Lewis Hamilton, Jarno Trulli, Albert Park, Melbourne, 2009

Analysis: Is Hamilton’s driving as spotless as Allison claims?

2020 F1 season

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Mercedes technical director James Allison’s paen of praise for Lewis Hamilton last week cut to the heart of a divisive debate over the sport’s most successful drivers.

With six world championships and 84 race wins, Hamilton undoubtedly deserves to be rated among the most successful drivers the sport has ever seen. But has he achieved it, as Allison suggests, without as much as the merest blemish on his reputation?

“You won’t see just crude, dodgem car, bumper car stuff, or any sort of artifice to the way he drives,” said Allison.

“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.”

This isn’t a claim that could reasonably be made of the driver who turfed his team mate off to win a title, or the latter when he returned the favour the following year, or the driver who attempted much the same on two other drivers during his career. But can it be made of Hamilton?

When Hamilton was asked last year whether he considers himself a cleaner competitor than other drivers he told the media: “Ultimately, it’s for you guys to reflect on how good that is.” To do that, we need to consider his entire 13-year, 250-race F1 career to date.


Lewis Hamilton, Safety Car, Fuji, 2007
Hamilton was unpunished over Safety Car incident
The astonishing aspect of Hamilton’s debut was how few incidents the rookie was involved in. Not only that, he brought his McLaren home on the podium in his first nine consecutive races.

That run ended at the Nurburgring, where Hamilton was lucky to reach the end of the race after being lifted from a gravel bed by a mobile crane. In a season of intense acrimony, Hamilton’s refusal to obey team orders to let Fernando Alonso overtake him during qualifying in Hungary was an act of insubordination, albeit a minor one. It provoked a considerably worse retaliation from his team mate, and its massive implications hurt both of them.

At Fuji, in heavy rain, Hamilton was leading the field behind the Safety Car when two drivers behind him collided. The stewards investigated the incident twice, and on re-examination softened the penalty issued to one of the drivers involved, Sebastian Vettel, but took no action against Hamilton.

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Hamilton found himself on the wrong side of the law several times on his way to the 2008 title. Sometimes he was bang to rights, such as the qualifying incident in Malaysia, pit lane collision in Canada or scrappy outing in France.

On other occasions he had good cause to feel wronged, such as his harsh penalty in Japan, or the ludicrous decision to strip him of victory in Belgium.


Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Sepang, 2009
Hamilton apologised for misleading the stewards in 2009
During a Safety Car period at the season-opening race, Hamilton passed Jarno Trulli when the Toyota driver went off the track. This was legitimate, but his team believed they needed to return the place, so Hamilton was told to slow and wave Trulli through.

After the race, Hamilton and team manager Dave Ryan told the stewards he had not be instructed to let Trulli past. While Trulli was initially disqualified, once the truth came to light he was reinstated and Hamilton thrown out. Ryan lost his job over the incident, while Hamilton gave a fulsome apology to the media at the following race.

Hamilton committed surely his gravest error of judgement as a racing driver in the first race after he became a world champion. For the rest of the season – and thereafter – he hasn’t been involved in an incident of anything like this magnitude.


Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Valencia, 2011
Ferrari hit the roof over Hamilton’s Safety Car pass
What has Hamilton done on-track which most angered his rivals? Overtaking the Safety Car during the European Grand Prix in 2010 would have to be a top candidate.

Hamilton was given a drive-through penalty for the incident, though due to the circumstances of the race it didn’t cost him a position. Ferrari were livid, calling it a “false race” and a “scandal”.

There were few other incidents of note that year, though he was shown the black-and-white flag in Malaysia, which didn’t reappear until last season when it was brandished at Pierre Gasly at Spa, and then Charles Leclerc at Monza, while he was defending his position from Hamilton.

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Lewis Hamilton, Pastor Maldonado, Monaco, 2011
One of Hamilton’s many tangles in 2011
Hamilton’s 2011 season was a ropey affair by his high standards, dogged by a series of needless collision with rivals, which along with other incidents added up to a total of nine penalties in 19 races.

He was involved in four incidents with Massa alone, and picked up three penalties in a single weekend in Monaco. That culminated in an ill-judged move, with more than a hint of ‘dodgem car’, on Pastor Maldonado, cast for once in the unfamiliar role of blameless victim.

The pair met again in Belgium when Hamilton dived past Maldonado at the end of qualifying, then was hit by the Williams driver after crossing the finishing line, suffering damage to his car. It was as if Maldonado had decided to teach him what a real ‘dodgem car’ move looked like…


Hamilton and Maldonado tangled again at Valencia the following year, but this time the Williams driver was entirely to blame, rejoining the track and thumping Hamilton out of the race.

He suffered more frustration in Spain when he was stripped of pole position for a technical infringement. His team had instructed him to stop on track due to a shortage of fuel in his car. The same thing happened in Canada two years earlier, where the team had been fined, but the rules had been toughened up in the interim.


Hamilton largely kept out of trouble during his first season at Mercedes only picked up a drive-through penalty for a tangle with future team mate Valtteri Bottas in the season finale at Interlagos.

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Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2014
Hamilton was in no mood to let Rosberg pass
Though Hamilton’s route to his second world championship was largely uncontroversial, the Hungaroring was the scene of another instance of Hamilton not complying with his team’s instructions.

He was told to let team mate Nico Rosberg by at one stage, but held his place and told the pit wall “I’m not slowing down for Nico”. However after the race team principal Toto Wolff said they were “ultimately comfortable” with Hamilton’s decision not to yield.


Aside from a tangle with Daniel Ricciardo at the Hungaroring, where he collected a drive-through penalty, Hamilton’s progress to a third world title saw few dramas.


Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, 2016
Rosberg was held up by Hamilton at Yas Marina
In a tougher title fight with Rosberg, Hamilton picked up two reprimands for minor offences in the opening four races, and completed the season with the threat of a 10-place grid penalty for a further reprimand hanging over him.

The real drama came at the season finale where Hamilton, leading, could only win the title if Rosberg fell from second to fourth behind him. Over the protestations of his team, Hamilton slowed the pace to bring Rosberg’s rivals within range, but none were able to pass, and Rosberg clinched the crown.


Apart from being dinged for delaying Ricciardo on his way into the pits in Bahrain, it was a clean season for Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel accused his championship rival of brake-testing him in Azerbaijan, but the stewards put Hamilton in the clear, which Vettel later acknowledged.


The only infractions of note for Hamilton as he took his fifth title were a pair of reprimands for crossing the pit lane entry line. The first of these, in Germany, provoked some consternation as Hamilton stood to lose the race win had he been given a harsher penalty, though his reprimand was consistent with previous judgements.


Hamilton committed exactly the same infraction at the Hockenheimring 12 months later. This time he got a five-second time penalty as the rules had been tightened. He picked up two other penalties of note, one for impeding Kimi Raikkonen in qualifying, and another for an uncharacteristically ill-judged lunge on Alexander Albon at Interlagos.

An “utterly unblemished record”?

Michael Schumacher collides with Damon Hill, Adelaide, 1994
None of Hamilton’s infractions were as bad as this…
Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna's damaged cars, Suzuka, 1990
…or this

Now in the latter stages of his career, Hamilton finds himself up in front of the stewards far less frequently than he did earlier in his career. This isn’t simply because the highly competitive equipment he’s enjoyed since 2014 has meant he hasn’t been involved in as much wheel-to-wheel racing – his growing experience and maturity were already evident in 2012 and 2013.

Nonetheless, occasional incidents are to be expected. Even the greatest drivers are going to make errors of judgement. Allison’s point wasn’t about these, it was about whether Hamilton has committed any genuinely dirty moves.

Surveying the whole of his career to date, I have to come down on Allison’s side. There’s obviously nothing which stands comparison with the four notorious title-deciding examples involving Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher mentioned earlier.

These fellow multiple champions of Hamilton’s were also accused of other highly questionable moves such as brake-testing (Senna) or trying to stop a qualifying session by parking on the track (Schumacher). These were driving moves born of wrongful intentions. It’s this kind of behaviour Allison is referring to, and Hamilton clearly hasn’t done anything similar during his time in F1.

Melbourne 2009 was undoubtedly Hamilton’s most unsporting moment, though his key misjudgement was committed off-track, and he clearly received incorrect instruction from his team at the time. It should be counted against him, but not in a discussion about driving standards.

Beyond that, the worst you can say about Hamilton is he’s been unwilling to cede an advantage to his team mate on more than one occasion. Few other champions have.

Some criticise Hamilton’s tactics in the 2016 season finale. This strikes me as quite unreasonable, as he didn’t jeopardise his or his team mate’s ability to finish the race. Drivers regularly reduce their pace during races for different reasons, and doing because of the championship situation is no different.

Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Yas Marina, 2019
Will Hamilton keep it clean in future fights?
If anything, Hamilton was perhaps too sporting on this occasion. Come the final lap, with nothing to lose, he could have pushed Rosberg even harder and risked a collision with his team mate, but he chose not to. It’s not hard to imagine how Hamilton could have made things much uglier.

Describing Hamilton’s record as “utterly unblemished” implies he’s never transgressed even in an innocent way. That clearly isn’t the case, as the many examples above illustrate.

But Allison’s broader point, that Hamilton has conducted himself with a level of integrity above that of other recent triple-champions, is a fair one.

The question now is whether that will hold through the final phase of his career, as he faces the new generation of spectacularly competitive talent lined up to take a shot at him.

2020 F1 season

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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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60 comments on “Analysis: Is Hamilton’s driving as spotless as Allison claims?”

  1. Jonathan Edwards
    5th May 2020, 13:06

    I would have to agree with your ultimate conclusion, and I see no plausible counter-argument against it. The one are where Hamilton escapes scrutiny, which baffles me to no end, is his oftentimes routine tendency to push rivals off the track, particularly during the first lap. Onboard footage and race start cameras make it obvious he opens the steering lock and simply pushes drivers attempting to pass off track. We have a rule against this type of behavior, but officials somehow deem it a unworthy of enforcement on the first lap. Call it clever racing if you want, but it’s decidedly unsporting. The start of the USGP a few years ago being a prime example. I also notice you avoided mentioning Hamilton driving through the grass at the Mexican GP in ‘16. This was certainly deserving of a penalty.

    That said, yes, he’s been free from the major incidents Prost, Senna, and Schumacher committed.

    1. He has been on the receiving end of that move at the start of races several times too, often with Rosberg. Or even with Alonso in Spa 2007 off the top of my head.
      It’s acceptable driving at the start and happens across the grid, not just at the front.
      The action at the start of a race has always been judged differently compared to the action during a race.

      1. Chris Horton
        5th May 2020, 15:34

        Hang on. Whether it’s what other drivers do isn’t in question, Hamilton’s ‘spotless sportsmanship’ and integrity is.

        Pushing other drivers off at the start isn’t sporting, whether that’s within the rules/what’s acceptable to the stewards on lap 1 is beside the point.

    2. The one are where Hamilton escapes scrutiny, which baffles me to no end, is his oftentimes routine tendency to push rivals off the track, particularly during the first lap.

      I don’t particularly like that drivers are allowed to do this, but I didn’t like it when Schumacher did it to Montoya at Imola in 2004, so why single out a driver who came along three years later for doing it? The practice was well established before Hamilton made his debut.

      1. The reason why drivers are allowed to do this is because there’s nothing wrong with it if the person on the outside doesn’t have their car sufficiently in front in order to dictate the corner radius. Hence why Maldonado was fully blamed when he punted Hamilton on the outside in the Valencia example you talked about.

        In the situations where Hamilton has squeezed a driver off, like Austin with Rosberg, Rosberg wasn’t sufficiently ahead to dictate the corner. Remember Hamilton on Alonso at the Nurburgring, i forget the year, 2010? Turn 2, Hamilton carried enough momentum around the outside that he could dictate the line, Alonso could do nothing about it, his options where to concede, or push him off and receive the same fate as Maldonado.

        1. The rules allow drivers to push others off the track. That’s how it is. Your ideas about corner radiuses don’t make any sense tho. A corner is a corner and cars have brake and throttle pedals for speeding up and slowing down and steering wheels to turn more or less. Hamilton pushed maldonado off the track and he did it on purpose. Maldonado simply did not take it lying. Hamilton got what he deserved but the rules allow hamilton to do that. Pushing cars off the track, ramming them off the track is accepted by the rules. It is allowed but it is what it is. Pushing others off the track.

          1. You’re talking about two completely separate issues. I’m not sure what Hamilton/Maldonado incident you’re talking about because clearly you’re not talking about the Valencia one.

            “‘The rules’ allow drivers to push drivers off the track” – This is not just an F1 rule, this is a road racing rule, period. From rent-a-kart right the way up to F1, if you’re not sufficiently ahead on the outside going into a corner, the risk is yours, you risk being left no track, because your position relative to the other car and the shape of the corner puts you at a disadvantage.

            Language like ‘Pushing/Ramming’ is only used to try and make the guy on the inside, in this case Hamilton, seem overly aggressive, which is not the case.

      2. James Coulee
        6th May 2020, 0:05

        There seems to be a pattern: if it’s Hamilton, then that’s not a problem. Jenson Button, just to stay in the U.K., played by the same rule book and he would never push anyone out of the track. He’s not the only one to have that sense of sportsmanship either. I know who has’t, but he is always forgiven. “No sportsmanship, but the rules allow, so great sportsmanship.”

        1. With respect…
          Button was barely ever competing a first turn with his team mate from pole…..

          1. I can also say that the dislike of such a move is by people who have raced and lost or never raced. Take a look at any motorcycle racing where the issues are much worse. They are the masters at the first corner lift up. They all do that or block passes that can’t be done in four wheelers. It’s racing and nothing like as dirty as a brake test or a feather mid corner. People who are tuned to brake lights need to remember that’s the worst stunt. It’s racing and not dancing. I detest bad stuff given I lost a championship to someone pretending to be hurt And lying on the track so I know what can happen. LH has never cross3d the line. Few can say that.

            The simple fact is Hamilton is the master of the first corner attempt. If you have ever tried it I think you will find those that have pulled it it off either way love it and remember it as one of the best

            Yet here we are suggesting it’s ‘ unsportsmanlike’ jeez don’t go racing folks it will shock you.

      3. Chris Horton
        6th May 2020, 14:05

        Keith, I’m not trying to hold him to a higher level than other drivers, but Hamilton can’t be said to be impeccably sportsmanlike when commiting factually unsporting driving ie, pushing a rival off the road.

        Others do the same but I’m not suggesting that they’re beacons of integrity either.

        1. I don’t agree that committing a driving move which has been legal for years is “factually unsporting”.

    3. See, you almost answered your own question with the bit about the first lap. They are on cold tyres and heavy fuel loads. But in those situations and in all racing situations, drivers are allowed their line through the corner so long as they have car position. And that’s the key bit, car position. His is immaculate in those situations. When the cars are at that speed, you can’t expect the inside car to round the corner pinned to the apex side of the track, physics simply won’t allow at racing speeds

  2. It isn’t as spotless as Allison claims, but it’s probably one of the cleaner records among the most successful in F1. However, it must also be said that Hamilton has been involved in a lot of incidents in his time, especially early on until about 2013. People forget how similar to Verstappen he was, in that he seemed to lack a bit of racing intelligence at times (but it is something he has excelled at recently), and would often try the impossible when there was an easier alternative present, or sometimes struggled to pick his fights instead of fighting for every single place to your grave. And although you could argue that’s what made him the driver he is, it certainly cost him more shots at a WDC.

    1. Complete nonsense, especially when comparing to Verstappen who caused 10 collisions in 2019 which was his “clean ” season.

      1. SkepticSam
        7th May 2020, 8:23

        Can you name those 10?

    2. Now that’s what I call an utterly unblemished comment, @mashiat! 😆

  3. Miltiadis (@miltosgreekfan)
    5th May 2020, 13:16

    I have to say, i disagree in many stuff with this article

    Hamilton is an extremely great driver and has avoided huge controversy like others have done, no doubt about that. But, the analysis of every Hamilton season is really questionable…

    Let’s start with 2011… This season wasn’t just a bad season, but he was a danger for others. Literally, a danger whenever someone was about to battle him. There are tones of videos on YT, a really poor incident that was forgotten was in Japan, when Massa was about to overtake him heading to the chicane after 130R, but Hamilton didn’t see his mirrors and almost caused an almighty shunt… His spacial awareness in 2011 was non existent…
    Then, you can’t say in 2015 that he had few incidents, when he pushed his teammate twice of the circuit at a race start (COTA and Suzuka)… Allison’s comment included the phrase of “bumper car stuff”, which he clearly did in 2015

    His mistakes in 2008 were amateurish as well, but he was pretty inexperience in some aspects.

    All in all, no one can ignore the fact that Hamilton’s maturity and a change in lifestyle and diet have made him super smooth when judging a race situation in his latter stages, but he had many avoidable incidents in his early career,when his personal stuff wasn’t that stable.

    1. Pedro Boal Carvalho
      5th May 2020, 14:22

      I think you are missing the point by a large margin.

      What is in question is not whether Hamilton made driving mistakes, even serious mistakes, but whether he made driving maneuvres that can be considered dirty (such as trying to take out other drivers).

      That is what James Allison referred to, in comparison to Prost, Senna and Schumacher.

  4. ”There were few other incidents of note that year, though he was shown the black-and-white flag in Malaysia, which didn’t reappear until last season when it was brandished at Jean-Eric Vergne at Spa, and then Charles Leclerc at Monza, while he was defending his position from Hamilton.”
    – I think you mean Pierre Gasly instead of JEV.

    1. @jerejj Indeed so – have corrected.

  5. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    5th May 2020, 14:56

    He’s no angel but admittedly hasn’t done as bad as some others. Though referring to him as ‘unblemished’ and some sort of paragon of integrity and sporting behaviour is at best blinkered and at worst rewriting history. You can support someone while acknowledging they can be flawed; nobody’s perfect.

  6. Andy (@supergrover)
    5th May 2020, 15:08

    When is he leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari alongside Leclerc?

    1. That Will never happen. His mediocrity will be exposed

  7. Personally I think it is unquestionable that LH has been a much cleaner driver than MS. I agree with much of what has been said in the comments so far. But then, to me MS was unique in his career-long lack of morals on the track. I still say Senna didn’t make a career of it like MS did, but had his famous lower moments for sure. But then, Senna was ultra-unique too.

    For me, what turned me off of LH was in 2011 his admission that off-track distractions were costing him on the track. I feel this was the beginning of the end for him at Mac. As well though, I always thought from minute one that his decision to leave and go to Mercedes was exactly the right decision. I thought he needed to leave the nest there at Mac, and I also believed Brawn when he said back then that where one would want to be as a driver for the hybrid era was with a factory team.

    The next time I was turned off of LH was after he won the 2015 title at USGP. I still believe to this day that it went to his head, and is still there. A huge sense of entitlement. The comments about wanting the season to be over but with three races to go. The admission of late night parties and the sense he was phoning it in. That really didn’t bother me so much until he found himself behind NR on the track (the start of Nico’s seven race win streak that went into 2016) and would make claims on the radio like ‘you can’t pass in these cars’ (ok so let’s remember that for Nico rather than just calling him always slower) and then he would call for extreme strategy changes to get him ahead of Nico (sorry but Nico has earned his spot oh LH who is on phoning-it-in mode).

    So then came 2016 and I thought LH’s behaviour off the track was disgraceful when he continually implied a conspiracy against him with claims of the team favouring Nico, inciting his fans into going along with conspiracy as the only possible explanation for Nico’s success, to the point where Toto had to defend the 1500 staff at Mercedes and their integrity by publishing a letter claiming thus. LH’s sense of entitlement was being bruised. I got a kick out of the little story from the weeks after the 2016 season ended and Nico was WDC. Nico phoned TW to tell him of his retirement plans. TW phones Dieter Zetsche to tell him the news but before he can say it, Zetsche, having seen who was calling him, says to Wolff ‘what now, about LH?’ Ie. what’s he whining about now? That to me capped off perfectly what we got from LH in 2016.

    Now all that said, this is my opinion on LH that I personally have gleaned from ‘knowing him’ through F1, and his is not my favourite kind of personality (entitled and a drama queen). However, I truly believe he also has a good heart and is a great person overall. There is the F1 world and it’s extensions that seep into a driver’s life, especially a multi Champion’s, and then there is real life away from social media etc. I’m sure in real life, egos aside, he’s a great and a giving individual and only human like all of us.

    1. @ Robbie. Agree with most of your observations. The main article glosses over the bad bits, but Hamilton has proven many times that he is happy to use politics or rough behavior when it suits him. The article stating that the 2016 finale was a sign of great sportsmanship is also to wear rose tinted glasses – the Merc had been superior all season and never needed to slow down to conserve anything that year. Plus, Hamilton needed to finish to win the WC – unlike prior WC deciding collisions he had no motive to risk damaging his own car, but beyond that he certainly did everything in his power to ruin the race of the teammate. My guess is that Hamilton, being very aware of the media game, knew that 2016 is more closely monitored than even 1997 was and on a track like Abu Dhabi he just couldn’t find an excuse to pull something off. The drivers of today aren’t angels. Hamilton as a sportsman certainly isnt. They’re just living in a modern world where everything gets caught on hi-def tape – so they know they have to stay politically correct, or they lose anyway.

      1. @thomas

        IMO, i think many of you are missing the point. Keith has quite rightly, pointed out some of the negatives, but Hamilton making a mistake, being clumsy or driving in an aggressive manner, isn’t the same things as being malicious, trying to deliberately crash your teammate out to win a title. In the context of comparing him to drivers like Schumacher & Senna, then yes, he’s much cleaner, in that respect. Hamilton isn’t perfect, but when scrutinised against the actions of Schumacher, Senna etc, he is cleaner

  8. So Schumacher is in a tier of 1 for constant poor sportsmanship? Senna has major in a title battle where he took out Prost to win a title. Not Sure Lewis has been in that situation where he could which kinda says alot about the quality of the titles he’s won. For the era I’d have to say he’s done enough to warrant bottom half in sporting behaviour with the 2011 season, Trulli in 09 and causing Hungry 2007 is enough high profile situations to put him in the lower half of sporting drivers since he started in 2007

  9. I know it’s difficult to find subjects in these dire times, but maybe, just maaaybe there could be articles about other drivers than Hamilton too…?

    1. @huhhii Coincidentally, the last headline which reference Hamilton was 44 articles ago. Among those covered during that time are:

      Guenther Steiner
      Ross Brawn
      Christian Horner
      Lando Norris
      Charles Leclerc
      George Russell
      Alexander Albon
      Scott McLaughlin
      Santino Ferrucci
      Simon Pagenaud
      Ayrton Senna
      Carlos Sainz Jnr
      Mark Blundell
      Bernie Ecclestone
      Jan Lammers
      Dan Ticktum

      1. @keithcollantine It’s just that this whole “What did James Allison have to say about Lewis Hamilton” -saga has been blown out of proportions. “What do others have to say about Allison’s sayings?”, “Analysing James Allison’s words” etc. It was just one comment. There’s nothing special when a member of a team praises a driver of the same team.

        My F1 Cars and It’s Not Race Week serieses have been awesome!

  10. The Spa 2011 crash with Kobayashi comes to mind as one of Hamilton’s clumsiest moments, he already had almost the entire track’s width to himself and still drove into him for no good reason.

    I also feel the Schumacher 1994 Adelaide crash tends to get blown out of proportion. If he had just been trying to turn into that corner and hit the apex normally, it would have looked exactly like it did. Hill absolutely didn’t need to dive in there. Even if Schumacher squeezed him intentionally, it wouldn’t have been nearly as unsporting as Senna ’90 or Schumacher ’97.

    1. Being clumsy isn’t the same thing as being malicious, deliberately crashing into title rivals etc. I feel many on here are failing to grasp the difference. All drivers crash, make on track mistakes, etc….but for most of them, the intent isn’t deliberate or malicious. And that’s why Hamilton is generally seen as a cleaner driver when compared to the likes of Senna & Schumacher. Generally, Hamilton’s mistakes on track, his crashes, have never been malicious or deliberate. There’s the difference.

  11. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
    5th May 2020, 18:13

    If Lewis was genuinely as dirty as people make him out to be, he would’ve punted Rosberg into a wall at Abu Dhabi in 2016.

    1. If he did that, he’d have risked wrecking his own car as well, in which case Rosberg would still have been champion.

      1. Todd (@braketurnaccelerate)
        5th May 2020, 23:36

        There’s no reward without risk.

    2. @braketurnaccelerate – That is something we’ll never know since Rosberg never had the guts to overtake him.

      1. Agree with todd: with such a car reliability in the recent years, it was quite obvious rosberg would’ve scored enough points for the title, so if hamilton wanted to try everything, he could’ve simulated a crash to try and take out rosberg while hoping to continue the race, even just in a lower scoring position he could’ve been fine, you don’t win the lottery if you don’t buy the ticket. However with nowadays’ rules it’s very unlikely they wouldn’t have penalized him.

  12. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    5th May 2020, 18:31

    I’m guessing this is focussing on the races more than qualifying as Hamilton has had a few bad qualifying sessions that haven’t been included in this. But, they have let to a poor race result.

    Baku 2016 I think he spun and wrecked his tyres in Q2 then crashed in Q3.

    Monaco 2017 was a bad weekend, enough for him to be a struggler on this site in the race weekend driver ratings. At least two drivers also got very angry about a Mercedes being in the way in qualifying and both times it was Hamilton.

    I think his race in germany last year was worse than it seems. The penalty he got was the least of his problems as he sort of had no choice but to break that rule or keep driving with a damaged car. But he wrecked his front wing, admittedly had a very long pit stop, thought to be fair, the team won’t have expected him. Then he kept loosing it and often span and went of track then did pretty much exactly what Bottas did, just with a lucky escape. He even said on the radio that he wanted to retire. So we can thank he team more so than him for those two points that he ended up getting. It did surprise me that Bottas, who had a decent race until crashing was a struggler and Hamilton wasn’t. This was probably Hamilton’s worst race in years.

    Not against what has been said here, I just think there have been a few more moments especially in qualifying that have shown a few occasions where Hamilton isn’t at his normal level.
    Another time was Brazil the same year, he crashed out when it wasn’t even wet. Some people say Hamilton isn’t as good once he’s won the title, and that sometimes looks to be the case. This incident almost looked like he wasn’t concentrating fully or something.

    1. You are completely missing the point. All drivers make mistakes, but the key ingredient that is missing is deliberate intent.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        5th May 2020, 20:13

        If it is based purely on that, then surely you can say a great deal of drivers are just as good as Hamilton… As I’d say the vast majority have never had deliberate intent to do anything wrong.

        In terms of deliberately being awkward at times when the team give orders, we can’t say Hamilton never does this. I think there are many sides to this that you can take it as. If I’m totally missing the point, I’d say you are missing some of it too.

        1. Yes, i agree that many other drivers never went to the lengths of e.g. deliberately crashing into teammates, or being malicious, but most of them are not in the conversation as being the sports most successful drivers. The context is the sports most successful.

    2. I think this article is more about the way he battles with his competitors and other potentially ‘unsporting’ things, rather than individual mistakes.

    3. You misundertsand. James is refering to malicious driving. Hamilton has never done malicious driving yet. Indending to shunt another car, or divebomb someobdy or park his car in rascasse or break a front wing…. Never. Not one.

  13. Compared to Schumacher, Senna and maybe Prost – okay Lewis hasn’t made that level of unsportsmanlike behavior. A lot of other champions haven’t either. Hakkinen, Button, Hill and evening Alonso – as controversial as he could be – has been fair on track to my memory. Champions should be expected to be sportsmanlike.

    1. Alonso fair??
      The invented of the brake test. No not really sportsmanship.

      1. James Coulee
        5th May 2020, 21:37

        Do you recall an instance when Alonso left anyone without space or forced anyone out of the track in a battle for position? For Hamilton’s generation and younger it’s second nature, though.

        1. 2007 Spa?

        2. F1oSaurus (@)
          6th May 2020, 16:24

          Alonso only knows people should “always leave the space” is when he’s trying to overtake them. When he overtakes others or defends, he rarely “leaves the space”.
          To be hoinest it makes sense he doesn;t, because there is nothing wrong with not leaving “the space” in post cases. Only during braking does this need to happen, but though a corner not.

        3. Jonathan Edwards
          6th May 2020, 20:13

          Vettel at Monza comes to mind.

  14. Alonso’s been MIA lately……all this ‘eRcing’ going on and ?…… meanwhile, Scott McLaughlin could be a star in the making.

  15. I’d be interested to see a similar article over Vettel’s career for a comparison, maybe it could become sort of a series during this lockdown (provided it doesn’t take up too much of your time of course @keithcollantine ).
    I can think of Turkey 2010, Malaysia 2013, Mexico 2016, and Baku 2017 as probably the most dirty/unsporting moments of his career, but I’d be interested to see how many there are. Might just be my memory, but I feel like with Vettel there are maybe less small moments than Hamilton, but more significant ones.

  16. James Coulee
    5th May 2020, 21:35

    “Nothing Hamilton did was bad, and the bad things he did, other champions did, so they are not bad.”

    He has a very good track record, but don’t fool us, it’s not squeaky clean.

  17. Still no sight of dirty driving! So Jamas Allison is correct. He is spotless on the track.

  18. The problem with all this matter resides in the foolish phrasing Allison used.
    Hamilton is indeed a clean driver, generally speaking. Though far from standing out among his historic peers. Also, one reducing the picture to Senna and Schumacher is a bit mischievous once both are textbook examples of what is blemish, whilst there are at least eight other multiple champions who have just as good record as Lewis, if not some better ones.

    But then again, pairing him to his contemporaries 3x WDC leaves none but Vettel who, under the mitigating parameters presented, can be just as clean to baffle us all: Multi-21 is merely disobedience from team’s orders; lying to the stewards is just as disgraceful as cursing the race director; Baku/17 bump wasn’t meant to crash Lewis out of the race. With that we derail the debate only because in the very beggining a silly claim was made that a champion at a knife-edge sport can be utterly unblemished.


    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      6th May 2020, 16:32

      @niefer Vettel drives into other cars all the time. He claims it’s by accident, but then his description of the event makes it clear it’s pure red mist that drives him to not head the extra precautions he knows he should have taken. Then tehre is the incessant swearing at race officials when it’s clear he made an obvious foul himself (China .

      In his mind it’s not deliberate, but if you know you wont be able to make the corner at that speed an still try to take the corner at that speed then you cannot claim that it was bu accident.

      Incidents like France 2018, Baku 2017, Singapore 2017, Canada 2019, Brazil 2019 etc etc etc. Those are all off malicious intent. Australia 2009 he still got a hefty penalty for doing this on Kubica, but for some reason they stopped penalizing him for it, so he keeps doing it more and more.

  19. All in all, there is no question. Lewis has not gone down the malicious route of taking his fellow competitors out. If you take Maldonado, early Grosjean and the occasional “Red Mist” out of it, the decorum on the grid has generally been quite good in the last 10 years. So yeah, Lewis has kept up with the times.

    To be honest, after Schumacher’s antics in 1997, I can’t recall too many incidents that carried the weight of incidents past such as your usual Schumi v Hill, Senna v Prost or even Piquet brawling with Salazar. The sport evolved as we came into the 21st century perhaps? I dont recall anything controversial with Mika, nor when Schumacher was wielding the might of Ferrari. Ok, there were moments with Montoya every now and again, which was great!

    Pressure makes people do crazy things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Lewis or any other top driver is unable to cope with pressure, but it can have an effect. Other than the animosity with Rosberg, Lewis hasn’t been under pressure from anyone else due to the competitiveness of the entire Mercedes package. This takes nothing away from his achievements, he’s done his job extremely well, not his fault if Finger Boy can’t quite find his fingers these days.

  20. I think it helps hamilton a bit that he has not been in a situation where crashing his opponent out would give him the championship. There is some truth to the saying opportunity makes a thief. Lack of opportunity makes you clean. And at the same time the total mercedes domination since 2014 has meant that for a really long time hamilton has only had one car that is his team mate to compete with in the races. This elevates his driving standards to a level that is not really descriptive of his actual cleanness. When vettel was dominating you could make similar judgment on him too. He had some clumsy things but nothing like what senna did in suzuka. Leading from the front even made senna look clean. But then when situation presents itself it is baku 2017 or suzuka 1990. Out of which suzuka incident was 100x worse due to its high speeds. Suddenly not so clean anymore.

    One could also say hamilton has been the most consistent driver to stay just inside the rules but right at the limit. Which is what a succesful sportspeople should do. Knowing the rules inside out is part of the game. All the rules one nees to obey with are in the rule book. There is no code of honor or moral right or wrong. If the rules allow it you do it. There are two kinds of spotless drivers. Driver who drives fairly and who could never harm someone else on track. Code of honor. Look at kimi for example. Imagine kimi taking someone out on purpose. You can’t. Then there are drivers who rarely actually break the rules but always push right to the limit because they know the rulebook. It has hurt kimi couple of times just like it has helped hamilton quite a few times.

  21. Put him in a non winning car and the truth will reveal, the 2016 final race gave us a clue. While holding up Rosberg lewis was hoping that others might do the dirty job to keep his own hands clean. And if someone, let’s assume Max, would have finished that job, it would also have been a possibility for a situation or even a crash and therefore giving Lewis one more opportunity to picture Max as dirty driver.

    Lewis is an awesome driver but he’s simply driving the best package and he definetely isn’t an angel.

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