The Wolf Stalks The Sheep
After the 2011 Monaco Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton stands second in the F1 Drivers' Championship table with almost four times the points total of Ferrari driver Felipe Massa. That seems, to this writer, to fairly reflect their relative current abilities.
Whoever Hamilton's rivals are on the F1 track, Felipe Massa is not among them, that is very clear.
So it might be surprising that Massa should be so voluble in demanding Hamilton's head on a plate following an on-track incident between the two.
To set the scene for that incident, I ask readers to remember what could have been a very similar incident between Michael Schumacher and Hamilton early in the race. Schumacher had seen an opportunity to get on the inside of Hamilton going into the hairpin, an extremely tight place for an overtake. Here is David Coulthard's description of it from the BBC website:
"That's something I thought you'd never see, Hamilton, one of the best racers in the world, caught napping by Schumacher—an inspired move."
When Hamilton realised Schumacher had got the jump on him, he gave the German driver room to complete the overtake, which was the mature and professional thing to do. Of course he could have turned in on Schumacher, but no rational driver will do that because the results of collisions are entirely unpredictable, and he could have been putting himself out of the race.
So no drama, no protests and no penalties.
Yet later on in the race, Hamilton attempted an identical overtake on Massa. Massa did not allow room for the maneuver, and there was contact between the two cars. Such damage as occurred did not, however, put Massa out of the race. Shortly after, and still under pressure from Hamilton, Massa strayed onto the tyre marbles in the tunnel, lost control and crashed.
But what did Massa say? Here he is as quoted by Planet F1:
"He tried to pass me on the kerbs when I didn't think it was possible to overtake. He was too aggressive, I think. Then, when I got to the tunnel, my car was damaged and I went on the dirty part of the track and hit the wall."
Hamilton was penalised by the Monaco stewards with a damaging drive-through penalty, but that wasn't enough for Massa.
"I think he needs to be penalised again, and in a good way, otherwise he doesn't learn."
And that from the man who apparently hasn't learned that Ferrari are retaining him only because he incurred his head injury in their service, and they don't like to show him the door.
But the whole incident is about more than Lewis Hamilton's racing style or the fast-fading light of Massa's F1 talent.
It is about whether F1 is a sport with room for talented and extremely courageous drivers who will be aggressive and make the "impossible" overtakes, or if dash and daring are to be crushed to prevent humiliation of the timorous, the cautious and the over-the-hill.
Lest there be a spurious argument put forward about safety, it is hard to recall serious F1 accidents resulting from collisions. When drivers have died, they have usually done so alone, unassisted by their track rivals. Indeed, the most serious incident at this year's Monaco GP was when Sergio Perez lost control when exiting the tunnel; no other driver was involved.
Many readers will not agree with my views or my interpretation of events at the 2011 Monaco GP. Fair enough, I only ask them if they think F1 is better represented by the aggressive spirit of Lewis Hamilton, or by the whining of Felipe Massa.
For me, the answer is obvious. Go get 'em, Lewis.