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Page last updated at 09:23 GMT, Sunday, 26 April 2009 10:23 UK

David Coulthard column


My lowest F1 ebb - Hamilton

David Couthard
By David Coulthard
BBC Sport in Bahrain

After two years and four races in the sport, Lewis Hamilton is going through the growing pains of the modern Formula 1 world.

The world champion faces pressures both on and off the track and he is having to deal with them in the glare of the public domain.

Inevitably, controversy surrounds the teams and drivers who are at the head of the sport.

Hamilton grew up watching Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher so he is well aware of this but I think, for the most part, he's handling the situation well.

The 24-year-old firstly finds himself under the strain that comes with having a less than competitive car.

He is driving as capably as he always has and is pushing even harder but it does not matter how hard you try, if the car is not up to the job you will not win a Grand Prix.

The McLaren's lack of competitiveness at the start of the 2009 season means both Hamilton and the watching public have had to lower their expectations.

There is just one way to answer his critics and detractors - race results. There is nothing like a victory or a podium to reset everything and McLaren appear to be heading in that direction

David Coulthard

I am sure Hamilton has had to readjust his mindset. With the number one emblazoned on the nose of his McLaren, he has not been able to race out his championship year in a competitive car.

But there is nothing like the scenery passing by at 180mph to make you focus and forget your problems.

The cockpit is his domain and that is where he will feel comfortable - so behind the wheel he won't have any problems at all.

However, on the top of all that, after 2007's spy scandal, the "lie scandal" - where Hamilton misled race stewards at the Australian Grand Prix under the guidance of his team - has followed this season and then his long-term mentor Ron Dennis left McLaren.

Hamilton has not had lessons in how to cope with the swinging pendulum between mass public praise and then widespread criticism.

Lewis Hamilton

But under the conditions of an F1 driver's super-licence, which they need to race in the world championship, Hamilton is contractually obliged to answer questions from the media at certain times.

The moment he steps out of the car and has to walk from the garage to the motorhome, he is probably taking a deep breath and hoping he manages to escape the media spotlight.

There will be more public scrutiny to come in the coming days, however.

McLaren face F1's governing body, the FIA, on 29 April to answer charges relating to a breach of the International Sporting Code following the events of Melbourne.

We have seen the FIA take a hard line with McLaren in the past and it may be the case that they choose to do the same thing this week in Paris.

But I honestly don't think Hamilton will be giving the hearing a great deal of thought.

I have spoken to him and he was taken aback and shocked by the reaction to the whole saga. He has done everything he can do. He's taken responsibility upon himself, he has explained his side of the story and made a public apology in Malaysia.

Hamilton has said he has considered his future in F1 but it is difficult to imagine that after such a short career he would seriously consider walking away.

He won't find the speed, excitement, technical challenge and, let's face it, the salary in any other form of car racing.

To me, it is inconceivable that the world champion would walk away.


The reality is that F1 is not all about Grands Prix wins and getting MBEs from the Queen. There is always a backlash - they will build you up and knock you down - and that is what Hamilton is finding out.

There is just one way to answer his critics and detractors - race results. There is nothing like a victory or a podium to reset everything and McLaren appear to be heading in that direction.

Whether he is viewed as a sporting icon or not will depend not only on results on the track but how he carries himself off it.

Acting in a sporting and sincere way will be what he is ultimately judged on - and he is more than capable of doing that.

David Coulthard won 13 Grands Prix in a 15-year F1 career. He is a BBC Sport pundit and a consultant for Red Bull. He was talking to Sarah Holt.

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see also
Hamilton considered quitting F1
26 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
The row that has split F1
17 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Button surprised by Red Bull pace
18 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Vettel on shock pole for Red Bull
18 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Chinese GP qualifying as it happened
18 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Chinese Grand Prix qualifying results
14 Apr 09 |  Results

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