I’ve said it many times before; the way a person handles adversity is often more important than the actual adversity they face. It has been that way for time immemorial. One of my main concerns regarding McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton in his first year in F1 was that too much pressure was being put on the young man and that the adversity he was facing was exposing his youth and creating untenable situations for him.
There were a host of reasons for the situation but I am pleased that with time he has come through the last few years with more maturity and better race craft. I think few young men could have handled the situation as well as Lewis has. The pressure, the stage dad, the team and expectations, the fans, the racism, the girlfriend et. al.
Sunday’s race saw an error by Hamilton that he has taken to heart and admitted his shortcoming. He was very upset with himself and stated so in the press. Team boss Martin Whitmarsh has been much more dismissive of the incident but Hamilton knows that he has no one to blame but himself. He realizes it was a move that was unnecessary and it could cost him the title. That’s why he is kicking himself regardless of the placation of his boss.
“You always kick yourself when you make a mistake,” he said.
“You kick yourself more than anyone can kick you, regardless of if your boss comes up to you and says ‘well, we’re all disappointed but…this is motor racing and you’re still great bla bla bla’.
“Regardless of that you still kick yourself hard. It’s just the way some people deal with it and that’s how I deal with it. If I didn’t do what I did today, I probably wouldn’t be who I am,” he added.
“That’s me. I do push and that’s me as a racing driver, that’s how I do it.”
Hamilton has faced this adversity well and has shown a more mature, realistic driver than perhaps the man he was in 2008 when he won the world championship (which only stands to reason although I know several people who never grew up). He has even downplayed the calming words of his boss because he knows that he has let himself down and the team down. It’s a side that we are now seeing more frequently with Hamilton and I think it’s a great sign of things to come. No false humility or bumbling young-man goofiness. Just straight talk and maturity about how he feels.
Whitmarsh was quick to suggest that risk-taking is what makes Lewis a champion and to some extent I agree with that but ultimately a driver who can see the whole picture is what makes champions. right now, Lewis is finding that out the hard way and he will be much better for it.
“That is what a great racing driver has to do, he has to take risks, go out there and push, and on this occasion it didn’t come off,” he said.
“It was very close, a few centimetres left and it would have been okay, but it wasn’t. We have to live with that, bounce back, be refreshed, rejuvenated and focused, and that’s what we will be.
“The important thing is that Lewis jumps out of bed in the morning, gets in to training, focuses on Singapore and wants to do the job there. And he will.”
Having left Monza with no points, Hamilton is looking forward to the next races that may favor the Red Bull’s or Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. Lewis has got to put this incident behind him, which I think he will do, and look toward new development parts for the car and how he can take the attack to Webber’s slim championship lead. While Hamilton is down in the mouth, this year is far from over and while Red Bull may have an advantage at the upcoming circuits, Webber is having his own trouble within Red Bull and at the starts.
Everything is to play for and Hamilton is a contender once again for the world championship. He has stiff competition from his own team, Red Bull and Ferrari and this year will put Hamilton’s maturity to test like no other year has. It has already been accused of cracking Vettel as well as humbling Webber and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. It’s a cruel year and the competition is insurmountable. I suspect Lewis can handle it but the big question is, can his car?