No one can doubt that Lewis Hamilton has the talent to be a top Formula 1 racer. Some might say that he already is, despite only having three races under his belt. Arguments reign over whether the early success of the rookie Brit is down to his talent or the high calibre of his car, but that s not what I want to talk about today.
I think one of the major questions that surrounds the new guy is whether he is going to be able to take the pressure. It s coming at him from all angles McLaren s expectations are high, specifically Ron Dennis, and British fans are ravenous for someone to pile their hopes onto.
Previous world champion Damon Hill has spoken out in both sympathy and concern for the spotlight that is now facing the young driver. “I was simply not prepared for the amount of attention I received during my F1 career. Lewis will find that whatever he s currently encountering will be multiplied by a factor of five when he starts winning races. You can t turn it off, so you need a strategy for coping.â€
It s a common occurrence for people to get where they want in their careers and then find the media intrusion too much to cope with. Fernando Alonso has never been shy about admitting he hates the publicity side of things and really just wants to get in the car and drive as fast as he can.
Lewis Hamilton has the added protection of Ron Dennis his mentor and father figure in the world of motorsport. But some think shielding him from the media does more harm than good. Former team owner Eddie Jordan has spoken out about Ron s decision to keep Hamilton from doing grid interviews in both Malaysia and Sepang. Did the sponsors have a say in that? Wouldn t it have been fairer to go and talk to another driver rather than film Lewis Hamilton NOT talking?
Jordan goes on to say that media interviews keep F1 running, and without that interaction the fans will soon switch off in frustration.
An interview with Ron Dennis was published in F1 Racing magazine this month that commented on Hamilton s first race and how Ron really felt for him. He said he could read the pressure and the nerves, even if it was only faint and no one else could see it.
I certainly couldn t. You have to hand it to Lewis. He s still quite young and seems to be handling the pressure incredibly well. The pressure to do well, the pressure of wondering what s going to happen when it doesn t go well, the pressure of just knowing that everyone is talking about you. So far, he still seems to be the level-headed driver that won race after race in GP2. But does that level-headed attitude come from blatantly ignoring the press? We ll just have to wait and see as the season progresses.