Its award season in the UK for sports folk; and just like for the Oscars, a number in their ranks now begin the rounds of PR and media events to advance their cause with the British voters for the honour of winning ‘The Sport’s Personality of the Year’. For those outside the UK, in actuality, personality is low in the voters’ criteria given that Andy Murray has won this title on a previous occasion.
Having wrapped up the season on track, Lewis Hamilton has returned to the country of his birth and has already given interviews on radio and television. However, Hamilton’s media glory parade following the season’s close has been some what hijacked by comments from Lewis’ team boss following the Abu Dhabi GP. Toto Wolff revealed that the relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg is the weakest link in the Mercedes AMG F1 team.
The Austrian went as far as to suggest that either Rosberg or Hamilton would have to go unless things improved. “We struggle sometimes in winning races on Sunday and having always one [driver] upset,” said Wolff. “And this spills over into the team. It is something that needs to stop. If we feel that it is not aligned with the general consensus, spirit and philosophy within the team, we might consider that when we take a decision, in terms of the driver line-up going forward.”
The British Formula One press believe Wolff’s comments though couched in the plural, are in fact solely directed at Hamilton. Kevin Eason for The Times writes, “Despite Hamilton’s pre-eminent position as the three-time world champion – winning the past two titles with Mercedes – he is not seen as a team player in a squad governed by the team ethic.
“His complaining over the past three races won by Rosberg is said to have grated on senior Mercedes executives and even irritated the engineers close to Hamilton”.
Similar tales were told of Lewis during the later days of his time at McLaren.
Eason went on to accuse Hamilton of being “a disruptive element”, as demonstrated in the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, “when he queried his team’s strategy and had to be instructed forcefully to carry out changes to his engine management system”. A number of other British newspapers pick up the same theme and The Telegraph report Wolff’s comments as ‘a rebuke to Hamilton’.
Surprisingly, Martin Brundle who is known to admire Hamilton much described his behaviour during 2016 as, “often churlish,” adding, “especially his petulant refusal to follow his engineer’s instructions”.
Much has been made this year of the Hamilton lifestyle change and the new friends he has embraced since splitting with his fiancé. Brundle believes this may prove to be Hamilton’s downfall: “The real Lewis Hamilton I’ve known for very many years is a thoughtful, entertaining and engaging person, and I don’t get the loner stance. I also think the kid from Stevenage is faster than the rapper from LA, and that a confident and diligent Rosberg can now beat mid-Atlantic man. He’s upped his game.”
Lewis looked to deflect the talk when he told BBC’s Radio 1, “You have seen [Rosberg] complains about a lot of things but you let it go over your head because that’s the way he is.” Hamilton also defended his ‘party’ lifestyle explaining, “To be honest, this is the first year that I’ve ever really done it. And you know what, I’d be partying, I’d turn up, and I’d win the race’. Living life is something Lewis feels is important too as he reveals, “I took the dangerous sport clause out of my contract and I try to do it with a nice balance,” he told BBC Radio. “I don’t want to go through my whole Formula 1 career only driving, but of course I don’t want to be sitting watching someone else drive my car. So I am very, very cautious when I do that, but I am crazy.”
On the matter of tension within the team, Lewis takes on Wolff – suggesting the team boss doesn’t understand the dynamic created by having to compete for two different titles. “It is kind of crazy and they shouldn’t really call us team mates as such. The problem is there are two championships, [while] in football there is one championship.
“For us [Mercedes] there is the constructors’ championship and that is what they hire us and pay us to do, but individually we want to win the championship. So it is difficult.
“But this side [of team mate tension] is always blown out of proportion. We have had 16 1-2s, so our relationship isn’t really causing any problems.
“It is not like he [Rosberg] has been distracted and not finished high up or vice versa, so I think ultimately it is easy for people to take things for granted. We have both done a great job”.
Despite claiming his third F1 drivers’ title, Lewis Hamilton will have a tough time winning this years ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ award, given the performances of other British sportsmen and women. These include the recent shocking result which saw Tyson Fury beat Vladimir Klitschko and Andy Murray is the bookies current favourite at 8/11 – after being credited with winning GB’s first Davies Cup final since 1936.
Hamilton is 5th favourite for SPOTY at 16/1 behind Murray, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Kevin Sinfield and Tyson Fury. However, the thought of Lewis merely sitting through the awards ceremony watching others receive their accolades is likely to unleash the might of the Hamfosi, as they marshal their voting troops. Then, anything is possible.