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.
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.
It’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.
For 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.
‘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.
Lewis 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?
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
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.