Much of the Formula One English speaking press is UK based and as such, the behaviour of British Formula One drivers – including Lewis Hamilton – often get a less than proper scrutiny. Love Lewis or not, most F1 fans and commentators alike will testify to Hamilton’s undeniable talent, yet almost since arriving in F1 Lewis behaviour off track has been somewhat odd.
The ‘cos I is black’ explanation from Hamilton, when questioned why he had been called before the stewards 6 times in 7 races, has been debated to death. At best it was misplaced comedy, though this rationalisation was only parsed at a much later date following a Hamilton apology.
The infamous tweeting of McLaren’s telemetry by Hamilton at Spa in 2012 and the audacity of this individualistic action both horrified and delighted the F1 paddock community in equal measures. But it is Lewis’ behaviour toward his peers that is causing some comment at present. During driver press conferences, Hamilton is repeatedly the cause of frequent and persistent whispering whilst other drivers are trying to answer questions. His jitterbug manner during these meetings, the relentless tapping of his feet, sniggering behind his hand, playing with his watch and phone, are for many classic signs of someone with ADHD.
This week, Lewis was asked about his view of quadruple world champion, Sebastian Vettel. Lewis’ reply is infused with apparent justification as to why he is but a three times champion. “I have a lot of respect for him, but it’s difficult to assess how good he really is. He’s never been in a team with someone like Fernando Alonso, but always with people like Mark Webber, who was not on his level, and Kimi Raikkonen, who is no longer at the peak of his performance”.
Seven times F1 world champion Michael Schumacher’s achievements was also subject to Hamilton comment recently. Lewis suggested the German driver with the greatest list of F1 achievements had cheated his way to many of them, whilst comparing his own relatively modest, but blameless efforts.
Kimi Raikkonen and Mark Webber have by comparative association been debased by Lewis, who apparently hasn’t heard the wise words of his recent team mate Jenson Button. Whatever the context of Button’s remarks, they sit surprisingly well as an analysis of Hamilton’s present behaviour.
Button himself has so far avoided the lash of Hamilton’s tongue, though having heard Lewis’ remarks after clinching his third world title, Jenson — who defeated Hamilton in one of their three seasons together — observed, “Lewis is undoubtedly very talented. But if you put myself or Vettel in the same car as him, I think Lewis would not have quite as much confidence as he has today”.
Hamilton’s ‘extreme faith’ in himself saw him reported in the German media as declaring his rivals could only beat him when he made a mistake. Further, in Mexico, Lewis compared himself to Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt and Tiger Woods as sportsmen who stood out in their respective fields.
The examples keep coming. And the image of Hamilton being defined as someone ill at ease with himself. Lewis oft makes reference to Ayrton Senna and how he aspires to become like the great Brazilian.
Yet it appears enough is enough for some F1 writers as the Godfather of Italian F1 journalism decides it is high time Lewis hear some home truths. Leo Turini writes in his blog that Lewis Hamilton is in fact nothing like Senna. Turini, who knew Senna, observes the Brazilian’s hatred of Prost the person, never descended into criticism or belittlement of Prost the driver. In fact quite to the contrary, Senna spoke highly of his French enemy as a worthy on track champion and adversary.
Turini compares other great champions who each made specific and repeated reference to the worthy nature of their rivals. Nigel Mansell who has confessed to wishing he had punched Piquet regularly, always made clear his adversary was a great driver. Schumacher, some say was less than inscrutable, regularly paid homage to Hakkinen’s on track skills.
Hamilton’s consistent criticism of his worthy peers’ abilities, and comparing himself to other sporting greats has the air of someone who is desperate to overcome their own insecurity. Senna on the other hand, whilst often at war with the FIA and the rest of the world, learned to become comfortable in his own skin.
In his inimitable cryptic manner, Leo Turini concludes that the smart F1 champions realised that if they demeaned and belittled the skills and abilities of their rivals, then defeating them was by definition a lesser accomplishment. So Lewis can never be ‘the greatest’ given the lacklustre nature of his current opponents and predecessors — even four and seven times world champions.
In other words, despite all his hero worship, Turini asserts Hamilton is nothing like Senna – and probably never will be.