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What next for Hamilton?

By Mark Hughes
BBC F1 commentary box producer

Lewis Hamilton
McLaren made Hamilton - but will their relationship survive this scandal?

Lewis Hamilton was so disturbed by the controversy surrounding his false account to race stewards about events behind the safety car during the Australian Grand Prix that he was prepared to walk away from Formula 1 with immediate effect.

It is believed that this state of affairs was conveyed by phone to the president of the sport's governing body, Max Mosley, in the lead up to the Malaysian Grand Prix and that Mosley subsequently advised Hamilton's camp against him making such a move.

This much we know with a reasonable degree of certainty. What we cannot know is what exactly the state of mind of the world champion was when he expressed his willingness to leave behind his glittering career with McLaren.

Was it simply a young guy overwhelmed by the huge negative reaction to the incident - a simple 'flight' response?

Or was it a carefully considered position, borne of a real wish to be disassociated with a team, a representative of which, he claims, 'misled' him into lying to the stewards?

It's a side-issue, a distraction, one borne of McLaren's underlying paranoia about being penalised by the governing body

If it was a only a 'flight' response in the heat of a very uncomfortable situation, then it has presumably now been resolved by McLaren's reaction to the situation - namely the suspension of sporting director Dave Ryan, the man Hamilton claimed had misled him into giving his false account.

If it was a considered position, Hamilton now has some extremely difficult decisions to make.

His claim that the team instructed him in what to say to the stewards has fuelled speculation that Hamilton might now be contractually free to leave McLaren on the grounds that the team have brought him into disrepute.

Although most teams on the grid could probably find a place for him if he were to depart from the entity that has backed his career since he was a 13-year-old karter living on a council estate, it seems an unlikely outcome.

Such a move would almost certainly have a huge negative backlash upon his image, given the wealth and sporting success that has come his way by McLaren's investment in him.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Mosley
Hamilton is understood to have sought Mosley's counsel

His own personal loyalties to the many people on the team with whom he has formed a bond - not least team principal Martin Whitmarsh - also make it highly unlikely.

Furthermore, it's a move that would almost certainly be very strongly contested by the team and - as the BBC's Eddie Jordan said - if he were entertaining such a move, he would have to do it now as staying around any longer would surely make his claim invalid.

Will this impact upon Hamilton's career? Not if he refuses to let it.

It's a side issue, a distraction, one borne of McLaren's underlying paranoia about being penalised by the governing body, something that he has got himself dragged into and which he can now switch off.

It's difficult to see it as on a par with on-track offences committed by the likes of his hero Ayrton Senna and subsequently Michael Schumacher. But it is a little detail, a small insight into his psyche, that will probably always be recalled whenever his career is analysed.

JONATHAN LEGARD BLOG
Jonathan Legard

Motor racing is not an innocent sport. It is filled with competitive extremes and part of the whole endeavour is to challenge boundaries, whether they be technical rules, the limits of a car on the track, or the limits of the wording of a sporting regulation.

Because these lines are frequently pushed against, they are occasionally crossed. McLaren as a team and Lewis Hamilton as an individual, are members of this big boys' sport. They sometimes seem a little over-prissy in how they present themselves as squeaky clean.

But squeaky clean is something they can't be - they are in F1.


Mark Hughes has been an F1 journalist for 10 years and is an award-winning author of several books



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see also
McLaren likely to face F1 inquiry
06 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
I am not a liar, insists Hamilton
03 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Hamilton loses Aussie GP points
02 Apr 09 |  Formula 1


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