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29 May 2011

F1 2011: Lewis Hamilton's weekend to forget

7 days after appearing to be getting his season well and truly on track, Lewis Hamilton went into meltdown mode in Monaco.

McLaren's Hamilton watches Saturday qualifying.
(Photo: EPA)
It started with a strategical disaster in qualifying that left him doing his only timed lap on cold tires. It then emerged that he had cut the chicane setting it and was demoted to 9th.

The race began and Hamilton was mugged into Loewes hairpin by Michael Schumacher. This was soon reversed thanks to a brave overtaking move into turn 1. The afternoon began to unravel as Hamilton, trapped and frustrated behind Felipe Massa's Ferrari, dived recklessly into the side of Massa's car at the same hairpin that Schumacher got him. This earned him a drive-through penalty that was probably justified. Massa's afternoon ended two corners later as he ran wide under pressure from Hamilton in the tunnel and crashed into the wall.

Things appeared to be back on track for Hamilton until Adrian Sutil made contact with the wall and caused a multi-car pileup as others tried to avoid him. Buemi's Toro Rosso rode up the back of Hamilton causing damage to his rear wing. Vitaly Petrov then followed into the wall and was stuck in his car causing the race to be red-flagged with 6 laps remaining. The McLaren engineers did a fine job in repairing Hamilton's rear wing in just 15 minutes for the restart.

Following close behind Pastor Maldonado's Williams, Hamilton tried to get by into turn 1 but the young Venezuelan did not see the Brit coming and turned in, contact was made, Maldonado's afternoon ended in the barrier but Hamilton, again, carried on as he finished in 6th despite being given a 20-second penalty for the Maldonado crash.

It was in his post-race interview with the BBC that the crap hit the fan as Hamilton went into full rage mode. When asked about his incidents with Massa and Maldonado he said that the other drivers were "frickin' stupid for turning in on him," and that it was "frickin' ridiculous that he had been in front of the stewards 5 times in 6 races. His most controversial comment came when he was asked why he had been to the stewards office so many times. He replied: "Maybe it's because I am black, isn't that what Ali G said, I don't know."

Clearly marked as a joke, the F1 world and wider community has taken his remark out of context, many accusing him of blatant racism and calling for disqualification, suspension and even asking him to be banned from Formula 1. This, taken out of context, is a big mistake from Hamilton that he will regret. Hamilton will no doubt be wishing he took just a few minutes longer to collect his thoughts before opening his mouth. Taken in the context as it should be, this is simply a young man wondering why he has been to the FIA more times than any other driver, but choosing the wrong words at the wrong time in a world where there are people looking to take issue with everything you do or say.

A bad weekend that he will be desperate to imagine never having happened.


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