It seems that Lewis Hamilton wasn’t too happy about the way the press treated him on Thursday when he engaged in a Snapchat bunny ears filter fest during the session and later proclaimed that he had grown bored of the press conferences and the format.
He said he had meant to add some levity to the session and decided that taking pictures and placing bunny ears on drivers was a far better use of the time. NBC’s Will Buxton wrote an article defending his actions saying that it was about time F1 got a shake up and #TeamLH went to social media to offer similar opinions.
The issue was ratcheted up a notch today as Lewis walked out of a press conference saying:
“I’m not actually here to answer your questions, I’ve decided.
“With the utmost respect there are many of you here who are super-supportive of me, and those of you will hopefully know that I know who you are.
“But there are others, unfortunately, who often take advantage of certain things.
“The other day was a super-lighthearted thing, and if I was disrespectful to any of you guys, or you felt I was disrespectful, it honestly was not the intention.
“It was just a little bit of fun.
“But what was more disrespectful was what was then written worldwide.
“Unfortunately there are some people here and it’s not them [that have written negative things], and unfortunately the decision I take affects those who have been super-supportive, so that’s why I’m saying with the utmost respect.
“But, yeah, I don’t plan on sitting here many more times at these kind of things, so my apologies, and I hope you guys enjoy the rest of your weekend.”
Lewis may not have been happy about the way the press interpreted his behavior at Thursday’s press conference but the press wasn’t the catalyst at that point in time, it was Lewis’s disdain for the tedious nature of press conferences that started the issue in which the press responded only to then be used as the reason to ditch today’s conference.
For whatever reason, Lewis is tired of doing press conferences for Formula 1 over the course of a race weekend. I have to think that Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen find them tedious too and they’ve been in far more sessions than Lewis has.
Ultimately there is a time and a place for things and even though Will Buxton felt his actions were justified given the tedious nature of the press conference and due to them being televised which takes the very merit of the conference away from its original intent of printed press scoops, I tend to see today’s actions as a bit rash.
For those of you new to Formula 1, you may not recall the relationship the media had with Michael Schumacher and his brother Ralf. Very few drivers I have seen had to endure an antagonistic press like Michael and in Ralf’s case, a downright hostile press—with Mr. Bishop telling him to **** off.
Originally Michael tried to befriend the press but he had a certain nature about him that they didn’t like. He came across aloof and they would usually let him have it. They were never his PR department and usually could be found pulling at the threads on many occasions. Even so, I don’t recall him walking out of official Formula 1 press conferences.
I certainly understand Lewis’s feelings over tedious meetings, we’ve all been there, but I find his actions to be perplexing for both F1 and Mercedes. He’s paid to be there and that’s his job whether he likes it or not. Whether the conference is still effective or if it’s lost its plot. Lewis’s actions, quite honestly, seem to suggest that he feels he is much bigger than F1, the press, the fans, the host nation and the sponsors of the sport.
Whether you feel it completely justified as a thin-skin moment or an outrageous press, Mercedes will not be happy and nor with Formula 1. To them, Lewis is not bigger than the machine that has afforded him the lifestyle he has and it will not go down well with Mr. E or Mercedes or the FIA.
This has nothing to do with social media and F1 and how Lewis was just trying to get F1 out of the dark ages—sorry for disagreeing with Will Buxton here—and it has everything to do with respect, professionalism and being able to take the criticism of your actions. The drivers and the press are symbiotic organisms and both rely on each other to create the world of F1. Getting F1 into digital media by putting bunny ears on drivers is not a digital marketing wakeup call or strategy, it’s impish and petulant behavior and one which I do not think F1 will put up with for very long.
To be honest, Lewis is a fabulous driver but this behavior seems very odd and out of balance when compared to his last two seasons. I’m not sure what’s going on with Lewis but it will be interesting to see what Mercedes does to remedy the situation. F1 and even the teams have contractual obligation to F1 and the FIA and it wouldn’t surprise me if he is placing himself and the team in breach of these.