Lewis: Expressions of angst, or ‘seeing the light’?

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Lewis the angry

Has Lewis morphed once more? During the 2011 season Hamilton appeared to be an individual consumed by rage and petulance. The starkest of a number incidents that year was when he appeared to lose control of his emotions and common sense during the Monaco GP.

After dominating the first two qualifying sessions on the Saturday, Lewis fastest time Q3 was chalked off because he cut through the chicane. To add to his misery, he was twice penalized during the race following incidents with Massa and Maldonado in which Hamilton tried highly risky overtaking moves that led to inevitable collisions.

After the chequered flag an angry Hamilton blurted “Out of six races, I’ve been to the stewards five times. It’s a joke. It’s an absolute frickin’ joke. It’s just ridiculous. These drivers are absolutely frickin’ ridiculous. Just stupid.” Then he uttered the infamous phrase that dominated Lewis’ year, “Maybe it’s because I’m black” – an ill advised reference to a catchphrase from Ali G.

Martin Whitmarsh had to mop up behind Lewis and speaking to the media he informed us, “Immediately after the race he was very down, and during a post-race TV interview he made a poor joke about his penalties that referenced Ali G. However, I’m pleased to say that he chose to return to the track a little while later to speak to the stewards about the joke. They accepted his explanation.”

Later, a calmer Hamilton apologised and explained his return to the stewards, “It was a bit of a joke, which wasn’t funny at the time. I made them aware that when emotions are high, and it’s very intense at the end of those kind of races, you don’t always say the right thing, and the joke [the reference to his colour] didn’t come at the most appropriate time.”

The remainder of 2011 saw Lewis have a number of ‘run ins’, the most memorable being with with Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado. However there were signs Lewis was developing a new outlook on life for 2012.

An awakening

I commented on a fan’s forum early last season that maybe Lewis had imbibed some happy juice – jesting maybe Ron Dennis had fitted some Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 5’s to his MP4-27 and was looping the Madness hit, “I like driving in my car” over and over again.

It appeared the turning point arrived before the penultimate race of 2011 in Abu Dhabi when Lewis bared his soul to the press. “For me, there’s not a lot of people that really understand the issues that I’ve had this year and the problems that I’ve been going through, which I’ve been going through for the last two years.

untitledIt’s very difficult…I just can’t comment on them because it’s not really the place or time to do so.

But Jenson’s done a great job to get things in the right place. He’s got his dad there, who is there at every single race. He’s got his management there; he’s got his friends; he’s got his girlfriend there all the time. He’s in a really, really happy [place]…he’s got a great bubble around him which he’s very happy with and, with that, he’s able to just go out and perform without any worries on his mind.

I did have that at one point, but I lost that bubble and I don’t have that around me at the moment. But I’m working on having that for the future, as I think the conscious and subconscious part of your mind is very important in this business.

It is a priority for me to create that atmosphere around myself, because it’s a happy bubble where you are happy with your friends and family and the people you love most. It’s just a big positive bubble. Every time I arrive (at a race) I feel positive, but at some races I’m less positive, and less happy. So that’s something I’m definitely going to try and correct before next season starts.”

What makes Lewis tick?

Martin Whitmarsh had previously suggested his impressions of Hamilton were that he was too hard on himself and Lewis concurred. “That’s the way I do it. I’ve not really got much to be happy about this year to be honest. I’ve had a couple of half decent races and then the rest have been fairly disappointing from my own personal feeling of performance.

I’ve had a couple of races where I’ve excelled and then the rest of them have been so-so. I look through the whole year and look at my results — fourth, fourth, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, wherever it is – and one or two seconds and firsts there.

untitledFor me, that’s just massive under-achievement from my own personal view. And I am hard on myself. I’ve always been a very hard individual and definitely probably too hard on myself, but that’s just the way I am. I’m working on trying to be less hard on myself but I take it personally because this is my life. I race with my heart, this is everything to me.”

It may be that Lewis’ next comment reveals his raison d’être – it’s a result of being programmed since he was a small child. All the attention and acclaim he received at an early age was probably derived from this. “It [winning] would make a big difference. If I was able to have a clean two races without seeing the stewards and without having a penalty, and on top of that winning, I think it would be beautiful. It would be really nice”.

There have been many child protégés who claim they only felt the drive of a parent to succeed at the expense of being loved for who they are.

A fresh start

During the winter break, Lewis and Nicole appeared to resolve their differences and spend some time together away from the F1 and showbiz media and Lewis shortly after committed to work with children’s charity UNICEF.

In 2012, Lewis was to suffer a number of on track body blows, many not of his making. The most memorable was the fuel shortage that robbed him of the pole and probable race win in Barcelona. Yet through difficult circumstances he remained sanguine and philosophical, stating following the teams fueling error in Spain, “we win as a team and we lose as a team”.

Martin Brundle commented in Monaco 1 year on from Lewis’ outburst, ‘I watch him very closely from beside the track and from the commentary box, I see him in the paddock, you chat away to him and I do sense a much calmer Lewis,’ said Brundle.

untitled‘That is reflected in his driving. I think he had nine penalties last year but now you see him doing charity work for UNICEF with the kids and you just sense a much more mature Lewis.’

Yet the problem Lewis had throughout 2012 was that he couldn’t shake Button – both on and off the track. I wrote last month that it appeared Jenson had done a similar job on Hamilton as Olivier Panis did to Jacques Villeneuve. As world champion and with his manager Craig Pollock as team boss, BAR was Jacques team – as McLaren belonged to Lewis.

For both world champions the introduction of a supposed inferior team mate wrought havoc with their stature within the team. Olivier Panis and jenson button were quickly observed to be the opposite of the emotional Hamilton and Villeneuve and crew members from both sides of the garage gravitated towards the ‘new boys’ in preference over the team’s senior driver.

The Bubble explodes

The moment this niggle for Lewis became apparent was in the ‘tweet of tweets’. Angry with himself, his set up and the team Lewis posted telemetry information on twitter the night before the Belgium Grand Prix. So once again we were exposed to the ‘tortured Hamilton’ and Jenson’s speed in qualification appeared to tip him over the edge.

The writing was on the wall for both McLaren and Lewis. Ron Dennis called him out in Canada stating Lewis would have to accept a pay cut, and Lewis and his new management team XIX decided the corporate restrictions of the Woking based team were too oppressive and it was time for a change.

untitledLewis somewhat humiliated by his misuse of social media disappeared from twitter, claiming later he’d lost his phone – which in itself must have been somewhat embarrassing for the team sponsor Vodafone.

However, recent evidence suggests Lewis dealt well with the wrench of leaving his McLaren family and joining Mercedes. He told SKY in an interview last weekend that he felt the difference between the teams was, “It’s now nice to be somewhere where you’re really wanted.”

Lewis still Lewis

Yet still the emotive Lewis is apparent. We had in clear view during an interview he gave during Barcelona week 1 a deflated Lewis who claimed getting into Q3 would be the target for him and his new team. A week later a rejuvenated Hamilton was discussing winning races and even the 2013 WDC was not impossible.

Lewis began tweeting this year again; only this time it is beautiful banalities of life rather than his confused relationship with Jenson. We’ve heard of his delight in the hip hop music recordings he has produced, of his new found love – Roscoe the dog; and how he and his girlfriend drove a Zonda from Barcelona to Italy one night during testing for ‘just pizza’.

This has created suspicion amongst some that Lewis has ‘seen the light’, found God, Allah or some kind of spiritual guide. Much of this idea is rooted in Hamilton’s comments made to the assembled press in Barcelona when he revealed he had ‘prayed’ for Adrian Sutil when news was breaking that the German may get the Force India drive.

Lewis has also been tweeting about ‘tats’ and for those of you not common with the vernacular, this refers to body art or tattoos. Until recently we’ve merely observed the markings on his hands and arms on TV and in the press. However last week Lewis did a photo shoot for ‘Men’s Journal’ with the photographer Alan Clarke and the result is the title picture you see above.

The sign of the cross would appear to accentuate the thought Lewis has found God even further. Yet the reality of this picture may be in the words across his shoulders rather than the image of the cross.

The Damascus light

Maya Angelou, American author and poet wrote the poem “Still I rise”. She was a friend of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and has received over 30 honorary doctorates, 3 Grammy awards and was called upon to read her poem “”On the Pulse of Morning”, at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in January 1993.

Maya is an internationally respected spokesperson of Black people and women and her works have are considered a defense of Black culture. Editor of Newsweek and the New York Post, Elsie B Washington, hailed Angelou as ‘the black woman’s poet laureate’.

Lewis is wearing as ‘a cross of suffering’ in indelible ink a poem about black women who despite every kind of humiliation survive. The author of this verse challenges in each stanza the very stereotypes to which America has subjected black women since the days of slavery.

Further there is an in-your-face tone to the rhetorical questions asked. “Does my sassiness upset you?” “Does my haughtiness offend you?” “Does my sexiness upset you?” The writer is demanding a debate through the successive phrases which lead to the poem’s inspirational conclusion. “Out of the huts of history’s shame… I rise. Up from a past that’s rooted in pain… I rise. I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, welling and swelling, I bear in the tide… I rise.

Many have chosen to support a cause or follow an ideal, but to engrave on your body the words of another and therefore declare them to be your identity – would be more akin to a martyr’s sacrifice of commitment.

The question Lewis poses for us is as follows. Is he just a petulant infant whose angst is perpetually seeking affirmation in self made drama and attention; or has this tortured soul identified his existential state and aligned himself with true meaning and purpose – ‘seeing the light’ and now at ease with who he is?

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Here is Maya Angelou’s full penned version of – ‘Still I Rise’

You may write me down in history
with your bitter, twisted lies,
you may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
with the certainty of tides,
just like hopes springing high,
still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

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42 responses to “Lewis: Expressions of angst, or ‘seeing the light’?

  1. I call this “Still I Cry”:

    Such an oppressed black man I am,
    Nurtured and sponsored through opportunities,
    So many billions will ever know,
    Paid only tens of millions to drive a car in circles.

    Still I Cry

    Then comes audacity of my benefactors,
    Who ask me to pose with products,
    And pretend to I enjoy the company,
    Of those who have helped me, my entire life.

    Still I Cry.

    Woe is me, can they not see,
    That they ask too much,
    Father, why do you crush my immature spirit?
    Il Padrino, why do you not offer me fat contracts?

    Still I Cry.

    I must be heard, I must be respected,
    For I am a man, a conqueror of all comers,
    Even as the rule makers punish me,
    As the whole world does, for the color my skin.

    Still I Cry.

    In my bed late at night, clutching my Roscoe.
    I Cry.

    If I were lighter skin, my tweets would be gold.
    I Cry.

    I Cry.
    I Cry.
    I Cry.

    • C.M. In you writing I love the discord and contrapuntal melodies within the scan; these together blend into the a-tonal clashes of the melodic scale that are also twinned with the jarring harmonies of the meter. In fact this remarkable piece demonstrates how a work of poetry can be set in juxtaposition to the art of rhyme – quite, quite excellent sir.

  2. Excellent article Judge. Its in depth articles like these that make you my favorite F1 blog.

    Lewis’ always been one who has struggled with his lack of success, he’s clearly talented but that hasn’t translated into championships. I always thought that Button’s move to Mclaren would turn out worse for Lewis than for Jenson. His ego is fragile and it only took 2011 for Button to become the root of all his problems.

    Having said that I think he’ll do good at Mercedes. He has plenty of material to blame for mediocre performances and Nico is never going to be on his level.

  3. …….Yet the problem Lewis had throughout 2012 was that he couldn’t shake Button – both on and off the track. I wrote last month that it appeared Jenson had done a similar job on Hamilton as Olivier Panis did to Jacques Villeneuve. As world champion and with his manager Craig Pollock as team boss, BAR was Jacques team – as McLaren belonged to Lewis…….
    Villeneuve had a whole team created for him at BAR, Hamilton on the other hand was merely employed by Mclaren, who didn’t hesitate swaps some of his technical crew, in the name of fairness, when button joined the team. That I believe can’t happen if it is indeed a person’s team.
    Regarding shaking button in 2012, if you mean on track performance, then I’d say Hamilton completely decimated button, Mclaren’s operational issues denied us the the viewers a wider margin of defeat.

    • Some very good observations about being a persons team.
      My tag obviously gives away my personal sporting hero, someone that Lewis admits is his hero, and I well remember Button saying Prost was his hero. Interesting how it has panned out.

      Senna arrived at Mclaren in 1988, and John Watson revealed in interviews that Senna spoke to him before he started at Mclaren, about how he should feel his way into the team. Watson advised take your time, get your feet under the table as Prost was recognised as the best. Except Senna did completely the opposite and pushed Prost out of his comfort zone.

      Ron Dennis stated in interviews that it took Mclaren a few years to recover after Senna left. He dominated the team to such an extent that it needed his brilliance to succeed and he said no driver would ever have that kind of leverage at Mclaren again.
      Hamilton took on and equaled Alonso in his first season, and I believe ever since has felt Mclaren was his domain. It must have rankled that Button came in and was equal to him.

      Also, seeing someone like Vettel winning casually has had an effect on his mental equilibrium. Btw, I don’t mean to demean Vettel, he is a quite brilliant driver, but the advantages of the Red Bull and an infrastructure that is blatantly supporting him, has ruffled feathers with Hamilton and Alonso.

    • Hi John good to hear from you

      Agreed without mechanical problems/cockups Lewis may have won WDC 2012, but the cold hard fact Lewis knows is that over 3 seasons Jenson scored more points than he did

      • And to be frank, that is very significant. People go on about most poles or wins or fastest laps but the reality is its championships they want and its pts that win the championships. The other stats, whilst important, are secondary. For JB to have scored more pts than LH over 3 years and also have recorded the highest placed WDC position (2nd 2011) in the 3 years would have made almost all laugh if someone said this would happen at the end of 2009. JB’s stock has risen since 2009, Lewis’s has fallen.

        • But a championship is decided over a year and not three. Just like in tennis, a match played over 3 sets might have the man scoring the most points as the loser. Hamilton beat button 2 seasons to 1. Hamilton has also won more races per season or at the least equaled the amount of wins. Wins are more important!!!

          • A good debate on this and in seasons it is indeed 2-1

            So off track as I suggested – Jenson appeared to have the upper hand, garage crew all out for pizza with him when Lewis was alone with Nicole – no sermon’s in public from Ron Dennis – no media barrage of questioning as to the appropriateness of his twitter behaviour – then Lewis was publicly confused over whether Jenson was his twitter buddy or not…

            Jenson played on this too….

  4. Another great piece Mr TJ13, indeed Lewis has shown more maturity in recent years, especially in 2012 which must have been an incredibly frustrating year! 2013 will be the making of Mr H, wether that be through modesty and coping with unexpected success or by showing great maturity and admitting he has made a huge error in jumping (albeit somewhat grudgingly as TJ13 has recently suggested) from the good ship mclaren. One piece of advice Mr H, ditch the horrendous trophy girlfriend and find yourself a real person! Lewis, I am not a fan but good luck in 2013, you deserve it!

    • Nicole is attractive, female and a pop star. Is that why you say she is not a real person, or do you truly know her well enough to make that judgement? I understand your sentiments, but is it possible you’re being unfair?

      • Hi Tim – good to hear from you.

        What you say is very true – I guess none of us know her like Lewis does.

        Yet we can see how celeb’s behave and communicate through the media and form our own impressions.

        She does give the impression of being a bit of a ‘B’ quality singer whose songs are mostly designed to titivate the male population – and have little worth otherwise.

        Then some would say that joining the Simon Cowell entourage is also not the most serious of career moves either – more style over substance possibly.

        .

        • Agreed TJ. I think you are spot on here. I am sure Miss S has her moment of “depth” and substance, but in the main, the evidence suggests you are right about her. Remember the old adage about birds, feathers and those who enjoy flocking together? Personally, I think that goes someway to answering the nature of Hamilton’s true depth etc.

        • I disagree, working with Cowell is probably going to rake in over a million $. It’s not working in a copper mine although some of the acts probably do some damage to the ears if not the psyche. However it is a good move, as a celeb it keeps her in front of the public. Other ways to make a million would be to do a tour, which is a lot of hard graft. Meanwhile she also has a beautiful back.

  5. Button is a shrewd calculating operator with skills that make him capable of outsmarting the worst of devious politicians.

    Compared to Button, Lewis appears naive and too trusting of people.
    He opens his heart out again in this latest interview with the Guardian:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2013/mar/11/lewis-hamilton-greatness-f1-museum-jet

    Nicole Sherzinger has had artwork (may have been temporary for that photoshoot only) on her back too:
    http://goo.gl/0upCT

  6. “Is he just a petulant infant whose angst is perpetually seeking affirmation in self made drama and attention; or has this tortured soul identified his existential state and aligned himself with true meaning and purpose – ‘seeing the light’ and now at ease with who he is?”

    Depends what week it is? A bit of both, and always will be, thats why I like him, the very things that annoy his detractors, and make them unable to tolerate him, are still frustrating, but make me love him all the more when he comes good again. With sincereity, you often get petulance, selfishness, various other nasty traits… if you don’t see that, your not getting the full truth.

    I have always found flawed heroes more interesting, probably why the guy I am most rooting for this year alongside Lewis, Is Romain… I even have a soft spot for Pastor and Filipe.

  7. I really don’t care about those things. At the end of the day, life is measured in achievements, not in tattoos whatsoever.

  8. Points are given on a per year base, not over time as the Butt lovers seem to repeat.
    So in that respect Hamiliton out scored Butt by 2 years-1 and last year Butt-boy was definetely Mclaren’s pit crew little darling.
    And seeing as how Hamiliton was hampered so many times by their deliberate F-Up,s he still came out a few points ahead of him/them.
    In any other situation it would be called a gang-up. (telemetry when out to show fan’s what happened)
    Yeah! go on claim it as a conspiracy theory.
    But just look back over what you’ve written.
    He was coned in to using a lesser wing, up till then Button had never out qualify HIM IN Q3.
    Why would they have done that?
    Well we all know Hamiliton was the elephant in the room.
    Oh shame on me, people dont see things that way, no we all wear mono tinted glasses.
    There’s no elephant in the room, Butt-boy just took over because!
    RETORICALl!! Been there, heard it, so I already know what u r going to say.
    above: Poem of a blackman by a pink one.
    Some Pink Elephants, cant help themselves, can you!!!
    Oppsy! sorry, I apologies.
    Passion got the better of me.

    • rd – Hi there

      Most passionate and most welcome 🙂 I was trying to be fair to Lewis and write a neutral piece which suggests he may have found himself.

      I have repeatedly said Lewis was pushed – and so have no beef with the Indian or African giant mammal analogy you propose.

      I’ve just realised it may be you are replying to someone else’s comments, if so put their name at the start of your comment to assist us..

    • rd, very angry indeed. Remember what Yoda said….

      “Fear leads to Anger, Anger Leads to Hate, Hate leads to Suffering…”

    • It feels similar to Christiano Ronaldo, a few years back, claiming he was a slave.
      A hugely wealthy football hero playing for one of the biggest teams in the world and being offered a contract by another footballing giant.
      Quite rightfully, he was vilified by everyone.

      Prince, another hero of mine, wrote the word slave on his cheek back in the mid 90’s.He was at war with his record company regarding ownership of his music etc. Everyone thought him eccentric, even crazy, just “potty Prince”.
      Yet his stance changed music ownership and rights for artists ever since.
      iTunes also had Prince waging war, because they were making money off of his music without him getting his rightful share, hence why for some time, both iTunes and YouTube were forbidden from using his image rights.

      A lot of his music does cover the sensitive subject of race and politics, and being of black descent he probably knows more about the use of slave than a Portugese prima donna.
      In a concert a few years ago, he had people on stage and “changed” their names. The name “Blackburn” has significant historical references, as does Lynch.
      Yet a lady who’s surname was Rosenbloom was considered lovely, “I’d like that name, Rose in Bloom”

      Maybe I’m being unfair with my assumptions, but I wonder where a Hertfordshire kid, would have read about this Maya Angelou.
      I studied English Literature at A Level many moons ago, our list of authors contained Shakespeare, Chaucer, Bronte, Equus by Shaffer, Ray Bradbury, Thomas Hardy and Joe Orton amongst others. The only American literature on the syllabus was Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men, both classics.
      Even studying American history, I have never heard of this woman, yet reading wikipedia, she has been very influential.
      I wonder if this is an indictment of our education system and our supposed tolerant society. After all, isn’t it Americans who are “isolationist”?

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