Which ever way you look at it, Lewis Hamilton is, without a doubt, one of the best drivers Formula One has ever seen. He’s gained fame and adoration for his flat out driving ability which leaves nothing out on the track. However, Hamilton is also extremely well known for his media antics off the track, publicizing most of his life through his social media accounts on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram.
Recently, the media backlashed heavily on Hamilton when he refused to answer questions in a press conference. This sparked a fierce debate within the world of Formula One over his so called ‘disrespectful’ actions. Hamilton said on Twitter that he wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, but “fun,” blaming the press conference format for his actions, saying: “it should be the fans asking the questions.” But with constant abuse still flooding in over the actions – Hamilton hit rock bottom and walked out of a press conference ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, something which only further added fuel to the fire.
Following this, Hamilton would go to experience a relatively disappointing race after he was forced to fight back from 8th place after a poor start. The unfortunate factor being it was completely out of Hamilton’s hands, the bad getaway was caused by his damper grid slot which was not offering him prime traction.
However, I personally thought Suzuka was one of Hamilton’s better drives in recent years.The Mercedes W07 isn’t known for its ability to run in dirty air, yet Hamilton carved through the pack with the ease of a deserved champion as he quickly recovered to 3rd place. This phenomenal recovery drive then made me question, does Lewis Hamilton’s attention in the media dictate how well he drives out on the track?
The beginning of 2016 saw many notable news stories beginning to develop in the world of Formula One, most which didn’t envelop Hamilton directly. The stupid new qualifying format, Fernando Alonso’s massive crash, Stoffel Vandoorne’s subsequent points finish, and the Kvyat/Verstappen swap have all dominated the headlines throughout the first 5 rounds of the season. It’s not to say Hamilton wasn’t in the news – he just wasn’t quite on the tip of everyone’s tongue. At the same time, Nico Rosberg won 4 races consecutively with no answer from Hamilton, who had struggled.
But something changed when the show headed to Monaco. The only news on anyones radar was the, now infamous, Hamilton/Rosberg crash. With said crash breaking Rosberg’s 7 race winning streak – many pundits and armchair experts predicted this race as a chance for Hamilton to hit the restart button on his championship challenge. He did that exactly, taking the Monaco win from under Red Bull’s noses, with a brilliant drive to master the variable conditions which clearly separated payed drivers from the skilled.
Throughout the rest of the first part of 2016, Hamilton caught Rosberg up in the points standings, and by the time the summer break rolled around, Hamilton led the championship by a whopping 19 points. But Formula One is a funny sport… Since the return to racing, Lewis Hamilton has endured a terrible run of form. After a brilliant drive in Belgium saw him start from 22nd and recover to 3rd, it didn’t top the headlines that weekend. The award instead went to Max Verstappen and his borderline dangerous defensive techniques. By the time the Italian Grand Prix rolled around, Verstappen was still under the intense pressure of the limelight, whilst Lewis Hamilton really wasn’t.
I strictly believe that this unprecedented media attention for the young teenager broke the long term concentration of Hamilton, and almost snapped him out of his winning ways. He looked uncomfortable with the car in Singapore, and by the next round in Malaysia, he was back in the media when it was uncovered the Mercedes W07 shouldn’t suit Hamilton’s flat out driving style. This put Hamilton back in the limelight, lifting his performance for him to take pole and what was meant to be a comfortable win in Malaysia. But as we all saw, factors completely out of his control robbed him of victory.
Although Rosberg topped all practice sessions and took pole in Japan, I also firmly believe Hamilton drove better on during that race. He showed his true ability to recover and pulled a brilliant drive to finish 3rd – eventually only finishing 5.776s off the pace. Although Rosberg was likely running a lower engine mode given his advantage – to finish the race this close after no safety interventions is a momentous achievement. And it’s an achievement I feel was fueled by Hamilton’s controversial exit from the Mercedes press conference earlier in the weekend (as aforementioned). Lewis had stormed out and 5 minutes later it was the only thing filling my newsfeed. I just struggle to call it a coincidence when he seems to pull these exceptional performances out at the same time that he’s bigger than life in the media.
With all this said and if my theory is correct, it will be difficult for Hamilton to win this weekend. Despite winning 3 of the last 4 US Grand Prix’s, this weekend will be the first since Nico Hulkenberg announced his move to Renault Sport for 2017. I imagine the mainstream broadcasters will be focusing on this as the main talking point throughout the weekend. Will Lewis Hamilton have to cause some antics off the track to ensure he can grab the win this weekend?