It would probably be something of an understatement to suggest that Lewis Hamilton hasn’t been enjoying the best of luck. Over the last few weeks, you get the feeling that if he had a pet duck, it would drown.
Starting in Hungary with a gearbox problem, Hamilton has failed to finish three of his last four races. Only a terrific win in the treacherous conditions of the carnage-marred Belgian Grand Prix has saved him from utter despair.
At Monza, he pulled an overtaking move on Felipe Massa going into the Ascari chicane that even the kindest observer could only ever describe as optimistic.
His right front wheel hit Massa’s left rear, breaking a steering arm, and more championship points evaporated.
Fast-forward two weeks and Hamilton again lost out, this time to Mark Webber in an incident strikingly similar to the one at Monza.
This time it was Webber’s front right wheel that hit Hamilton’s left rear, staggeringly breaking the McLaren’s rear suspension but leaving the Red Bull almost unscathed.
As he pulled down the escape road and got out of the car, his frustration was obvious for all to see.
The steering wheel, worth more than most people’s domestic cars, received an impromptu aerial tour of the surrounding area and his headset cable, still firmly attached to the car, ended up considerable longer than when it went in.
As his title hopes took yet another big hit, Hamilton gathered himself and headed back to the pits.
There were no Sebastian Vettel style histrionics, no grand gestures to the crowd to suggest that it was all Webber’s fault. He simply caught a lift back to the pits, took the time to compose himself and then came out to face the media.
His maturity in the face of crushing disappointment is a sign of how much he has grown as a racer. At Monza, he accepted that he had made a mistake. This time he expressed his disappointment, gave his side of the story but ultimately accepted that it was a racing incident and that no one was really at fault.
Compare this to his reaction after the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix. For those who can’t remember, Lewis completely muffed the start, made a mad charge down the inside, locked his brakes, ruined his tyres and ran half a dozen cars off the road.
Here, though, is how Hamilton saw it, as reported in The Telegraph at the time. “My personal disappointment is the start and the way I'm treated. Everyone went wide (at the start) but for some reason I got a penalty for that. I can't understand that.”
It is true that everyone went wide at the start, but they did it to avoid Hamilton’s out-of-control McLaren.
He went on to accuse Massa of deliberately ramming him later in the race. While there is no doubt Massa was guilty of an appalling piece of driving, there was no way that he deliberately rammed Hamilton.
But that was the Hamilton of old.
Hamilton has grown into a formidable driver. His speed and skill have been obvious for some time, as has his willingness to take risks. The difference is that he has learned to control his emotions and accept the consequences of taking risks that don’t succeed.
With four races to go, a 20 point gap may seem insurmountable, but the new points system makes all the difference. Fernando Alonso has made up 27 points in the last two races.
Formula One desperately needs drivers like Hamilton, and he is far from out of the title race.
And the championship is all the richer for that.
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