Love him or not but Lewis Hamilton has been a controversial figure ever since he entered the sport of Formula One. During his first season at McLaren he riled the current world champion Fernando Alonso in Hungary by refusing team orders to allow his team mate through in qualifying though he was on a different strategy. Alonso responded by staying in the pit area long enough to prevent Hamilton having a final push lap.
During the 2011 season Hamilton developed what many F1 observers described as a feud with Felipe Massa. Race after race the stewards were called into action to investigate the pairs incidents such that McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh commented after the Italian GP, ”Clearly Lewis and Felipe are magnetic.”
Ferrari boss questions Hamilton
Massa’s boss at Ferrari responded, “Maybe, but who is the plus and who is the minus?,” questioned Stefano Dominicali.
Of course it was the fact that Hamilton was called to the stewards in all but one race events that season up to and including the Monaco GP that solicited his famous quote suggesting he was a victim of F1 institutional racism.
Following what Lewis conceded was a weekend to forget in Monte Carlo, he launched a scathing post-race attack, slating some of his rivals as ‘absolutely frickin’ ridiculous’, describing the penalties he has received this year as ‘a shambles’ and ‘an absolute joke’ and quipping that he is seemingly being singled out for persistent victimisation by stewards “maybe because I’m black”.
Hamilton divides F1 opinion
Hamilton has since become marmite amongst F1 fans, his supporters are most often devotees who believe Lewis can do no wrong and when ruled against is a victim of the F1 system who is out to oppress the mixed race driver born in Stevenage.
On the other side of the fence there are those who suggest Hamilton display’s bi-polar tendencies and even for many years was merely a narcissist.
The latest controversy surrounding Hamilton unfolded during the 2021 Formula One season. Lewis lost his record 8th drivers’ title on the last lap of the last race of the season due to a decision by race director Michael Massi not to allow the year and the title to finish under the safety car. This was something the teams had petitioned the FIA to enact following a number of disappointing race finishes for the fans.
Lewis ‘was robbed’
The narrative developed that “Lewis was robbed” something which Sky F1 pit lane reporter Ted Kravitz found himself under the microscope about during the 2022 season. Red Bull boycotted all of Sky’s media personnel for an entire weekend following Kravitz nominally propounding the Hamilton robbed notion again in Texas.
Hamilton refused to attend the end of season 2021 FIA gala which is mandatory for the F1 drivers finishing the championship in the top 3 positions. He was subsequently fined and his detractors accused him of petulance.
Since the election of Mohammed ben Sulayem as John Todt replacement as the president of the FIA, Lewis has pitched a running battle with him all year over the matter of jewellery worn in the cockpit. Mercedes’ were fined at the 2022 Singapore GP for signing their car off as ‘legal for scrutineering’ whilst Hamilton was still wearing a nose piercing.
Another Hamilton F1 storm brewing
Another mini storm is brewing over Hamilton’s behaviour as it is revealed he snubbed the annual F1 drivers’ driver of the year award.
Hamilton completed his first season in F1 without a GP win and finished a lowly 6th in the drivers’ championship behind his Mercedes rookie team mate George Russell. This was Lewis lowest finishing position during his 16 seasons of F1 racing.
Hamilton had a woeful start to the season as he failed to get to grips with the W13 porpoising issues a factor which appeared to affect his team mate Russell far less.
That said Lewis did improve over the latter half of the year and is again tipped to challenge Verstappen in 2023 with a hopefully improved W14 car.
Lewis the odd one out amongst F1 grid
Yet many will question why Lewis was the only F1 driver not to participate in the vote amongst his peers for ‘driver of the year’.
Inevitably after dominating the year it was his arch rival Max Verstappen who topped the poll having won a record of 15 races during the season.
Early championship leader Charles LeClerc of Ferrari mirrored his championship finishing position of second in the vote despite having fallen away and only clinching P2 from Sergio Perez at the final race of the year.
Surprisingly Sergio Perez after his best year in F1 didn’t finish third in the opinion of his fellow racing drivers, but rather Hamilton tied the place with Russell for P3.
Hamilton ‘toys out the pram’
Lewis appeared to be unconcerned with the latest mini F1 furore he has created as he posted pictures of him skiing on Instagram. Yet many of his critics will see his refusal to participate in the annual drivers’ vote as a ‘toys out the pram’ moment.
Hamilton has just one year left on his Mercedes contract and was suggesting towards the end of the season he would like to extend this as early as possible. But as yet there has been no sign the two parties are in negotiations and a recent interview with Sport Bild may raise the speculation again that at 37 Hamilton is considering retirement at the end of 2023.
During the interview Lewis suggests he doesn’t want to retire as a fading force in Formula One.
Hamilton retirement spectre raised again
“I think retiring as a world champion is a dream that every athlete has – and so do I,”
So it may be Hamilton wants to see if Mercedes have closed the gulf somewhat between themselves and Red Bull Racing to give him a reasonable opportunity to compete for a record 8th drivers’ title in the next couple of seasons.
Lewis admitted contract talks between himself and Mercedes had not yet materialised. “We haven’t started with that yet,” said the British driver. “So far we haven’t had the time.”
Hamilton will be aware of the love and adulation Sebastian Vettel received for the second half of the 2022 season following his announcement before the Hungarian GP that he would retire.
Were Mercedes to fail in delivering him a car capable of winning another title Lewis would want the option to act in a similar fashion to the German quadruple champion and complete several laps of honour over a number of races before he quit the sport he has dominated during the V6 hybrid era.
it's time for us to say goodbye 💙🤍
thank you @PierreGASLY for the past 6 years, we made some fantastic memories! 👇
— Scuderia AlphaTauri (@AlphaTauriF1) December 29, 2022