McLaren boss defends under fire Hamilton

Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari 150 Italia with a puncture after colliding with Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.

Moment of impact between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa

Sep.26 (Reuters) McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh threw the equivalent of a fatherly arm around his under-fire driver Lewis Hamilton after Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix stoked further criticism of the Briton’s aggressive driving style.

Martin Whitmarsh (GBR) McLaren Chief Executive Officer is interviewed by the media.

Martin Whitmarsh besieged by media after the Singapore GP

Hamilton drove superbly at times to finish the punishing floodlit street circuit in fifth position, but again his performance was overshadowed by an incident with Ferrari‘s Felipe Massa.

The Brazilian, who has clashed previously with the 2008 Formula One champion this season, said Hamilton had destroyed his race.

The McLaren clipped Massa’s Ferrari while attempting to pass early in the race and Hamilton collected a drive-through penalty for causing the collision.

An enraged Massa clearly felt the penalty had not fit the crime and railed against the Briton, saying the sport’s governing body needed to step in because Hamilton drove dangerously and did not think about consequences on the track.

While Hamilton refused to be drawn into a war of words and retreated to his team’s motorhome, Whitmarsh came to his defence.

“The truth is there are plenty of people who have spoken to me already who have a different view,” Whitmarsh said of the manoeuvre.

Felipe Massa Lewis Hamilton

Felipe Massa leads Lewis Hamilton out of the pits during

“I think you have to take some risk in overtaking. And he (Hamilton) is a driver who wants to overtake in a hurry. Now, after the event he’ll regret that and wish he’d backed out of it and waited for another three corners or whatever.

“The fact is, it happened. It was right or wrong. After that he drove an immaculate race and he shouldn’t have had to have the penalty or his front wing knocked off.

“He shouldn’t have lost places at the start. In sport and life things go well and go badly for you, I think it went badly.”

Hamilton, who has repeatedly had to defend his aggressive style while also making regular trips to the stewards, and Massa have been at odds since the Monaco Grand Prix in May.

The two collided in that race, with Massa retiring.

The Brazilian, who lost out to Hamilton by a single point in the 2008 championship, called on the FIA after that race to teach the Briton a lesson “or he will not learn”.

Felipe Massa

Mechanics work on Massa's damaged rear tyre

Whitmarsh, though, stressed that what appears to be a simmering feud, was nothing personal.

“They have been friends, they’ve been enemies. You know what it’s like amongst drivers,” he said, adding that his man had the team’s full support.

“Lewis is having plenty of love from the team. I have known him since he was 11 and I have seen him go through great moments of elation and of achievement and in areas of disappointment.

“Naturally there is a big affinity between him and myself and various other members in this team.

“Undeniably this year has not been a good one for Lewis Hamilton, he’s still got five races and he will regroup and try to win them.”

The drivers’ championship is all-but won by Singapore race winner Sebastian Vettel on 309 points. Hamilton sits in fifth with 168, behind second-placed McLaren team mate Jenson Button (185), Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso (184) and Red Bull‘s Mark Webber (182).

“We’ll have conversations within the team, we’ll have conversations with Lewis,” Whitmarsh said. “But those we will have in private.

“The fact is, he is an extraordinary racing driver and he will win again this year, of that I am sure, and he is going to be world champion again. I’m confident of that.”

  • John

    It seems to me that the stewards are consistant towards Hamilton in that if he is investigated he gets a penalty, no other driver comes in for as much stick as he gets with the stewards. Maybe it really is because hes black because for sure somethings isnt right with F1 when MS can get away with blocking in Monza as he did, and just a reprimand yesterday for that terrible move that he took himself out with.

  • alonso4eva

    John I kind of agree with, but being mixed race myself I’l rather not use that card until clearly necessary. Whether true or not everybody would turn it around to defend themselves ESPECIALLY ALL THE ANTI LEWIS FANS WILL BE AT YOU AND THE ARTICLE SOON. That was an avoidable accident though and wouldn’t be punished if cry baby massa did not pick up the puncture. You are right though about the other drivers not getting the same harsh treatment as Lewis, especially schumi. Di Resta, Peres and maldonado not so bad anymore, but getting away a lot just because they are rookies. All of them are involved in more incidents than Lewis, but does not get bad mouthed.

  • GrandPrix Fanatic

    @John and alonso4eva

    Hamilton is a great driver and a quick one. But pushing cars or hitting them just for Hamilton to pass does not reflect that of a champion. How many GP’s this year alone did Lewis hit a car or caused a collision because of his aggressiveness? Almost every race. In Monaco alone he not only hit Massa but caused Maldonado and Algersuari’s collision. You don’t have to do it even if you are frustrated. Don’t use the color of his skin to cover the dark reality of his style…

  • Chuck

    This is sad when Hamilton fans have little more to grasp at than trying to play a race card. It already was played, and the stewards have been running scared of Lewis since… but not forever. I can’t even imagine how race plays into Lewis’ problems… though I know he thinks it does… I guess when all other defenses crumble, and he is left with the reality that he is not going to be the greatest driver to ever grace the sport, in fact leaving a doubtful legacy, I’m sure he will pacify himself with the idea that it was all about the world being against him all along for the color of his skin… no matter what advantages he was given, or how much he was compensated compared to others in the same sport. I don’t think t-boning other drivers, or slicing another drivers tire is, or should be allowed, just to prove that Lewis’ skin color is not the reason behind enforcing the rules… when he does these things!

  • visz963

    Hamilton is not used to be driving in the midfield, therefore he always approaches others as backmarkers, even if his car is not that much superior. He needs to adapt to the fact that he is not that much superior – it is not possible in formula 1.
    However, this approach secured him wins this year.

  • Nemo

    When the car behind crashes into the car in front, the driver should get a penalty. As far as hamilton always being penalised, well Perez has 4 penalties this year, but you dont hear anyone whining about that

  • Bec

    The stewards have let Hamilton off quite lightly, as there’s a rule stating ‘Any driver receiving three reprimands for driving infringements during a season will automatically receive a ten-place grid penalty for the current or next event.’

    If the rules are applied, he should receive a 10 place grid drop for Japan, Lewis should keep a low profile for a while, or the rules might start to get enforced properly.

  • aknit

    Nemo, by your logic, where’s Michael’s penalty for crashing into and flying over the Sauber?

  • lgt41

    It´s unfortunate with all the negative LH write-ups. But all the criticism he´s getting isn´t always fair. But Lewis appears to be experiencing a bad spell. Too much focus on his driving! Some commentators seem to wait in anticipation of him making mistakes, by causing accidents! So boring! I enjoy watching him on the track, the same way I enjoy watching good drivers like Alonso and Button. I´m hoping “the old Lewis” returns soon. Nevertheless, Lewis remains his own man, in the way Schumacher is, or like Villeneuve was – not to mention Senna! You either admire them or despise them! There´re voices out there calling for tougher measures against LH. Suspension or even ban him. Niki Lauda, for one, regarded LH as “dangerous” on the track. Wow! I agree that at times LH made moves that seemingly weren´t wise. But that´s racing, as the saying does.