Lewis Hamilton, James Allison, Mercedes, 2020

Allison hopes Hamilton maintains his “utterly unblemished record” as a driver

2020 F1 season

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Mercedes technical James Allison says he hopes Lewis Hamilton preserves an “utterly unblemished record” as a racing driver which is rare among multiple world champions.

Hamilton’s integrity is one of his greatest attributes as a driver, Allison said in an interview for Mercedes.

“I was brought up in a forces household, my father was in the RAF, and I think that the armed services place integrity very high up on the totem pole of values. I know I certainly got that from my family background.

“I’ve been lucky to work with people who have had the highest integrity. And I do think that that is a characteristic that marks out Lewis.

“He’s one of the oldest drivers on the grid now. Still drives like one of the youngest. But in a career of multiple championships and countless wins you’ll struggle to find a moment on the track where you see Lewis do something ugly.

“You’ll see him do many, many breathtaking things, you’ll see him do brave things. But you won’t see just crude, dodgem car, bumper car stuff, or any sort of artifice to the way he drives.

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“I hope that he manages to keep this going for the remainder of his driving career because it’s an utterly unblemished record. And I think amongst multiple world champions, it is also unprecedented to have to have all that success without anything that has even this sort of hint of a shadow of a poor sportsmanship hanging over it.”

Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, Monza, 2019
Allison praised Hamilton’s race craft
Allison said he has also seen no indication that Hamilton’s raw speed is beginning to diminish with age. The 35-year-old, six-times world champion is due to begin his 14 season of F1 this year.

“The level of drive that Lewis has, and indeed all these multiple champions have, is quite staggering,” said Allison. “You can think you’re a competitive person, you can think you’re a driven person, and then you bump into someone who really is and you realise that actually you’re a sort of middle of the road lackadaisical drifter by comparison.

“I don’t know that it’s easy to compare the Fangio generation of driver to the current. There’s probably a lot more people doing it now than they were back then, it’s a more competitive market and the ability to judge the performance levels of the drivers is so much, so much higher than it was back in the day.

“I do think there comes a time where the drivers’ race craft is still incredibly strong but that last little extra-special something that gives them the qualifying genius starts to slip through their fingers. And I think one of the interesting things about Lewis is that’s still very much with him. I think he is blessed with extraordinary physical talents to go along with this mental dedication that is quite freakish.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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40 comments on “Allison hopes Hamilton maintains his “utterly unblemished record” as a driver”

  1. Nice read, also nice title. I imagine other sites and/or the low quality newspapers would run something like: Mercedes director calls Hamilton “freakish”, questions sportsmanship of world champions

    I think we’re witnessing a true giant of a sport that’ll never be surpassed. Hamilton will go on to top almost every record in F1, then the sport itself will change so much over the years to come it’ll never be possible to overcome them.

    1. To be fair that was my original draft…

      (Not really!)

  2. wonderful. I truly admire Hamilton. to me he is of the same standard as Christiano Ronaldo ,always supremely fit and breaking records no matter which team yet the media like to chalj up the success to being in the best team etc

  3. I’ve been watching a lot of old GP’s on YouTube recently, and he’s right. The only other driver I’ve seen drive that is often added to the GOAT list and never showed lack of sportmanship was Prost.

    Senna was certainly not above a little foul play.
    At least 2 of Schumachers championships were tainted by foul play, and bad sportsmanship followed him right to the end of his career(s). I think its a great shame – because the talent was obvious, But a cheat should never be on an all time greats list.
    Piquet wasn’t above a little push and shove either.
    Vettel can be very, very dirty at times.
    Alonso also not averse to a little bad sportsmanship – though it was less obvious, and I hope it was mostly led by the team.

    Those that came before the 80’s I never witnessed much, so can’t comment – but Hamilton is certainly the cleanest racing of the “greats” that I’ve seen drive in the last 40 years.

    1. I find it very odd when people suggest Alonso is better than e.g. Schumacher. He orchestrated crashgate, he’s sabotaged his own teammates, and racially abused Hamilton to try and psyche him out. He’s the nastiest guy in F1 in my lifetime, certainly. Maybe of all time.

    2. Re. your comment about Prost: ’89 Suzuka was the only question mark and even then that was so badly prepared/executed! Senna just ran him straight off the road in 1990.

      Re. Alonso & the team: if you’re referring to McLaren in 2007, Hungary was the only time I recall anyone questioning Hamilton’s ethics/honour.

      1. Jose Lopes da Silva
        26th April 2020, 15:13

        I don’t see no difference between Prost in Suzula ’89 and Schumacher in Adelaide ’94. Both were instinctive reactions to an imminent title threat. In fact, apparently Prost had decided before that he would not leave the door open no more; well, Senna might have been able to enter the chicane side by side.

        And we still don’t know which took one of them to get a push to continue and the other one to leave the spot. According to regulations, both should have been pushed to continue. Both were in a dangerous position.

    3. Alonso seemed to play dirty off the track than on it. He is actually a very clean driver too.

    4. Also when it comes to schumacher I think he almost always wanted and had a contract which made him clear number 1 driver. As far as hamilton goes I don’t think he has (ever?) had that kind of contract. Even if with kovalainen mclaren did (deservedly) favour hamilton. I also think that hamilton has very good grasp of the rules and he is always willing to push as far as it goes but he rarely steps over. I think his only consistent somewhat dirty driving is how he pushes drivers off the track on corner exits. But in f1 if you are overtaking someone and you go into a corner side by side the rules do allow the driver on the inside to push the other driver off the track with no mercy. Sometimes completely ramming the off the road like verstappen-leclerc in redbull ring or alonso-massa in usgp some years ago.

      This may be one of the few dirty (I consider it dirty even if the stewards allow it) tricks hamilton does consistently. His other trick that is relatively minor is how he always maximises the gap to the driver in front when the drivers are gridding after their warmup lap. Doing that forces the car in front to sit there before the start just a little bit longer which increases the temperatures in their car and surely hurts their nerves a bit too. Nothing illegal but stretching the rules a bit. But so minor one has to really go look through his racing career with microscope too spot those.

      He did have his period of bad driving too in 2010 or 2011 as well but that was more frustration and bad judgment than taking risks or being dirty. All in all nobody is perfect but compared to someone like schumacher hamilton is very very clean. Only one clear example (that is not very clear at all because I don’t remember the track or the year!) was when he was doing some unpredictable moves under safety car and had a collision of some kind.

      1. William Jones
        26th April 2020, 18:05

        The rules don’t allow for you to push a driver off track, but they do say that the driver ahead is entitled to their line. When a driver takes a corner, they use the whole track. Especially when defending because it’s simply the fastest way to take the corner. Every driver in the world knows that you maximise the track. When you throw it up the outside, you’re not trying t hang it out, hope somehow that your opponent has hit his apex too slowly and the room is magically there, you’re aiming for a late apex, to maximise your speed down the next straight. So, they break, you’re on their outside. They hit their apex, you’ve remained on the outside, and missed the apex. If you remain on the outside, you’re done, even if they give you space – you missed the apex and you’ll be slow down the next straight. So you want to switch under them, put them on the outside, hit the late apex and have got on the power earlier than them. It’s not easy, hence why it fails so much – it’s probably the most difficult overtake you can try and one obvious way in which it can fail is if you break too late and their car physically prevents you doing the switchback. If you don’t back out, you know you are being pushed off the track, there is no other ption – they already chose their speed, and the centripetal force has already balanced with their radius – they can’t give you room even if they want too. Want proof of this, and that every driver knows this – watch Monaco, or the wall of champions corner, and notice how no-one tries this move when there’s a wall. They know!

        1. In practice the rules do allow the car inside to ram the car outside off the track. There is no question about it.

          As for your ideas about what is going on. The car inside has lower apex speed than the car on the outside because of different lines. The outer line can have have higher minimum speed through the corner but allows you to get on power later because the car is turning for longer time and takes a more round line through the corner. If you take a more parabolic line (sharp at the apex or before) and get to the apex you have slower mid corner speed but your route is shorter and as you rotate the car at the apex (or before) you get back on throttle sooner and harder because your trajectory out of the corner is straighter. The driver outside does not miss the apex. He takes a wider line.

          This is why the car outside can hang on until little after the apex but once the car inside gets on throttle it quickly gains overlap because it can accelerate harder. So it gains an overlap over the car outside who is still turning and not accelerating. And after the driver on the inside has started to accelerate he can just straighten his line all the way to the edge of the track and push the other guy off the road and get no penalty. The driver outside is not totallt helpless but he needs to do a lot better than the car inside to have a chance. If the driver outside can get his corner entry better he can still hang on on the outside and the overlap stays. But because the car inside can just ram you off the road the car outside can be even ahead and still get rammed off the road. And there is no penalty.

          The reason why nobody tries pass on the outside in monaco is because nobody wants to get pushed into a wall. And with this rule approach fia has essentially made outside overtakes really difficult which is why we see wheel to wheel racing. That being said there are people who think it should be this way and there are people who think it shouldn’t. I’m fine with this ideological difference and I don’t really think my opinion is more or less right. In my opinion pushing others off the track to overtake is not correct but some think (I’d guess?) that the only reason the car outside gets hit because he put his car there. Or that he has no space there, it being a closing gap or something. I mean fine, it is ideological difference. All that being said it is possible to drive two cars through a corner without hitting each other so it is not inevitable for two cars to hit each other. The driver can leave the space if he so chooses. With the current rules he is not required to so they don’t. And with the current rules the driver inside is not even required to avoid collision. So I think my interpretation of it being allowed to ram others off the road to overtake if it happens on corner exits is valid.

          1. correction:
            which is why we see less wheel to wheel racing
            (would like an edit button)

        2. You’re absolutely right. The driver on the racing line can use all of the track. If a car is in the way, you can push them off and claim he turned in on you.

    5. @sham Jackie Stewart? Jim Clark? There are lots of other candidates for the title of GOAT who have unblemished records.

      1. You missed the bit about the 80s and the last forty years then? And the bit about not watching those that came before?

    6. You mean one of Schumacher’s world championships (and that’s still up for debate – but I’ll concede 1994). 1995 and 2000-2004 were pure class and he was even unlucky to not win at least a few more.

  4. To me that’s one of the things that contribute to being a truly great driver, someone who is fast and can race close without forcing other drivers to take evasive action or crash. There are lots of fast spectacular drivers but not many fit that bill, they are too aggressive too ready to collide with another competitor. To me that just shows poor sportsmanship and a lack of race craft and they may be compensating for a small…

  5. His record is not ‘unblemished’ at all. Lying to the stewards, petulantly posting McLaren’s telemetry on twitter, accusing stewards of giving him a penalty in Monaco because he’s black, trying to back Rosberg into the opposition in Abu Dhabi to name a few.

    He’s a fantastic driver, but he isn’t a saint.

    1. Firstly, trying to back Rosberg into the opposition is not in any way wrong, in fact it was almost brilliant, he is allowed to race at whatever pace he chooses, and if Rosberg has a problem with that, he can pass him and clear off in front.

      Secondly, none of the things you mention are any thing to do with what Allison is talking about, hes talking about race craft, hes talking about not parking your car in Rascasse in qualifying to block the road, or pretending you’ve had a moment into mirabeau then reversing onto the racing line knowing it going to bring out yellows and compromise the driver behind.

      1. I disagree, Allison is talking about the way Hamilton conducts himself as a racing driver, wheel to wheel race craft is just one aspect of that.

        I agree there is no rule against backing Rosberg into the field in Abu Dhabi, but we’re not talking about rules, we’re talking about integrity, that’s how you conduct yourself as a sportsman, it’s multifaceted.

        The examples I gave are not good sportsmanship.

  6. So does everyone just collectively forget when he’s done some questionable stuff? Like, I’d accept he’s certainly not done some things as blatantly awful as other multiple champions, but unblemished is a bit of a reach.

  7. There’s no question Hamiton drives cleaner than Schumacher or Senna (who didn’t), but he’s not been above a bit of push and shove. Interesting that his rivalry with Rosberg was the one where Hamilton was on the limit (and sometimes beyond) of sportsmanship. Of recent WDCs, Raikkonen is probably the standard for fair driving. But Allison lists a military organization as a beacon for integrity, so consider the source.

    1. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
      26th April 2020, 16:31

      Interesting that his rivalry with Rosberg was the one where Hamilton was on the limit (and sometimes beyond) of sportsmanship.

      It has to be said, though, that Rosberg was the one that drew first blood – think Q3 at Monaco in 2014, and their first-lap collision at Spa later that year. Hamilton merely responded in kind, which I can’t really blame him for. I’d also argue that, while some of Hamilton’s moves against Rosberg perhaps weren’t textbook examples of stellar sportsmanship, they were still nowhere near as problematic as some of Rosberg’s moves against Hamilton.

    2. Raikonen does the same “push and shove” things. What people consistently fail to want to understand is who is in the wrong when two drivers are going through a corner. If Hamilton or Raikkonen is ahead and another driver sticks their car in or outside without making an actual pass work, then they need to yield and let the lead driver stay on the racing line. It’s what Brundle callse the “disappearing wedge”. The driver who keeps his nose stuck in that disappearing wedge is actually the one in the wrong. Even though he is the one who gets pushed off.

      Drivers understand this perfectly fine. Even though they always claim they were wronged.

      Best example is Rosberg in Canada 2016. Hamilton has the line after the start. Rosberg doesn’t yield and cries he got pushed off. Several laps later he’s in exactly the same situation when trying to overtake Verstappen. Does Rosberg keep his nose stuck in then? No, he knows he is supposed to yield and he does.

      1. Drivers understand this perfectly fine.

        I often get the impression Grosjean doesn’t. Particularly when he was complaining about Leclerc at Paul Ricard in 2018.

        1. Good point, might be right about Grosjean, I feel he’s been a bit confused about it in recent years. But, that’s the outlier that proves the rule, I suppose.

      2. I don’t really get your example… Rosberg was fully alongside Hamilton up until after the apex when Hamilton decides to wheelbang him off. The frontwheels of both cars were hitting each other. They could have perfectly made it through, had Hamilton not banged him.

      3. Rosberg had the inside line for the next corner. Oh well, just claim you have understeer and it’s fine.

  8. And I think amongst multiple world champions, it is also unprecedented to have to have all that success without anything that has even this sort of hint of a shadow of a poor sportsmanship hanging over it

    Lying and misleading the stewards is indeed a good sportsmanship according to Allison.

    1. To be fair to Hamilton, he was most probably pushed by his team to mislead the stewards, and he’s a very bad liar. It was more than ten years ago and these things happen often, other drivers have been more skilful while using such tricks. I wouldn’t really bring it up against him.

      1. @pironitheprovocateur that is the thing with absolutes though. When someone states that a sportsman has an “utterly unblemished record” and “[not] even this sort of hint of a shadow of a poor sportsmanship” then anything, no matter how old and small, can be brought up to question that statement.

        That is not to take anything away from Hamilton, specially on track, but we need to be realistic in our assessments.

        1. It’s like saying a boxer has an unbeaten record and then saying “well you can’t count that one loss he had because that was the team’s fault….” An unblemished record is an unblemished record and I don’t think anyone who has been successful in F1 has or ever will have one.

    2. He lied to get back a position – that his team told him to yield through fear of punishment – that was his rightful position by the rules.

  9. Rashmil Rajagopalan
    27th April 2020, 2:25

    I respect Lewis Hamilton as a person, and as a driver. He’s come from a humble & difficult background and now is such an influencing Sportsperson. With driving at such high speeds, the life at risk, the adrenaline rush is incredibly high and its natural for a not so sporting gesture to come out every now and then. Although I wonder if another year with NICO ROSBERG as a teammate would’ve probably changed all of our opinions. That relationship was toxic.

  10. Lets take a look at Hamiltons unblemished records :
    1. DISQUALIFIED for inentionally misleeding the stewards at 2009 Australian GP. What better way to start your first season as Defending World Champion.

    2. What about all the collisions with Massa in 2011?? I think there were 5 and except India all were Hamiltons fault. Its obvious all of them cant be co incidences, quite clearly Hamilton had some personal vandetta against Massa and took it out on track at 300km/h like a real man would have done rather talking to Massa face to face.

    3. What about 2016? Where he spoke of conspiracy theories about his engine failures and thraetening to walk away from his team mid season

  11. Sour grapes @fish123, for one, that 1st one wasn’t about on-track behaviour which was what Allison talked about, but for being part of a controlling McLaren that didn’t want him to admit mistake off track even when the reason HAM overtook Trulli on its own wouldn’t have been a big thing, as it was a bit of a confusing situation.

    As for 2011, well that certainly was his worst year I’d say, he seemed unbalanced (good job Button, and girlfriend trouble maybe? Similar for that silly tweeting telemetry stuff) but no, there wasn’t maliciousness, though perhaps frustration, esp. as it kept happening again and again. But also, Massa wasn’t at his best either, and at least partly to be blamed for never wanting to be seen to give up a place to Hamilton. If you talk about a personal vendetta, it certainly seemed that in 2011, Massa changed from being graceful in defeat to having Brazil 2009 bugging him and making him a bit resentful esp. towards Hamilton. Maybe because he couldn’t effectively do that to Ferrari/Alonso, or he’d have to admit he wasn’t in a good place with that team? (great driver, great guy, but, after his return he must have felt his changes were behind him, with the way he was pushed to obvious nr.2 by Ferrari, and especially his defence often became more stubborn and less clever in my opinion). But, neither were dirty, just stumbling over each other.

    2016 Hamilton, despite what he was saying, clearly felt rattled by Rosberg, who did that intentionally (maybe learned something from Schumacher who he found a very difficult, always scheming, teammate …) and successfully to claim the title. But again, not what Allison was referring to, which was on track behaviour.

    Good you didn’t mention Abu Dhabi 2016, that was clean driving, and even Rosberg agrees it was the only thing he could do to try and win, much as he himself found it a frustrating race. The team were annoyed at the time, but later had to admit that was stupid in hindsight.

    So, yes, Hamilton has weaknesses, and in my opinion he was frustrated early 2009 as he and his team realised they weren’t defending the title; 2011 he started to feel the rub from Button crowding him out in the teams attention a bit (perhaps similar to him/his dad feeling hard done from Monaco 2007 onwards when Alonso won, which spun that rivalry up?), and Rosberg definitely, deliberately, and successfully worked to make him feel rattled to get the 2016 WDC. When he’s feeling not well with himself, he tends to act silly and erratic off track. Though it seemingly also made him less effective on track due to not trusting his team and/or himself, none of it made him deliberately dishonest in the way some other drivers have been on track.

  12. liam marshman
    27th April 2020, 8:39

    Lewis is a great driver but unblemished? Anyone else remember Ferrari Gate?

  13. Man I wish someone thought of me like that! :-)

  14. Kinda rich for one of the few drivers who have been on the receiving end of the black and white flag, therefore officially warned for unsporstsmanslike behavior (Malaysia 2010, for weving in front of Petrov). Besides lying to the stewarts and being disqualified for that. I refrain to mention the non-sanctioned stuff. If you call that an unblemished record, that’s voluntary blindness.

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