Focused Hamilton insists the party is over as McLaren ace raps his critics
19:35 GMT, 27 July 2012
Lewis Hamilton issued a firm yet
polite ‘no comment’ when asked at last weekend’s German Grand Prix about
his post-Silverstone night on the town.
But as paddock murmurings about
Hamilton’s lifestyle continue, spurred on by a jaunt down the French
Riviera earlier this week in his 180,000 McLaren road car to hang out
with rappers Swizz Beatz and Ludacris, Hamilton was eager to get a few
things off his chest ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Fastest: Hamilton races in the heat in Hungary
The paparazzi pictures of him spilling out of a London club with hip hop star J Cole and a gaggle of women after a disappointing showing in the British Grand Prix provided ammunition for those who have questioned whether his focus remains on Formula One.
Enough is enough, declared Hamilton, as he attempted to put things into perspective. ‘I should clarify one thing,’ he replied to questions about his work life balance. ‘I have been out once in the UK in the last eight months. The last time you saw me out was when I was in London in November.
‘I didn’t even go out on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t go out until June. This whole not focused stuff…I have never been so focused in my life. I have never trained so hard in my life. I have never dedicated so much time of my life to preparing for a grand prix.’
Whether Hamilton letting his hair down has landed him in the doghouse with girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger is a matter for the gossip columns, unless, as was seemingly the case last season, his relationship with the pop star affects his displays on the track.
Promising: Button was second fastest in the morning's session
There has been no sign of that in this
campaign, although Hamilton, 27, admitted: ‘Along the way you do make
mistakes. I wanted to make sure this year that there was no stone
unturned, that I didn’t get to the end of the year and say, “Well, I
wish I hadn’t done that because then I would have won”. I feel like I
have always prepared for the race as well as I could.’
Given that it was Hamilton himself who posted the pictures on Twitter of
him making a video with two prominent members of the hip hop
fraternity, he obviously sees no problem with mixing showbusiness with
the day job.
What does he feel about the criticism of such lifestyle choices ‘I
wouldn’t give it a second thought,’ replied Hamilton. And what of his
capacity to know where to draw the line ‘You just do. That is why we
are in the business we are in. That is why we are the top drivers,
because we know how to do it. Downtime is important.’
Of course, the perfect riposte to the doubters will be to deliver a
much-needed win here in Hungary before Formula One packs up until
September. The German Grand Prix was a case of ‘what could go wrong did
go wrong’ for Hamilton, the 2008 world champion hampered by an early
puncture which damaged his car and ultimately saw him retire 10 laps
before the finish.
In fairness to Hamilton, only once this season could he be described as
the architect of his own demise. That occasion came when, instead of
settling for fourth place at the European Grand Prix in Valencia last
month, he chose to try to fend off Pastor Maldonado and was punted into
the tyre wall by the Williams driver.
Leading the way: Alonso (above) and Webber (below) are first and second in the standings
Even then the stewards placed the blame for the collision firmly at the door of Maldonado.
Indeed, that Hamilton has not been on the podium as often as he would
have liked this season has largely been down to the failings of his
But promising signs from Germany that the updated McLaren is a match
for Red Bull and Ferrari, Jenson Button having run with Fernando Alonso
and Sebastian Vettel at the front, have seemingly been carried over to
Hamilton topped the time sheets in both practice sessions yesterday, a
tenth of a second ahead of his team-mate and more than half a second
ahead of championship leader Alonso in the fully dry morning outing.
Too often, however, McLaren have looked like candidates for victory on Friday and Saturday only to disappoint come race day.
But if they really have turned a corner, Hamilton’s closest challenger is likely to be Button.
The McLaren duo are vying to equal Ayrton Senna’s tally of three wins at
the Hungaroring, just one fewer than record-holder Michael Schumacher,
who slid off a damp track and damaged his Mercedes yesterday afternoon,
just as he did during practice last week in Germany.
Should Hamilton match the achievement of his great hero Senna, then
surely no one could begrudge him the opportunity for a little post-race
partying before Formula One shuts down for its summer break.
Off track: Schumacher's Mercedes is towed away after he collided with the wall