James Lawton: Hamilton Snr should reclaim his boy and make him grow up


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Anthony Hamilton is not only one of the most agreeable men on earth he is also in some respects at least one of the fathers of his age.

He saw that his son Lewis had the dream of being a world champion and, just possibly, the talent to make it happen.

So he worked at three jobs. He was never so weary that he could not put in another shift.

Lewis Hamilton duly won the world drivers' title, performing with a natural brilliance that in the opinion of hard judges who included Sir Stirling Moss – who did everything but win the world title – announced him as potentially one of the greatest racers of all time.

In a more accommodating world, Anthony Hamilton might have been able to tell himself it was an open and shut case of job done. Unfortunately, a growing suspicion has turned into a disquieting fact.

The job is not done, and nor will it be until someone – and who is better qualified than the father of the 26-year-old former world champion? – has the nerve to tell the boy racer that not only is he failing certain tests of maturity, he is in danger of becoming the little boy with the big man syndrome who is getting progressively lost.

This is what his rival Felipe Massa – normally one of the easier spirits in a drivers' room inevitably subject to bouts of erupting tension – said in so many words when he slapped Hamilton on the arm during a post-race television interview in Singapore and complained bitterly about becoming a near serial victim of his reckless driving.

Hamilton added to his growing portfolio of mishaps when he smashed the front wing of his car and sent Massa limping back to his pit. It was the latest instalment of a series of incidents and accidents that now stretches back through six grands prix and has left him trailing the championship leaders, including his McLaren team-mate, Jenson Button.

Yesterday Sir Jackie Stewart, another of the great drivers who in the past has invested much faith in Hamilton's raw ability to establish himself as one of the enduring stars of Formula One, was quite bluntly questioning the driver's state of mind. "Great drivers," said Stewart, "don't have so many accidents."

Hamilton Snr is plainly dismayed by his son's latest pratfall but so far has contented himself with criticism of the management team headed by the guru of showbiz celebrity Simon Fuller, whose stable also includes Beckhams Inc and Andy Murray. He points out that almost all the leading drivers had their managers performing various trouble-shooting chores, including a little ego-massaging at the point of action.

Lewis Hamilton was performing that last chore on his own behalf quite extravagantly before the race. He dismissed the pressure on his rival – and prospective repeat world champion – Sebastian Vettel, saying that a real edge comes when you go into the last race with everything depending on your performance, a somewhat loaded reference to his own title-winning move when he passed Timo Glock while approaching the finish line in Brazil three years ago.

Anthony Hamilton, who is now in charge of the young British driver Paul di Resta after last year's break with Lewis, aimed low-key criticism at the absent Fuller organisation but did say, "You look up and down the pit lane and every driver except for Lewis has a driver-manager in his life. I'm sure his management is very good but Formula One drivers need people personally involved in their lives because it is big pressure."

It was hardly necessary to say that some of the worst of the pressure can be self-generated. Indeed, some might say that almost as alarming as Hamilton Jnr's antics on the track was the dismissive thrust of some of his remarks before the Singapore race. Not the least of these was an imperious back of the hand to the veteran Rubens Barrichello, who is sufficiently respected by his rivals to be voted chairman of the drivers' association.

"There are some drivers who are just content with being in Formula One and just existing. Maybe they have families," said Hamilton.

"Look at Rubens Barrichello. He just seems content where he is. He is in a nice place in his life. There are people like me who only exist to be the best. If you're not busy trying to be the best then you are not doing anything."

This must have been deflating news for Barrichello, who in his Brazilian youth was much admired by the mythic Ayrton Senna and in the course of his long career has had a few moments of passable distinction, including 11 Grand Prix wins, 14 poles, 17 fastest laps, 68 podium and two second-place finishes in the driving championship.

Hamilton also pointed out to McLaren – who fast-tracked him into Formula One and gave him the benefits of an extremely quick car and some first-rate industrial espionage when he made his first brilliant dash for glory – that his patience with their failure to match the current strength of Red Bull would very shortly be wearing extremely thin.

McLaren team leader Martin Whitmarsh said the driver was getting plenty of love from the team. "I've known him since he was 11 and there's affection between us and many members of the team. Undeniably it's not been a good year for Lewis but there are five races left and he will regroup."

It is a process clearly in need of some urgent stimulation. Felipe Massa made a start when he slapped Lewis Hamilton on the arm. Now, perhaps someone – and there are no prizes for guessing who – should bend him over his knee.