Monday, 30 May 2011

Lewis Hamilton's Exciting Weekend

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton arrived at Monaco smiling from ear to ear, saying that he loves driving at this track. By the time the race finished on Sunday, he was incredibly frustrated, and ranted at the stewards in a way which he might regret in the morning . . .

So what went wrong?

Hamilton was the quickest driver in the first stage of qualifying, and he was again the quickest driver in Q2.
However, as the all important Q3 started, his McLaren team decided that the former World Champion should do just one or two flying laps, and save a set of precious tyres.

When Hamilton eventually joined the track, he was just beginning his first flying lap, as his old rival Felipe Massa left the pits in front of him. Hamilton chased the Brazilian up the hill, but the Ferrari driver didn't yield to him until the Casino complex which Hamilton was not happy about, and gestured to Massa from his cockpit.
Massa hadn't blocked Hamilton as such, but it seemed his presence had distracted the McLaren driver, as his first sector time was over six tenths down on the best lap.
Before Hamilton had finished his lap, Sergio Perez had a nasty collision with the barriers, which brought first yellow, and then red flags to the circuit. Hamilton, therefore, returned to his garage without having set a time, and with just two and a half minutes of the session remaining.

Once the stricken Sauber had been cleared away, the race began. McLaren, however, in their desperation to get Hamilton a time on the board, sent their driver to the end of the pitlane at least a minute before the session was to recommence. This means that his tyres would have cooled considerably, and grip levels would therefore be reduced.
Hamilton managed to set a reasonable lap time, putting him in seventh place on the grid for the race the following day.

However, once qualifying was over, the stewards announced that Hamilton had cut a chicane on his one flying lap, meaning the lap time was invalidated. He was therefore dropped down the order to ninth, as Perez was declared a non-starter for the race. His one saving grace was that he was given the option of starting on whichever tyres he would like, whereas any drivers setting a time in Q3 must start the race on the tyres their best time was set with.
After viewing replays, it is clear that Hamilton did cut the chicane. He locked a wheel and had therefore had no choice but to go straight on at the corner.

As the race began, Hamilton managed to get the jump on Michael Schumacher, who's Mercedes struggled to get off the line as the lights went out. However, Schumacher struggled to slow his car into the first corner, and touched the rear of the McLaren. Bits of McLaren were clearly seen to break off from the rear of the car, but this did not appear to cause any obvious damage.

Hamilton was re-passed by Schumacher at the hairpin, and was left with all the work to do again.

As the race progressed, Hamilton - who had been stuck behind an apparently slower Felipe Massa for several laps - attempted an opportune pass into the hairpin where he had been passed by Schumacher earlier. However, he hit the side of Massa and wasn't able to pull the move off.
He radioed to his team saying that Massa had turned in on him on purpose, but from the replay, it was clear the Brazilian had nowhere to go, as Mark Webber was also at the corner at the same time. As Hamilton hit Massa, the Ferrari was actually knocked into Webber's rear wheel in turn.
Hamilton stayed on the back of Massa's car, and eventually made an unconventional move at the beginning of the tunnel. This appeared to take Massa by surprise, as he ran wide, out on to the rubber 'marbles', and then into the barrier, ending his race.

Force India's Paul di Resta had attempted a very similar move into the same hairpin earlier in the race, and had also hit the car infront. The stewards, which for this race featured former Toyota driver Allan McNish, quickly decided that di Resta's move warranted a drive through penalty.
Unfortunately for Hamilton, the precedent had therefore been set, and no one was particularly surprised to see a drive-through penalty awarded for the failed overtake on Massa.

Hamilton drove well after his drive-through, and caught back up with the rest of the pack. However, at this time the race leaders, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were also catching this pack.
There were about 10 cars together within just a few seconds of each other, and blue flags were starting to be waved. The three leaders managed to pass through without any major issues, but as Hamilton tried to follow them through, Adrian Sutil ran wide, clipping a barrier and puncturing his tyre.
In the melee that followed, Jaime Alguersuari hit the rear of Hamilton's car at some speed, sending the young Spaniard into the air and into the barrier.

Hamilton's rear wing was badly damaged, and as the BBC's pit-lane reporter Ted Kravitz told the watching World, McLaren had cleared a space in the garage, presumably to retire Hamilton.
The collision that Alguersuari and Vitaly Petrov were involved in saw the race red-flagged. This meant that the McLaren mechanics were able to work on Hamilton's car whilst it was stopped on the grid. The mechanics set to work fixing the rear wing, and replaced the nose cone which had also picked up some damage. After a great effort from the boys in silver, Hamilton's car was ready for the race restart.

However, once the safety car came into the pits, the number three driver attempted a rather unlikely passing attempt on Williams' Pastor Maldonado. The move was never likely to work, and it sent the Venezuelan into the barrier and out of the race. Hamilton's car seemed to have survived, as he continued with the race.
On the final lap, he chased hard to try and catch Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, but to no avail.

After the race had finished, Hamilton was awarded an additional 20 second penalty for the move on Maldonado. But this didn't affect his finishing position.

Speaking to the BBC, Hamilton was not happy. "It's an absolute frickin' joke," he said. "I've been to see the stewards five times out of six this season."
"Maybe it's because I'm black. That's what Ali G says. I don't know."

Hamilton later apologised to the stewards for his comments, which he said were "a bit of a joke" but this may not be the last we hear of this. The FIA have recently introduced strict punishments for anyone who brings the sport into disrepute.

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