Jackie Stewart Is Wrong About Lewis Hamilton's Lifestyle Affecting His Form

Matthew Walthert@@MatthewWalthertFeatured ColumnistSeptember 21, 2016

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 18:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 18, 2016 in Singapore.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Here we go again. Lewis Hamilton has a disappointing result or two and all of a sudden, the two-time defending Formula One world champion is letting his personal life distract him from winning races.

This time, the criticism comes from Jackie Stewart, a three-time champion himself, who has been part of the sport for more than 50 years and forgotten more about F1 than you and I will ever know. He also enjoys hearing himself talk (and with that Scottish brogue, why not?) and all that experience does not mean he can't be wrong from time to time.

"Maybe you can bottom out," Stewart told the Daily Mail's Jonathan McEvoy. "That can happen through consistent success because when you have consistent success everything can seem so easy."

OK, makes sense.

"Suddenly things can go less well—you overdrive, you are not on the ball..."

We're with you, Sir Jackie.

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"...or you live a life that distracts you."

Wait, what?

Jackie Stewart
Jackie StewartClive Mason/Getty Images

Earlier in his career, yes, even Hamilton admitted that sometimes the off-track distractions of a glamorous F1 lifestyle hindered his on-track performances, per the Telegraph's Tom Cary.

Now, though, after two straight titles and three overall, can't we admit that Hamilton has figured out how to enjoy life while also winning grands prix?

For the record, the disappointing results that apparently spurred Stewart's comments were a third-place finish in Belgium (after starting from the back of the grid due to engine penalties), second in Italy and third in Singapore. Not exactly a complete meltdown.

And to suggest that Hamilton is trailing in the drivers' championship this year (by just eight points) because he is too busy flying around the world for parties and fashion shows is simply disingenuous.

Remember that Hamilton was leading the title race heading into the Singapore Grand Prix, a race where Mercedes struggled last year. This year, the Mercs had the pace, but car problems did not allow Hamilton to maximise it.

Meanwhile, his team-mate, Nico Rosberg, might have had the race of his life.

"I've known Nico since 2013 and that is the best Nico Rosberg I have seen at any weekend since then," said Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff, per ESPN F1's Laurence Edmondson. "We have the tendency to say that Lewis has awesome pace and this is what we have seen with Nico this weekend—he was just blindingly fast."

So it wasn't that Hamilton had a few too many late nights and Singapore Slings, then?

No, Hamilton is second in the drivers' standings right now because he has had more engine problems than Rosberg (leading to those penalties in Belgium), because he and Mercedes can't seem to master the starting procedure and because Rosberg has improved over the last couple of seasons.

Rosberg has been more aggressive this year and more consistent, perhaps realising that this could be his last, best shot at a title with a dominant Mercedes car, ahead of sweeping changes to the technical regulations for 2017.

Stewart enjoys stirring the pot, and he can sometimes overstate things. In Montreal this year, he told me F1's new sponsorship deal with Heineken was the biggest thing that's ever happened to the sport.

Yet, he is not the only one to question whether Hamilton's personal life is affecting his professional one. Earlier this year, David Coulthard, another former Scottish F1 driver, wrote a column in the Telegraph questioning, "Will there come a point when his lifestyle away from racing begins to take its toll?"

Lewis Hamilton at the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton at the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

No matter how many titles he wins, some people will never be happy with Hamilton's playboy image. But, as I wrote last year, as long as he isn't hurting anyone and he keeps showing up at the track and winning races (he has six victories this year), he should be allowed to enjoy himself.

Just remember, we cannot have it both ways. We can't complain when drivers are too vanilla, sharing nothing of their lives or personalities with us, but then castigate one when he does try to open up and engage the fans.

And by the way, if anyone is going to be tired out from their private life, shouldn't it be Rosberg? He is the one with a baby at home. At least you can sleep in after a night at the club.


Matthew Walthert is an F1 columnist for Bleacher Report UK. He has also written for VICEFourFourTwo and the Globe and Mail. Follow him on Twitter.


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