Sunday, 28 March 2010
Lewis can't go much farther without his dad as Jenson hits all the right buttons in Melbourne
LEWIS HAMILTON'S week Down Under ended with a disappointing sixth place, a confiscated car and a live verbal barrage which proves what I keep telling my boys. Dad knows best.
Hamilton, with his father and axed manager Anthony left at home, could do nothing as new McLaren team-mate and world champion Jenson Button surged to an impressive victory at the Australia Grand Prix in the early hours of this morning.
Button, who showed plenty of personality with James Corden for Sports Relief last week, came away from Melbourne with his reputation significantly enhanced.
Just six laps in, he demanded a change of tyres and nursed his slicks through the 50 laps to the finish, leaving the field in his wake to repeat his Aussie triumph of last year.
Hamilton came in for tyres a lap later than Button, who had surprised McLaren with his decision. And then Lewis was called in by McClaren for a second stop on lap 35 when he was competing for second place with Robert Kubica 23 laps from the finish.
That second stop forced him down the field into a battle for fifth with local hero Mark Webber in his Red Bull. The pair came to grief with two laps left - I'd blame Webber, who lives down the road from me in Denham, Buckinghamshire. Desperate to impress his home fans, Webber crashed into the back of 2008 world champion Hamilton as they both attempted to pass Fernando Alonso in fourth. Like the rest of the top four, Alonso had made just one stop.
In the laps before that, Hamilton could be clearly heard complaining about the "frigging decision" to bring him in for a second tyre stop.
Afterwards Hamilton's chat to the BBC cameras was excruciating. He talked about how well he had driven. He insisted: "I probably had one of the drives of my life. But unfortunately due to the strategy I was put further back and then I got taken out by Mark Webber. I am happy with the job that I did.
"Everyone else in front of me did one stop and for some reason I did two.
"I'd already stopped once and my tyres were fine. I went for the second stop and worked my backside off to catch the 20-second gap. I didn't question it because I always trust the team.
"I had the pace to overtake Kubica and we could have had our first one-two, which would have been great for the team. But unfortunately that wasn't the case."
Hamilton added ominously: "We will find out who made the decision later."
Martin Whitmarsh, who took over from Hamilton's mentor Ron Dennis two years ago at the head of McLaren, then waxed lyrical about Button - with a veiled dig at Hamilton, who has been with the team since he was a pre-teen go-karter.
Whitworth said: "We could have had a one-two and inevitably there's a tinge of disappointment when you don't get it.
"I've already spoken to Lewis, he's someone who wants to win. The time at which we took the decision I personally believed it was the right call, but in hindsight you can now see how the race played out - the Ferraris didn't stop.
"If he'd stayed out and his tyres had been intact he could have been second. At the time, he was losing time behind Kubica and you could see graining on his rear left tyre.
"Those drivers who had pitted were going over a second a lap quicker so we believed it was the right call. To all intents and purposes I made the call as I could stop it or over-rule."
Classic stuff at the end of a fascinating race in Melbourne. After the procession in Bahrain to open the season two weeks ago, this was just what Formula One needed. No refuelling, but a fascinating 56 laps of cat and mouse.
Amongst the other highlights: Button crashing at the start and ending up facing the wrong way - but recovering to win. Michael Schumacher, forced into the pits to repair a nose cone after that crash, struggling to get past the tailenders in his Ross Brawn Mercedes. He eventually grabbed 10th for a single point.
But Hamilton's demise will dominate the headlines. Before the season began, he made the decision to drop his talkative father Anthony as his manager.
In truth, for 17 years, Anthony has been Hamilton's protector, bodyguard, accountant, spokesman and agent.
But this weekend he stayed home in Stevenage while Lewis made life difficult for himself.
On Friday night he was arrested for "hooning" - that's what Australians call wheel spinning - and he had his personal car confiscated by the local cops. He has also been slammed for stopping off in Los Angeles on the way to Australia to see his Pussycat Dolls girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger.
Then came a disappointing 11th in qualifying, and the misery of yesterday's race. It's true, he did produce some serious pace late in the race on his new tyres.
There's no question he's quicker than Button.But when he realised he couldn't make up the ground after his second stop he complained: "My tyres have gone off" and then produced his "frigging decision" outburst before the final, bitter judgement against the team that made him, the team that has been his family for so many years.
Just like Tiger Woods after the death of his father Earl, Lewis needs Anthony at his side. To keep him out of trouble, to keep his feet on the ground.
Otherwise the great Battle of Britain between Jenson and Lewis will be Buttoned up far too soon.
The other Battle of Britain - for the Premier League crown - veered Chelsea's way when they crushed Aston Villa, unbeaten for 10 games, 7-1. Frank Lampard scored four - two from the spot - and the in-form Florent Malouda added two more to the brace he produced against Portsmouth during the week.
Arsenal fell away in the title race, denied victory at Birmingham by a Kevin Phillips injury-time winner, while Manchester United went back to the top in the late kick-off on Satuday with a flattering 4-0 win over Bolton.
The Blues meet the Red Devils at Old Trafford next Sunday. Lewis meets Jenson most Sunday from now until the end of summer.
I'm going with United and Button.