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A Happy Lewis Is a Winning Lewis, and a Winning Lewis Is a Threat to Vettel…

June 9, 2011

Lewis Hamilton left Monaco about as happy as Jack Dee on Ritalin, but now returns to a happy hunting ground in Montreal hoping to get his reputation and his season back on track. SportingBlogs takes a look…

It is fair to say that for Lewis Hamilton last weekend’s trip to Monaco hardly went to plan. Already struggling to keep pace with the seemingly unbeatable Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers Championship, Lewis’s weekend was beset with problems from the word go.

With hindsight his team made a poor call to only go for one flying lap in the final part of qualifying, which meant that when Sergio Pérez suffered his session-stopping shunt Lewis was left near the bottom of the time sheets having not put in a banker. When he finally got out for a lap he was held up by Felipe Massa, then cut the chicane, and consequently had his one flying lap removed. P9 on the grid, and Lewis’s grumblings began.

On race day, not only did things failed to improve for the 2008 World Champion, but they deteriorated significantly. Numerous skirmishes with the likes of Pastor Maldonado and Felipe Massa resulted in further penalties, eventually stumbling home as the last unlapped driver in sixth pace. All the while, title rival Vettel had qualified on pole, lucked in with a race-winning tyre strategy, and held off the charge of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button despite having significantly older tyres to secure his fifth win of the season and further stretch his sizeable points advantage over the rest of the field.

And then came Lewis’s debacle of an interview with the BBC’s Lee McKenzie, calling a few of his fellow drivers ‘absolutely frickin’ ridiculous’ and the race stewards ‘an absolute frickin’ joke,’ before jokingly suggesting – à la Ali G – that his persistent victimisation came about because of the colour of his skin: ‘maybe it’s because I’m black.’ Hardly Hamilton’s finest moment, although subsequent apologies have been both made and accepted.

Despite the 26-year-old’s pre-race optimism (‘we have something good coming for Monaco. So I feel pretty positive. It’s a very positive feeling now’), what with his on- and off-track shenanigans and Vettel pulling further ahead in the Championship, the way events transpired in Monaco last weekend left Lewis about as happy as Jack Dee on Ritalin.

And so this weekend Lewis and the F1 circus move on to Montreal in Canada. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has traditionally been a happy hunting ground for Hamilton, not least as it was the sight of Lewis’s first victory in Formula One back in 2007. Hamilton himself states, ‘I’ve always got on really well with the track as the layout seems to suit my driving style,’ and with three pole positions and two victories from the three races held here since his debut season it is mighty hard to disagree; he will be hoping for more of the same this weekend.

As a consequence of his past successes in Montreal and his previous week’s troubles in Monaco, this year’s Canadian Grand Prix now takes on an added level of significance for the British driver. It is vitally important that he is able to turn over a new leaf, forget about recent indiscretions and return to doing what he does and loves doing best: driving an F1 car fast and winning. After all, a happy Lewis is a winning Lewis…

Furthermore, a winning Lewis is – and this goes without saying – more of a threat to Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel. The German’s lead at the top of the standings is a sizeable one – currently 58 points, over two race wins, between Vettel (143) and Hamilton (85) – and one which needs reducing quickly if Lewis is to challenge for this year’s title. In Hamilton’s own words: ‘he [Vettel] is walking away with it. It’s never too late, but it’s not looking great.’

Those comments came from a despondent post-Monaco Lewis, although an optimist will draw attention towards the fact that it is indeed not yet too late. There are still thirteen – or fourteen, depending on Bahrain – races remaining this season, a whopping 325 points up for grabs. However, as rivals Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso will note, to make best use of the remaining races, Sebastian Vettel’s rivals need to start winning – and that starts this weekend in Canada.

Hamilton believes that his McLaren-Mercedes should ‘be well suited’ to Montreal, citing his conviction that the Woking-based outfit ‘have a great engine, the best KERS (power boost) system in the sport and excellent traction out of slow corners.’ The apparent superiority of the Red Bulls did not materialise in Canada last year, so Hamilton has every right to hope for the same this time around: ‘All in all it’s set to be another good weekend for us. I’ll be looking for a strong result on Sunday.’

Should a strong result materialise for Hamilton on Sunday it will set him in good stead for the rest of the season. Not only will it help him to start pressurising championship leader Sebastian Vettel, but it will help him banish the demons and criticisms from the previous race weekend. It will get him in the news for all the right reasons, and might just win back any fans lost thanks to his Monaco indiscretions; after all, Hamilton certainly doesn’t want to be remembered as a petulant, crash-happy sulk.

Success on one of his favoured tracks in Montreal will put smiles on the faces of Lewis, his team and his fans, as well as taking a few points out of Vettel’s lead in the championship. That in itself will put a smile on the face of most neutrals; after all, no one likes a one-horse race…

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