Let’s be clear straight up front, if you’ve listened to our podcast or read our website, it doesn’t take you long to figure out that I have always been a Ferrari fan and at the end of the day, sure, I like it when they do well but in my defense, I have always tried to approach Formula 1 teams and drivers with no bias. Sure, I have a soft spot for Ferrari but I love McLaren and their engineering brilliance and Sauber for their long, underdog life in F1 or Force India and what they achieve despite a fugitive owner and even Mercedes for their punishingly good form over the last three years. I do like them all, even Manor, Haas, Renault, Williams and Mr. Ecclestone.
Having said that, I am really starting to get rubbed the wrong way with the over the top Lewis Hamilton fanboy-ism of the press, F1, the international media and fans—not to mention the #TeamLH mobocracy on the internet.
When Lewis does well, you know it. He’s crowing about it as he should and feeling great. When he doesn’t do well, you know about it. He’s bemoaning all sorts of things and has the longest face on the grid and that’s perfectly fine by me. I would hope the driver I hired is emotionally engaged with his job and to me it’s perfectly normal for a driver to show joy, rage, frustration and disappointment. It’s all good, I’ve no issue with that and Lewis doesn’t either so we’re good.
What I do get a little salty over is the F1 press engaging in Lewis apologetics along with the team (Mercedes) and the fans in what I can only call a clear and obvious bias toward Lewis Hamilton at the expense of Nico Rosberg. I’m not English or German and I have no knife in the fight on who wins the title. I take both of them for the way they are. Nico and his too-polished PR sponsor speak which is as plain as it can be no matter what the situation and never having an opinion that deviates from what F1 is trying to promote whether he likes it or not. Lewis with his woe-is-me act and then false, forced and OTT elation and light-switch personality which is either on or off but rarely in between. Nico is the golden boy and Lewis the poor kid from a couch in Stevenage turned globe-trotting millionaire social media icon. Whatever, none of that bothers or sways me one way or another. That’s just who they are and that’s all part of their quirky personalities—we all have them.
No, it’s not the driver façade I’m speaking of, it is the outrageous talking points and attempted manipulation of the narrative after a race in which Lewis doesn’t do well. Take Baku for example.
Lewis had an engine setting that was wrong and so did Nico—we would find out from Niki Lauda after the race—and now that we knew both had the same issue, Toto Wolff had to try and walk it back a bit so as not to make Lewis look incompetent. He soft served the situation on Sky sports. F1 press were tweeting and sending out messages saying that actually Nico’s issue was self-inflicted and therefore cured quickly as he knew what he did but poor Lewis was put upon by the team as he did nothing and the car simply had the wrong setting and it would be nearly impossible to figure it out but that tenacious Lewis managed to get it done in the end. Whatever.
A few weeks ago, Spain to be exact, Nico had his Power Unit in the wrong engine setting and boy how he was the butt of everyone’s jokes with calls of idiocy and how he ruined Lewis’s race yadda, yadda, yadda. The #TeamLH was near meltdown over the situation online. Sky Sports had their video replays showing how Nico had the switch in the wrong position and then showed Lewis’s in the right position and commented that the driver really needs to get himself sorted with the right settings. Not this time, no…this time in Baku the complexity of the systems are so great and there is no way a driver can calculate the millions of permutations needed to correct such a complex machine and Nico caused his issue so it was easy to turn the knob back but poor Lewis’s car just decided to be in the wrong setting.
Then the immediate narrative was all focused on the radio ban and that is what Sky Sports asked every driver in the post-race interviews. Most of whom had no radio ban issues during the race that compromised their results and were surprised to be asked that question. Ricciardo was caught off guard as were most of the drivers. Sure, many of them don’t like it but Max Verstappen said you just need to do your homework…atta boy Max!!
So Lewis has an issue and Sky Sports sets about asking every driver a leading question about how draconian the radio ban is. Never mind it’s been this way since Australia and it’s the same for everyone. The race was rather boring so we needed a hot talking point and as Lewis did bad, we found the scapegoat…the radio ban!
The #TeamLH fans are calling conspiracy again as the team said Nico had the same setting issue just “like the BS brake issues he was supposed to have had like Lewis”. Seriously? The F1 press have doubled down now and ran stories in which Lewis says the radio ban is “Dangerous”. That’s right, dangerous as he was looking at his steering wheel too much at speed and not watching the road.
“Dangerous. I am just looking at my steering wheel for a large portion of the lap – all the way down the straight just looking at my wheel.
“All they can tell me is there is a switch error, wrong switch position, so I am looking at every single switch thinking, am I being an idiot here? Have I done something wrong? I hadn’t.
“I looked time and time again, going through all the different switch positions and there was nothing that looked irregular.”
So what did Lewis do to fix the problem?
“They said it will work itself out… and it did with eight laps to go,” he said. “I didn’t know what the problem was.
“I didn’t know if I had done anything to make the engine not work. The team started with something switched on, so I had it from the beginning.
“I disabled something and it didn’t change anything, I put it back on, it didn’t change anything. In the end I switched it off again, and the engine power came back 10 laps after that, my nine laps to go, so I turned the engine down after that.”
If you contrast that with what Nico Rosberg experienced:
“It wasn’t easy because of the clampdown on radio communication, so they couldn’t tell us specifically what it was,” explained Rosberg.
“But I felt the issue out on track with the engine being down on power, so I looked at my steering wheel and figured that ‘it must be that one, so take it off’ and it was working fine afterwards.”
When asked if it was obvious what he had to do, he said: “Not obvious at all. It was just, I had to think about it because I feel it.
“They said it was a problem with the mode you are in, but which mode? There are so many modes. So I thought about it and figured that that was the one. [It was] just putting together the feeling and what they [the switches] do.”
Nico realized what it was and Lewis wasn’t sure. Seems pretty straightforward to me but not for the press. You see, I am starting to feel patronized and if I really listen to conspiracy theorists, I get the sense that F1, Mercedes and Lewis don’t like it when he isn’t winning. He’s the hottest ticket in F1 and the biggest profile outside of F1 and they like that for the brand Mercedes and the brand F1. I understand that and it does carry weight but in the end, it carries little weight when you treat other drivers without parity, equity and integrity.
Unfortunately for you, dear reader, I don’t think Lewis is bigger than F1. I don’t think any driver is nor, for that fact, is any team—except maybe Ferrari but then you’d expect me to say that right? I like Lewis as a driver a lot. Love his aggression and that’s what I like when Nico shows that side of himself but when he does it, it’s cry foul time. It’s unfair, dangerous, race-ending for Lewis and not good for the sport. I find that notion very base behavior.
I understand the importance of owning the message and setting the narrative in this day of online media but if this is the way we’re going to go, then bring on Max Verstappen because I’m growing weary of blaming Nico each time he gets aggressive or Lewis has a bad day. What’s one of the first videos Sky Sports posts after the race? Not the podium ceremony but a video of when Nico Rosberg pulled his headset connector out of his race suit and it popped out and hit him in the eye. Guffaw!! Hardy har! What a dope! That’s downright rude folks.
Nico doesn’t deserve that kind of treatment regardless of how nice or cool he is to the press. Nico solved his issue in Baku because he kind of caused it or switched something out of pure luck but poor Lewis was flummoxed and no human could have solved that and that’s why the evil entity for Baku was this draconian, dangerous, outrageous radio ban! Seriously? You’re the people that wanted the radio ban in the first place because you were bemoaning the fact that the drivers were being too coached every lap.
Before you accuse me of being a big Nico fan, that’s not the case. If pressed, I happen to like Ricciardo, Vettel, Perez, Button, Alonso, Max, Wehrlein, and Ericsson (admittedly just to get under Paul Charsley’s skin) quite a bit. Nico is a really good driver and so too is Lewis. I have no dog in the hunt here but I can clearly see it for what it is and if I were Nico, I wouldn’t renew my contract at Mercedes. I would go to Ferrari, McLaren, Renault or Williams if possible.
Quotes Hat Tip: Motorsport