Ok so this is a bit late in the aftermath of the Monaco Grand Prix and I am pretty sure we are all now fully aware of Lewis’ views (and comments) regarding the whole race weekend and the incidences he had with Felipe Massa at the Loew’s hairpin and Pastor Maldonado at Ste. Devote at the restart of the race. However, I just felt I would like to perhaps provide a more “neutral” view on the matter and also having had the advantage of hindsight.
I am not going to go into detail about Hamilton’s comments afterwards for starters as each of us have our own views on whether it was a good thing he had an emotional outburst or not and lets just leave it at a viewer’s discretion.
Hamilton’s weekend did not start off too badly at a circuit which he absolutely adores. In fact on the radio he described the streets of Monte Carlo as “hardcore”. He was fifth in free practice 1, second in free practice 2 and sixth in the disrupted free practice 3 (due to Rosberg’s shunt coming down to the Nouvelle Chicane). He lead the way in the first and second qualifying sessions only to slip down to seventh in the final qualifying session before his time was eventually deleted because he cut the second chicane of the swimming pool complex, demoting him to ninth on the grid for the race. The third part of qualifying could have been described as quite a disaster as the streets of the Principality is definitely not a place to gamble on just the one, 1 lap run. The track surface ramps up very quickly with cars running around it and the driver has to be out there as much as possible to build up the confidence to get within millimetres of the barriers and to maximise the conditions. We are all aware of Hamilton’s precision around the streets of Monaco as he is one of the street fighters on the grid like Alonso, Schumacher and Kubica, but to be reduced to only one run and one lap because he (and Mclaren) got caught out by the red flag was quite an epic error. Even if he got a “banker” lap in, he would surely have been further up the grid than the initial seventh and eventual ninth.
Come race day, there was high expectation of him to try and fight through the field, there was no way he would be happy languishing down in the lower points paying positions. He managed a reasonable start and jumped the slow starting Schumacher, but received a bit of a tag from the 7 time World Champion prompting him to question if he had a puncture. Fortunately for his sake he did not and began hustling the 42 year old to try and find a way past when Schumacher managed to pass him at the Loew’s hairpin. Eventually he did at the start of lap 10 into the Ste. Devote. He had the DRS slightly to help, but truth be told, Schumacher’s tyres were gone and he confirmed that on the radio saying they were shot basically.
Former Championship Rivals get close for comfort
Lap 32, he tried a bit of a banzai manoeuvre on the inside of Massa into the Loew’s hairpin and they make contact, prompting the stewards to have a look and they deemed Lewis to have caused an avoidable collision. Now we have two distinct things to analyse here: the incident itself and also the stewards’ uneasy predicament. First of all, earlier in the race we had a similar scenario with Paul di Resta and Sebastian Buemi at the very same corner. The Force India racer was given a drive through penalty and to show consistency in judgement the stewards almost had to give Hamilton a penalty otherwise they would be on the receiving end of heavy criticism for not being able to be consistent with judging incidences during a race again. Regarding the incident solely by itself, initially I thought that Hamilton’s move was a relatively late attempt because Massa was already at the turning in point for the hairpin and he may not have seen Hamilton really because he was tucked up behind Mark Webber. In addition, it would have given the Massa the “right” to turn in to the corner. Remember Martin Brundle saying Hamilton’s overtake on Button in China was a lucky one because Button would have had every right to turn into the corner. Whether the move was punish-worthy is another debate because obviously we had Paul di Resta being punished as well so we would have to consider both cases. On the other hand, in the Chequered Flag podcast from the 5LiveF1 team, there was an interview with Massa and he said that he was aware of Hamilton’s attempt and when it comes to an overtaking manoeuvre, the drivers in question have to “work together” in the sense that they should avoid contact with each other as much as possible. So with a bit of hindsight, Massa in a sense had as much blame on the incident. He did not necessarily have to leave the door wide open for Hamilton, but if he was aware of the move then he could have perhaps left enough for Hamilton to ride the pavement a bit. Would have been tight, I will admit, but then again, this is the advantage of hindsight. Overall, however, I do still feel it was a relatively late attempt from Hamilton and I certainly do not agree with his view that Massa deliberately turned in on him.
Former GP2 Champions Face Off
His collision with Maldonado was a bit clearer to me and I felt Hamilton was somewhat harsh with Maldonado. I personally felt that he was not quite as alongside Maldonado into Ste. Devote as he was with Schumacher and therefore Maldonado probably never got a chance to see it coming until contact was made. In fact I do not even think Maldonado saw Hamilton trying to line him up into the first corner adding to the innocence of the Venezuelan. The key point, though, is Hamilton was not properly alongside Maldonado to rightfully claim the racing line and hence Maldonado’s turning in and their clash.
The Weekend then…
Hamilton will want to forget the Monaco weekend very quickly indeed. I know people have felt he was punished for perhaps another driver’s error i.e. Massa’s potentially at the Loew’s hairpin because Schumacher managed to overtake Hamilton and team mate Rosberg at the hairpin, however, I felt that Schumacher’s overtaking attempts were very much where he managed to get alongside in the braking phase and thus the leading driver would have been able to see him. I felt Hamilton’s attempt on Massa was just that fraction of a second too late perhaps to allow Hamilton to claim the racing line. Despite these incidences, I definitely do not feel Hamilton should change his style. It is because of his “aggressive” nature that allowed him to make a name for himself. We have seen a lot worse things in the past from other great names and yet we’ve discarded them to the one side because we only choose to remember the good parts about their careers. In time we shall do the same with Hamilton. We will remember him fondly for his flair in overtakes because they helped make F1 more interesting for a lot of fans during the more dull and boring times. In a sense I am saying it is part of his identity in F1 and he does not need to change a single thing about it when he is driving on the circuit.