And that’s saying something!
And would you credit it, it was by ITV-F1. WHY LEWIS IS TAKING THE FLAK, the headline screams, stomping its feet.
The article by Mark Hughes (who is normally one of the more sensible ITV-F1 people) starts as it means to go on, by taking a true event and completely twisting it out of shape:
When Lewis Hamilton put his car into the Shanghai pit lane’s gravel trap there was a lot of spontaneous and ill-concealed cheering in the non-British sector of the press room.
Yeah, do you know why? Because it was a spectacular event that turned the season on its head, just like when Nigel Mansell’s tyre exploded or when Michael Schumacher’s engine exploded last year. Not cheering when Hamilton beached his car in the gravel trap would be like not cheering when a goal is scored in the 89th minute of the football World Cup final. Only the most partisan of people would be unable to see this.
For an explanation from journalists — journalists who are British, but who aren’t hopelessly biased like the morons at ITV — of exactly why there would be cheering in the press room, just listen to the latest edition of the BBC (yes, that is British Broadcasting Corporation) Chequered Flag podcast.
David Croft: You mentioned a stampede in the press room. I hear there was quite a cheer in the press room as well when Lewis went out. Is that right?
Jimmy Roberts: Well, it was more a cheer of… Unbelievable scenes. We can’t imagine what we’re watching. The thing is, Formula 1 — it never fails to excite, it never fails to generate moments of sheer sporting drama. It reminded me of when Nigel Mansell’s tyre blew in 1986, and it was just one of those moments where you just have to shout. There was just pandemonium.
Maurice Hamilton: I remember the reaction in ’86. It’s an exclamation! “Whoa, look at that! How did that happen?” And the same thing, there’s Lewis Hamilton stuck in the gravel trap. I think the vision of that McLaren beached with its rear wheels spinning in the gravel will just live with Formula 1 forever. It’s one of those emblematic shots that people will forever remember.
In short, history was being made in front of our eyes. How can you just sit there? Despite the fact that even British mainstream journalists can see this, Mark Hughes is playing the usual game that British MSM journalists have been playing. According to them, it’s Brits versus the world (and Spain in particular).
You could even see this in some of the press coverage of the Stepneygate scandal, where some consumers of news were left with the impression that there was golden boy Britain’s Lewis Hamilton keeping his nose clean. It was those dirty Spaniards, Pedro de la Rosa and Fernando Alonso, who were at the centre of all this!
Let us just gloss over the fact that the real people who were at the centre of the scandal — Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan — were both British. But this just doesn’t fit in with the story that the racist British media wants to project. In this ITV-F1 article, Mark Hughes is pressing all of the same buttons, albeit a bit more subtly. You ought to be able to expect better from the country’s biggest commercial broadcaster. But I have given up.
Mark Hughes carries on through the article. I really wish it was good, but I am afraid it is just straw man after straw man.
Even Hamilton’s summoning for the marshals to push him out of the gravel was greeted with jeering by onlookers.
Just as it was when Michael Schumacher did the same thing. British journalists weren’t too keen about Michael Schumacher got pushed out of the gravel either. But even Schumacher never used a crane to re-join the race. Interestingly, Mark Hughes makes no mention of the crane incident anywhere in his article.
He goes on to take a look at Hamilton’s “on-track etiquette” before going on to talk about a number of Lewis Hamilton’s moves. Unfortunately, he paints a picture that all of the complaints about Hamilton’s etiquette are about hard moves. This is simply not the case.
Even so, though, let’s not forget how put out Hamilton was when Alonso played a similarly hard move on Hamilton at the Belgian Grand Prix. It’s so different when the boot’s on the other foot, huh? The other drivers lived with it, while Hamilton just started moaning about it.
Mark Hughes then completely twists the tale of Hamilton’s erratic driving behind the Safety Car at Fuji, completely glossing over the real issues. He mentions the first re-start, when Alonso was behind Hamilton. There is one particular point about this paragraph that makes me laugh so much (emphasis mine)!
On the restart behind the first safety car in Fuji he was perhaps a little over-aggressive in getting the jump on Alonso, braking so hard that Alonso (technically illegally) passed him to avoid an accident.
I love it! When Fernando Alonso does something technically illegal it merits a mention. As one of Hamilton’s defenders, Tom, said in the comments on another post on this blog, this rule is really a grey area — particularly if the car in front is effectively brake-testing.
But when Lewis Hamilton does something which is actually illegal, it is completely glossed over or just downright ignored in this article. The incident that provided the most controversy — the one when Hamilton brake-tested Webber and Vettel — does not get a single mention in this article. Yet this is the incident where it has been proved that Hamilton broke two rules.
First of all, Hamilton was driving erratically. This is against the rules, and there is no room for games behind the Safety Car. Drivers are not racing, and the purpose of the Safety Car is to make the track safer and to stop drivers from doing dangerous things. Hamilton did the complete opposite — as we can see from the number of accidents that happened in Safety Car periods compared to during the race.
Secondly, Hamilton strayed more than five car lengths behind the Safety Car. This is not some technicality that the FIA put in there for the hell of it. The Safety Car is designed to bunch the drivers up. This is partly to give the marshals plenty of time to clean up on-track debris. If the cars are more spread out, the marshals have less time (and less safety) to do this. Hamilton had complete disregard for this rule.
The FIA have since changed the rules so that a leader is allowed ten car lengths. This trick of changing a rule after it has been broken is usually reserved for pro-Ferrari purposes. And oh, how many times the British media has lambasted the FIA for it.
Hamilton effectively brake-tested Webber. Webber slowed down to avoid being “technically illegal” just like Alonso was. This is what caused Vettel to go straight into the back of him. It was all Hamilton’s fault, and you can see this in the video. But the British media just aren’t prepared to admit this — and you can see this in the fact that Mark Hughes has completely ignored this incident in his article.
So anyone with some vague notion of “Hamilton being controversial behind the Safety Car in Japan” will have the impression that Hamilton was completely in the right after reading this article. In reality, Mark Hughes has skirted round the issue completely. Nice piece of obfuscation there.
I find the views expressed by Alan Permane and Steve Nielsen in the latest Renault podcast interesting. You could say that they had a vested interest in Hamilton losing the Japanese Grand Prix, although they also say that he shouldn’t have been disqualified from the race, but given a grid penalty for China. Besides which, I think you would struggle to find many sensible F1-heads (that is, F1-heads that don’t have a vested interest in a British driver succeeding) disagreeing much with what they say.
Steve Nielsen: During the race, the only time we became aware of it was when the FIA came onto the intercom to us and said that Heikki [Kovalainen] should watch his distance to Lewis. Which is very unusual. What was implied was that we were too close — dangerously close — and so we conveyed that message to Heikki. And it wasn’t really until after the race, talking to a couple of the other drivers, and then the now famous bit of film that was on YouTube, that we became aware that Lewis actually was far from innocent in all of that and that his driving was questionable — very questionable in a couple of instances. And my own personal view is that he caused the accident between Vettel and Webber.
Alan Permane: Yeah, I find it a bit odd that Vettel got penalised, then they realised that actually it was not his fault, but we’re not going to penalise anybody. To me it was Lewis’s fault.
SN: And at that very race on Friday in the drivers briefing, Charlie [Whiting] told both the McLaren drivers that their driving behind the Safety Car at Monza — which was two races previous — had not been good enough. It was too erratic. And Lewis had a kind of — not a problem with it, but he certainly raised concerns and said he thought it was okay and was surprised that it wasn’t okay. And yet here we are two days later and he repeated it. And as Alan’s just said, for that to go totally unpunished, I’m a bit surprised at.
AP: What I find strange is that they felt that punishment was needed. And Vettel got that punishment. And then when the blame was reapportioned, or it was figured out it wasn’t [Vettel's] fault, that punishment [should] still [be] there, so whose fault was it? I don’t think it was just a racing incident or one of those things. It clearly looks like Lewis stops the car and it causes a bit of a pile-up. I think to exclude him from Fuji would have been way too much. That really would have been unfortunate for the Championship. But maybe a grid penalty or something in China, I dunno. Anyway, that’s all history now.
It is painfully clear to me that the FIA were aware that Lewis Hamilton was driving dangerously behind the Safety Car. Not only had they warned him about his driving at Monza, but they were also aware that he was doing exactly the same thing during the Japanese Grand Prix. We know this because after the accident between Vettel and Webber, Heikki Kovalainen was told by the FIA to keep an extra distance behind Hamilton during Safety Car periods.
Yet, they didn’t punish Hamilton for it. Yes, Hamilton really is getting all of the flak, isn’t he!
Back to Mark Hughes’s article.
There was also some glee from his detractors when Ron Dennis revealed that the circumstances leading to Alonso’s blocking of Hamilton in the Hungary pit lane during qualifying had been triggered by Hamilton’s non-compliance with a team request at the beginning of the session.
This, for me — and many other F1 fans — is the defining moment of Hamilton’s career so far. Yet, once again, Mark Hughes completely glosses over it. He even implies that Hamilton’s actions were somehow mitigated by the fact that there was “glee from [Hamilton's] detractors”. Give me a break!
Why do we have to keep on putting up with ITV’s awful, biased coverage?