In all honesty, former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone knows how to ramp up some controversy. He’s been doing it for decades and this weekend’s most recent salty comment regarding current F1 champion, Lewis Hamilton, is another example of how stirring calm water creates a tidal wave of headlines.
In an interview with Sky Sports F1, Ecclestone suggested that the currently struggling Hamilton is not the same driver as he once was. In fairness, the question was put to Ecclestone when asked if Lewis seemed as hungry as he has been in the past for wins and another title so Sky Sports F1 themselves are questioning the motivation which Ecclestone corroborated.
There were several caveats offered in Ecclestone’s statement so before you think he was completely taking the stuffing out of Lewis, he did admit the champ’s brilliance and demeanor as a nice guy but suggested that maybe he was simply getting tired of the parade.
Regardless, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff took the comments as the kind of “grenade” that Ecclestone has been known to lob into a situation from time to time.
“All of us very much respect Bernie, but we have also learned to take the comments with a smile,” said Wolff.
“Lewis is remarkably easy with these kinds of things – I think that he sees it pretty relaxed.
“Bernie comes in and throws a hand grenade and it’s in the papers – it’s great.
“It’s Bernie’s way – he got all of you here [into F1] and me, and he made the sport big.
“It’s the off-track and on-track narrative and another thing to write about and talk about.”
Wolff says Hamilton still has the passion and desire and the news is over the top no matter how Mercedes does on track:
“How the news is running these days, we are oscillating between exuberance and depression, and back again,” he said.
“When things are not going in the right direction it’s doom, and when you win two races in a row it’s the utter Mercedes dominance destroying the sport.
“Maybe it’s somewhere in the middle. We haven’t collectively performed on the level we would want to in the last races.
“There were three races we could have won and we didn’t, that’s a fact.
“But I still see the fire and the desire to win very much burning in Lewis.”
Ecclestone’s comments and Sky’s question aren’t without precedent though and boiling up outrage over the challenge to Lewis’s motivation is fine but he’s struggled in the past when life or personal issues took his mind off the ball.
I asked our own Paul Charsley how a driver maintains that drive to keep winning titles during our pre-season podcast and astutely, Paul said that a driver has to find all new reasons and motivation each season. That’s not easy no matter who you are so I think the question is legit and Ecclestone’s answer is merely his opinion about it.
For Lewis’s part? He says judge him at the end of the season and we’ve also seen this play before too. Slow start, ramp up to dominate at the mid-year point onward. I wouldn’t’ put Lewis out of the hunt just yet with only 9 points separating him from Vettel’s championship lead.
Hat Tip: Autosport