As someone who has been on both sides of the media/sportsman divide, David Coulthard has some sympathy for Lewis Hamilton after the 2008 F1 world champion’s post-Monaco Grand Prix outbursts.
I know what it is like to have a frustrating race weekend. I know what it is like to be prodded and poked until you snap. And then when you do, I know what it is like to be criticised and publicly shamed. It is a peculiarly British obsession. We build our sports stars up to knock them down.
All I can say is, you reap what you sow. Don’t now expect Lewis to say anything interesting over the coming days, weeks or months. Do expect him to give a lot of one-word answers about front wings and KERS devices. I for one won’t blame him.
My view is that we in sport are all drinking from the same well. When times are good they are good for everyone; the sportsman will give good, honest interviews because he trusts the journalists.
And when they are bad, he should be able to expect some support and sympathy in return. In the world of Twitter and instant judgment, however, these relationships are dwindling. Perhaps there is no turning back.
'Lewis was angry and frustrated and he gave an honest answer'
Of course, what Lewis said was not ‘off the record’. It was in the public domain and as such could hardly be overlooked. But my feeling is that he should not be vilified for speaking his mind.
Lewis made a mistake, yes. He knows that what he said overstepped the mark, certainly as far as his ‘Ali G’ joke was concerned. It was in poor taste and he apologised for it. I don’t believe he meant it seriously.
As for whether Formula One has any institutionalised racism, let’s not even go there. Teams and drivers come from every walk of life. The FIA is a world governing body, not a bunch of rich, white men. The stewards change race by race and come from all sorts of countries and backgrounds.
What Lewis said about his fellow drivers was less forgivable. By criticising them so openly, his popularity among his peers will inevitably decline. But again, he was angry and frustrated and he gave an honest answer. I said in my race commentary that McLaren should be applauded for allowing their drivers that privilege.
Whether I feel he was at fault for the two incidents for which he was punished during the race – and I do – is neither here nor there. The drivers have repeatedly, consistently, asked for such race incidents to be punished and the stewards must be allowed to apply the law as they see fit.
'Lewis is the kind of driver that fans and media are crying out for'
If it looks like that might curb the drivers’ enthusiasm to race wheel-to-wheel then that is something they and the governing body need to look at together.
Lewis may be hauled over the coals for giving his opinion, but at least he was honest. When he gave that interview he had seen the race only through the prism of his race helmet. He had not seen replays, like the stewards or the fans at home had. Maybe having seen replays, he will change his mind and apologise to Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado.
I know Martin Brundle said afterwards that Lewis tends to blame others for his mistakes and I would agree with that. It is a part of his make-up that he could address, but I don’t want to lecture him. He will learn in time. It is a cliché, but Lewis has grown up in a goldfish bowl.
Remember when Jenson Button bought a yacht before he had won a race and everyone called him a Big-Time Charlie? Now, having been through the low (and even lower) of his early career he has bounced back superbly as a modern day racing hero and all-round good guy.
In any case, Lewis is not there to win any popularity contests. He is there to win races and, let’s face it, he is a brilliant, attacking, aggressive driver: the kind of driver who gets bums out of seats; the kind of driver that we, as fans and media, are crying out for. So let’s not be too hard on him when he makes an honest mistake.
- Final word on the Monaco Grand Prix
- Sebastian Vettel blog from Monaco
- More from DC at davidcoulthard.co.uk
- Official Formula One website at formula1.com