlier and carrying more momentum into a corner to compensate for the lack of power at low speed. That is a very commendable skill, and it made a big difference because a lesser driver might have come under pressure from Jarno Trulli in the dying stages.
Those sorts of things can decide world championships and Lewis Hamilton is best advised to remember that.
Instead of letting his mouth outshine his results, Lewis should focus on his driving and think about ways of improving it. If he can, he’ll be unbeatable.
Lewis Hamilton is one of the best drivers out there but he could still learn a few lessons from Kimi Raikkonen.