Dear Lewis: a re-evaluation needed?

Lewis Hamilton finished third in yesterday’s Australian Grand Prix, behind his team mate Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel. Button beat him fair and square, a relatively unusual event in the partnership. So what is wrong with McLaren’s boy wonder? Has growing up blunted the edge of his undoubted skill? And is it now time to re-evaluate Lewis Hamilton, the phenomenon? Here, a concerned fan writes to Mr Hamilton…

Dear Lewis,

We all know 2011 was a well-documented annus horribilis. You endured emotional as well as professional strife, and your racing consisted mainly of tooling around in a car whose lack of speed you despaired of, and crashing repeatedly into Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado. Enough conjecture and analysis has been spewed out to cover your misery last season.

But now it is 2012. Nicole Scherzinger is back on the scene, you and many will be pleased to note; Dider Coton of Hakkinen management fame is taking care of business; and the MP4-28 is simply a very fast racing car. And in its first outing, this weekend just gone in Australia, you stuck it on pole position, an act that seemed to herald the glorious return to form of the 2008 world champion. Then came Sunday. You lost out down to the first turn in a very un-Lewis-like fashion. Thereafter, you only looked vulnerable to the charging pack behind, rather than threatening to the man in front. A rather limp third, when your team mate drove within himself to win, just does not befit the Hamilton reputation.

Post-race, your smiles for your team’s rocket red celebrations seemed as unconvincing as your drive. Have you lost something? Can we still mention you as we used to in the same awed breath, and whisper the words ‘Senna’ and ‘heir’? Are you now just a good racing driver, not currently the equal of the experienced Button or the super-confident Vettel, or even the hard-charging Alonso?

The trouble is that although the above is a very tempting way to look at the situation, it doesn’t help you one bit. The reality is that the car is tremendously improved from last year and finally (fingers crossed) appears capable of challenging the Red Bulls regularly in qualifying and in the race. You have to remember that. Secondly, you put the thing on pole – no mean feat in a talented field. Thirdly, it was only a slice of Safety Car bad luck (the most unfair of them all) that you came third and not second.

I think I get where the rub is, though. How do you confront the unpleasant fact that Button took you to the cleaners? It’s not easy to swallow, judging by your face as the ‘team’ celebrated. But you can’t react by moping, that’s for sure. The temptation to think that the world is conspiring against you is a strong one, but there are no solutions at the bottom of that glass of poison.

Rather, you figure out what he’s done. Why is it that since Pirelli took over, he has seemed to have an edge? Is it his driving style? If so, you’re more than capable of copying and bettering it. Take your cue from Vettel at Red Bull and what he learned from Webber. Or is it that in this DRS world where everyone can overtake, your special talent for that is not recognised? Of course it isn’t. You were the best at that and you can be again, just as you can be the fastest.

It is a re-evaluation that is needed, but it’s you who needs to re-evaluate, not us. No one ever gained hegemony in F1 by sitting back and moaning. An evolved beast of a Hamilton would take that undoubted speed and talent to an unbeatable and dominant level.

A fan

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