The gospel of the track according to Father Hamilton
Manager and mentor, Anthony Hamilton has more on his plate than ever after the split with Lewis. David Tremayne reports
Tuesday 04 October 2011
No sooner had Lewis Hamilton come under fire yet again for tagging the rear of Felipe Massa's Ferrari as they duelled for fifth place early in the recent Singapore Grand Prix, than father Anthony was widely quoted as saying, of his son's management company, XIX: "His management need to do more. Look up the paddock. Every driver that's got a manager, the manager is here and in the driver's life."
Hamilton and Massa have clashed several times this year in the hurly burly of a tough Formula One season in which no quarter is asked, nor given. They collided in Monaco and Silverstone, prior to Singapore, where Hamilton was given a drive-through penalty by the race stewards for causing a collision. But the subsequent release of voice tapes that include an instruction from a Ferrari engineer to Massa – "Hold Hamilton as much as we can. Destroy his race as much as we can" – cast doubt on the McLaren driver's absolute culpability for his role in the Massa incident.
When we spoke at the weekend, his father Anthony said: "I remain very passionate about Lewis's racing," before explaining that his comment about driver management was meant as an observation and wasn't intended to upset anybody.
"I spoke with Lewis during the week after the race. He told me that he's happy with the job that his management and Simon Fuller are doing – and as long as Lewis is happy, then I'm happy," he added.
While Massa was provocatively sarcastic in a post-race confrontation with Hamilton, the Englishman has refrained from making any comment on the incident and made it clear he won't be changing his style in Japan this weekend. "The Japanese Grand Prix is one of the highlights of my season," he said.
"Suzuka will play to my strengths. It's a track that requires you to drive in an attacking way, an uncompromising place. But that's when the thrill of driving a Formula One car is at its highest, when you know you can't afford a single mistake and where driving on the absolute limit is the only way to get the best time. And I'll take any conditions as long as I can race hard."
Which will please his dad. When father and son split early in 2010, Anthony moved on to helping other young drivers achieve their dreams and was instrumental in helping Paul di Resta into an F1 race drive with Force India for 2011 after he had been their third driver in 2010. He is also managing a young Dutch driver, Nyck de Vries, whom he hopes will follow in Lewis's wheeltracks.
Hamilton Snr is adamant that he doesn't miss managing his son's career. "I'm really enjoying managing Paul, and Nyck is now already a karting world champion so it's not as if I am missing anything," he says. "I enjoyed my time managing Lewis. I always said that the goal was to help him to become world champion, and that once we'd done that it would be time to move on. I'm enjoying working with Paul and again the aim is to help him to become world champion. When we have achieved that, I'll try to do the same with Nyck, then I'll retire!"
Ironically, while Hamilton Jnr was in the wars in Singapore, Di Resta enjoyed his best drive in F1, finishing a strong sixth only one place behind him after a flawless and finely judged two-stop race for Force India. More often than not in his rookie season, the 25-year-old Scot has overshadowed his super-quick but sometimes erratic team-mate Adrian Sutil. He scored a world championship point in each of his first two grand prix outings, in Australia and Malaysia, and has driven with increasing maturity.
"I'm extremely proud of Paul, he's so level-headed," Hamilton Snr says. "Yes, he's quiet, but it's what you do on the track that's most important. That's what is most important for keeping your job in F1. There is the constant threat of other drivers with huge budgets, so a driver who is in a team on merit, such as Paul, can lose his seat if he says the wrong things or doesn't perform. The key for him is to say little, but deliver big.
"Once you have established more of a long-term career you can open yourself up a little more. Right now, Paul is in that position where you just have to keep yourself to yourself, keep your head down, and do the job on the track."
Di Resta can boast of beating the world champion Sebastian Vettel when they were team-mates in Formula Three. "It's always difficult to compare drivers, especially as Sebastian has moved on a couple of years," Hamilton acknowledges as he talks about the current man to beat in F1, who is only one point away from securing his second consecutive world championship with Red Bull, "but Paul has been a champion at every level he's raced at: karting, Formula Three and DTM [German Touring Cars]. Paul's junior category CV is more substantial than Sebastian's in some ways, and I expect him to do the same in F1. I believe that in him we are looking at a future world champion."
The 16-year-old De Vries, meanwhile, is already a world champion, having won the CIK-FIA karting title last year, and is leading it again this time round. "Nyck's having another great season and is heading the world championship by a handful of points with one round to go. He's a unique individual, definitely an exciting prospect," Hamilton Snr says.
Whatever happens in the final race in Japan in November, De Vries will soon follow Hamilton Jnr's road into car racing. The plan is to start testing in a Formula Renault single seater, just as Lewis did, prior to him graduating to the racing series in 2012. And as Lewis, he is a member of McLaren's Young Driver programme.
But the driver who perhaps excites Hamilton most right now is his second son, Nic, who started racing this year after winning championships in radio-controlled car racing. "He had a really good race yesterday!" Anthony says immediately, excitement evident in his voice as he refers to his son's drive from 13th on the grid to a solid ninth place finish in the Renault Clio Cup race at Brands Hatch last Saturday.
It's a triumph for a young racer who has always made light of his cerebral palsy, but has been struggling to overcome the problem it causes him as a race driver, particularly under braking. "Nic has to brake by moving the whole of his leg because he doesn't have any movement in his ankles, which means that he cannot feel the brake," Hamilton Snr explains. "It's either on, or it's off, so that makes it difficult, but he's coped extremely well and on the same equal terms as all the other drivers and is still going forwards, so he deserves huge credit for his achievements."
That progress is a general metaphor for the Hamilton stable. Lewis might have his ups and downs, but McLaren are closing on Red Bull at the highest level in F1, as Di Resta continues to stake a valid claim to retain his Force India seat. And a month after Sunday's race in Suzuka, De Vries heads there too. But unlike them both, the Dutch teenager is the one racer in the Hamilton stable with a chance of clinching a world championship in 2011.
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