The Ben Evans column: Hamilton’s Mansell moment

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Watching Sunday’s Chinese GP, I found that Mark Blundell’s summation ‘I believe Lewis did nothing wrong’ – bordered somewhere between the scarcely credible and utterly preposterous.

Is that ‘nothing wrong – aside from crashing in the pit lane and dicing with Raikkonen when it was totally unnecessary’?

Much as Nigel Mansell did in Mexico in 1986, on Sunday, Lewis Hamilton did his best to snatch defeat from the jaws of World Championship victory.

As it was I could barely sleep on Sunday night for the fear of tabloid headlines along the lines of ‘Hamilton in 7mph horror smash’

Hamilton is an extremely talented driver but aspects of his performance on Sunday bordered on the ridiculous.

The dice with Raikkonen in particular seemed unnecessary. At the first pit stop all but the blind could see that if it rained Kimi was ok but Lewis was in trouble. As it was it rained and sure enough Raikkonen was soon on Hamilton’s tail and looking for a way through.

Although Lewis could have let Kimi through to win with enough time in hand that he could perform the Macarena with his mechanics before the second place car came home, Lewis decided to dispute the matter further trashing his already tired tyres and losing valuable seconds.

Eventually Kimi got through and several laps too late Lewis decided to come in for fresh rubber at which point he found the pit lane was rather damp and promptly fell off.

McLaren gallantly fell on their own sword declaring the whole episode their fault, Ron Dennis practically vowed not to smile for another four years. Admittedly this is only one day more than was already scheduled.

The main point of contention is the pit stop – did McLaren leave their man out too long?

Well, had I been at the wheel of the McLaren on bald tyres on a wet track I’m fairly confident I would have been in the pits whether the team were ready or not, after all the worst it would have cost me is a second stop if the track had dried out, landing me a 3rd or 4th place finish, all but securing the world title.

Interestingly, following the European Grand Prix in July a racing acquaintance who ran a Formula Renault team at the same time Hamilton was in the series commented ‘He’s bloody quick, but has no feel for the car in changeable conditions’. Thus it was at the N??rburgring and again appeared to be the case on Sunday.

Had any other driver, in any form of racing, conspired to throw away a championship as Hamilton did on Sunday they would most likely have been castrated by their team and sponsors – as it was ITV were unsure whether it was the weather, McLaren’s pit strategy or the presence of Fernando Alonso on the same continent to blame for Lewis’ downfall.

The upside of all this is that Brazil in two weeks time will be a fascinating event.

My patriotic side would be delighted to see Lewis clinch the title. But Evil Ben wants to see Alonso prevail, solely because the shot of Ron Dennis’ face at the chequered flag would send me to sleep with a smile on my face for months to come??????

Photo: Daimler

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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19 comments on “The Ben Evans column: Hamilton’s Mansell moment”

  1. *ahem* “Chinese” gp… ;)

    Really he should have taken matters into his own hands and headed for the pits. If excessive wear on the tires is a concern, isn’t it the drviers call to come in for new ones? When your 7.7 seconds slower than your team mate, doesn’t that trigger some kind of an alarm bell?

  2. i think it was hamo’s error, he’d have known his tyres were gone and went ofdf in the pits because there was still wet track there, whereas the track itself had a dry line thus no grip!
    a sign of his lack of experiance!

  3. I take a slightly different point of view – his battle with Kimi showed him to be exactly the sort of racer F1 needs. He had a 12 point championship lead, so why *not* go for the win?
    Once Kimi had got past though, it did seem a rather strange decision to stay out when he was lapping so much slowly. Surely he and the team should have known the tyres were shot purely from the lap times?

    I rather think the reason ITV couldn’t decide who was at fault was because they were too busy rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of all those evening viewers for the Brazil race.

  4. Fixed the typo thanks Eric. As a punishment, next week Ben will have to write a complimentary article about Ralf Schumacher.

  5. :) Surely Ralf is the man to fill Alonso’s shoes at McLaren, what with being out of contract and looking for a new challenge and the opportunity to be competitive

  6. What I want to know is: what has Ben got against Ron Dennis? Just interested, that’s all.

  7. I must admit that I’m looking forward to seeing what happens if Alonso wins the title in Brazil – just what will the McLaren guys think of that?!

    For once Ron will likely be glad that a team representative isn’t allowed on the podium!

    It’s still quite a big “If” as Hamilton has to still be considered the favourite – he can’t throw it away again can he?

  8. Alonso Follower
    10th October 2007, 12:20

    Not sure, my mind is changing. Two days ago I just wanted Fernando to win in Brazil.

    Now I’m not sure, I’m even inclined to prefer seeing Alonso and Hamilton crash each other and Kimi winning. Alonso certainly is guilty at least in part of what has happened in McLaren this year, Hamilton has also a share of it.

    Perhaps the two deserve a lesson from one not so vocal but good driver.

    I’m already drooling over next season: Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen each one in a different team. That will be the real test of the best driver.

  9. Craig: He doesn’t necessarily have to throw it away though. All Alonso need for the title is to win while Hamilton is no better than 3rd, which is very much possible if Ferrari and McLaren are evenly matched. Although Alonso hasn’t really shown that kind of advantage over Lewis in any of the races so far this season.

    If on the other hand one team is ahead of the other (as in Monza or Spa) then I fear the race will just be 71 parade laps for Hamilton.

  10. Yes yes, this is all working as I have foreseen it. The spoiled brat and the golden boy will both take each other out at turn 1 on Interlagos.

    On the other hand, why let Kimi pass easily? Ham is a racer and that’s what we like to see, not some taxi driver nursing his wheels and letting other drivers pass, just because with a 3rd or 4th is enough. Only 1st is good enough for Ham it seems, wich is a good thing.

  11. Well it’s certainly a good thing from an entertainment perspective at least.

    F1 is a sport though (or well, supposed to be..) with a rule set and a points system which doesn’t include style points. In the end it’s the guy lifting the champion trophy people remember, no matter how much us enthusiasts like to praise the driver that just missed out because he went for the race win one time too many.

    Of course, a rule set putting proper emphasis on race wins would probably make”true racers” out of most F1 drivers pretty fast. ;)

  12. Clive:

    I’ve been following F1 for about 20yrs now, and its still puzzles me what most journalist, and I mean the ones from England, have againts Ron. I’m hoping we get Ben’s perspective. Although, I know Ron hasn’t been too keen on having English drivers.

  13. I’ve nothing personally against Ron at all, I think he is an extremely savvy and talented team manager who has worked wonders to keep McLaren at the top for 25 years.

    In the article I was merely poking fun at the fact that even when McLaren get a one-two the pit wall shot and post race interview Ron always seems subdued and a little miserable – it is nothing deeper than that

  14. Ben:
    The only think to say: last year he didn’t win any race.
    One time Alosno arrived, he has win everything… Is not this to think about?

  15. JavierR – I don’t want to provoke an argument or stimulate confrontation, but you are wrong.

    The reason McLaren are winning loads of races this year is because they have got lucky with their aerodynamic setup, coupled with a post-Ross Brawn Ferrari who are making mistakes again, something they didn’t used to do with Brawn at the helm.
    I agree with Ben in that Ron is a good manager but that I don’t really like him at all.

  16. JavierR

    Of the 16 races so far, I can count at least 12 of them that Alonso has not won. If he was really a super human, he would have won everything by now and not be complaining about his Rookie team mate at the slightest opportunity.

    If by chance u had also been following the preseason testing, you would have realised, Mclaren were instantly faster when the switched to the Bridgestone tyres, compared to the Michelin they had used the previous year. Then when u add things like the engine rpm restrictions leading to increased reliablity coupled with improved aerodymics as Vertigo just said, you will have the making of a great car, requiring a good pilot who can concentrate on the job at hand to get results, rather than allowing himself to be distracted by us who make comments.

    Has Alonso remained at Renault this year, I am very sure he would have had to depend on freak weather to get on the podium. Apparently, (equal driver status assumed at Renault), Alonso is faster, than Fisichella, but I am very certain, Fisichella is not 2 seconds slower than Alonso.

    By the way, do people still realise that there are hundreds of individuals working in a team to make the cars better, rather than just simply changing the tyres and putting in fuel. These people are the ones who make things happen, and not just the driver who is priviledged to sit in the car and get all the recognition.

    Alonso has brought alot to the team, but recently, he has began to take out more from the team than he has put in.

  17. Thanks for the explanation, Ben, all becomes clear. Personally I’ve never felt particularly strongly about Ron Dennis until this year (when my estimation of him has increased hugely) and it has always puzzled my why so many seem to dislike him.

  18. I agree with Clive-Ron is blameless for what has transpired off track this year.I think that underneath his “corporate” demeanor he has a huge passion for F1 that may be misunderstood. He has done a great job representing his team and company in all the off-track drama this year. Has a pretty good car on the track, as well.

  19. i totally disgree with vertigos comments on that mclaren have been lucky this year. He has simply just said that because he hates mclaren and he jsut cant take that ferrari have made to many mistakes this year

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