Just what has been going on with Lewis Hamilton this season? With the exception of his two wins in China and Germany, it has been a season littered with collisions and penalties for the 2008 world champion.
Red Bull has clearly had the best car this season, and McLaren’s inability to provide Hamilton with a regular race-winning package may have frustrated him. It might also be the excellent form of his teammate, Jenson Button, the first time Hamilton has been beaten consistently by a teammate over the course of a season. Indeed, Button has shown patience and an ability to read a race that has trumped Lewis several times this season. Hamilton’s private life has been a distraction, too, with his split from Nicole Scherzinger, his girlfriend of four years.
…aggressive and opportunistic driving style…
But more often than not, it appears that Hamilton’s aggressive and opportunistic driving style has resulted in regular contact with other cars this season. His style creates excitement and spectacular overtaking but it borders on the reckless.
The latest incident with Felipe Massa in India last weekend was typical. Hamilton saw an opportunity at turn 5 and attempted a pass; Massa refused to yield and the two cars collided. In this instance, it was Massa that was penalised, but it cost Hamilton a good result as such incidents have done throughout the season. Just as in previous collisions, Hamilton had seen an opportunity which the driver in front had given him and taken a risk. It is this opportunistic approach that has resulted in some memorable overtaking, in particular his move on Button in China and his race-winning move on Sebastian Vettel in the same race. Contrast this with his teammate, who has had more victories, more podium finishes, and far less contact with other cars.
…racing judgement appears to be suspect…
Some of Hamilton’s manoeuvres this season have been in sheer desperation. His attempt to pass Massa at the very narrow Grand Hotel hairpin in Monaco, for example, was always going to end in a collision. Hamilton’s racing judgement appears to be suspect in such incidents. Better judgement would probably have avoided the clash with Massa in Monaco, and the coming together with Button in Canada.
Despite his collisions this season, Hamilton still remains perhaps the most watchable driver in the sport. This way of racing may not win Hamilton as many titles as Michael Schumacher or Alain Prost ( drivers who profited by consistently beating more exciting drivers), but if he can combine his exciting style with improved racing judgement, there is no reason why in future seasons he can’t achieve the success that his obvious talent deserves.
Images courtesy of Lewis Hamilton and F1