McLaren boss defends under fire Hamilton
26 September, 2011
Sep.26 (Reuters) McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh threw the equivalent of a fatherly arm around his under-fire driver Lewis Hamilton after Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix stoked further criticism of the Briton’s aggressive driving style.
Hamilton drove superbly at times to finish the punishing floodlit street circuit in fifth position, but again his performance was overshadowed by an incident with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
The Brazilian, who has clashed previously with the 2008 Formula One champion this season, said Hamilton had destroyed his race.
The McLaren clipped Massa’s Ferrari while attempting to pass early in the race and Hamilton collected a drive-through penalty for causing the collision.
An enraged Massa clearly felt the penalty had not fit the crime and railed against the Briton, saying the sport’s governing body needed to step in because Hamilton drove dangerously and did not think about consequences on the track.
While Hamilton refused to be drawn into a war of words and retreated to his team’s motorhome, Whitmarsh came to his defence.
“The truth is there are plenty of people who have spoken to me already who have a different view,” Whitmarsh said of the manoeuvre.
“I think you have to take some risk in overtaking. And he (Hamilton) is a driver who wants to overtake in a hurry. Now, after the event he’ll regret that and wish he’d backed out of it and waited for another three corners or whatever.
“The fact is, it happened. It was right or wrong. After that he drove an immaculate race and he shouldn’t have had to have the penalty or his front wing knocked off.
“He shouldn’t have lost places at the start. In sport and life things go well and go badly for you, I think it went badly.”
Hamilton, who has repeatedly had to defend his aggressive style while also making regular trips to the stewards, and Massa have been at odds since the Monaco Grand Prix in May.
The two collided in that race, with Massa retiring.
The Brazilian, who lost out to Hamilton by a single point in the 2008 championship, called on the FIA after that race to teach the Briton a lesson “or he will not learn”.
Whitmarsh, though, stressed that what appears to be a simmering feud, was nothing personal.
“They have been friends, they’ve been enemies. You know what it’s like amongst drivers,” he said, adding that his man had the team’s full support.
“Lewis is having plenty of love from the team. I have known him since he was 11 and I have seen him go through great moments of elation and of achievement and in areas of disappointment.
“Naturally there is a big affinity between him and myself and various other members in this team.
“Undeniably this year has not been a good one for Lewis Hamilton, he’s still got five races and he will regroup and try to win them.”
The drivers’ championship is all-but won by Singapore race winner Sebastian Vettel on 309 points. Hamilton sits in fifth with 168, behind second-placed McLaren team mate Jenson Button (185), Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso (184) and Red Bull’s Mark Webber (182).
“We’ll have conversations within the team, we’ll have conversations with Lewis,” Whitmarsh said. “But those we will have in private.
“The fact is, he is an extraordinary racing driver and he will win again this year, of that I am sure, and he is going to be world champion again. I’m confident of that.”