Not everyone is a fan of Formula One. Its loudest critics say that there isn’t enough overtaking. The sport has tried to address that this season, but the driver that’s trying to do the most overtaking is himself now being criticized for being too dangerous.
In the last few races, Lewis Hamilton has been in and out of the stewards office more times than a hyperchondriac pops into the doctors. He’s had to explain how he tangled with Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado in Monaco and then three more drivers, including teammate Jenson Button, in Montreal.
The 2008 champion has tried to make light of it, joking that the stewards have given him a loyalty card and his own chair, but not everyone is amused. Some, like the three-time champion Niki Lauda, think his aggressive style could ultimately prove fatal.
Hamilton is following in the tracks of his idol, Ayrton Senna. The Brazillian driver was uncompromising in his pursuit of three world titles to the point that many of his contemporaries maintain he would force rival drivers to make a stark choice when racing against him: move over or crash.
Senna was famously challenged on his driving style by Jackie Stewart, his response illustrates how Hamilton must now feel. “Being a racing driver means you are racing with other people. And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, then you are no longer a racing driver. We are competing to win and the main motivation to all of us is to compete for a victory. It’s not to come 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th. I race to win,” was Senna's retort.
Hamilton’s early F1 years were a dream. He almost won the title at the first attempt, and he clinched the championship in only his second season. But since then, his McLaren has struggled and he’s been totally outpaced by Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull this year. At times, he has cut a frustrated and angry figure.
Vettel’s lead is so big that he could take the next three weeks off and still top the standings. But it’s too early to hand him the title and Hamilton may yet find that things turn in his favor.
And for all that Senna was criticised in some quarters, he is remembered by many drivers now as the best there ever was. Hamilton should perhaps pick his moments better, but it’s not in his make-up to change, and nor should he. His priority remains to win, and that is surely the DNA of any F1 champion.