x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Hamilton and McLaren 'relaxed' after clash with teammmate Button

The Briton is left counting the cost of his aggressive style with a retirement keeping him further away from the points in title race.

Red Bull's Webber, centre, and Hamilton collide in the Senna corner as Button drives.
Red Bull's Webber, centre, and Hamilton collide in the Senna corner as Button drives.

MONTREAL // Lewis Hamilton saw his faltering bid for a second world championship title slip further away last night as he was left counting the cost of his aggressive - and controversial - driving style.

The 2008 champion, during the eighth lap of a chaotic Canadian Grand Prix yesterday, collided with Jenson Button, his McLaren-Mercedes teammate, as he tried to pass on the outside at Turn One. Unlike in Monaco where he ended Felipe Massa's and Pastor Maldonado's races, this time it was Hamilton who was forced to retire after hitting a wall and suffering a punctured tyre and a broken drive shaft.

Button, who escaped the incident unscathed, appeared incredulous as he demanded an explanation over the team radio for his teammate's recklessness. "What is he doing?" Button said furiously.

 

With his car rolling to a stop at Turn Five, Hamilton later countered that his teammate should have allowed him more room to manouevre, but said he did not think he squeezed him into the wall deliberately.

"It was tricky conditions, I was doing the best I could to keep the car on-track, I think I had pretty good pace," Hamilton said. "Whilst I fell back behind Jenson he made a mistake into the last corner, so I got the run on him. I was on the outside I guess, I haven't seen the footage, but it felt like I was half way up the outside of him and he kept moving across, whether or not he saw me and I was in the wall."

"I don't think it was intentional, I know Jenson quite well and he wouldn't do that. We're kind of lucky we didn't take both us out with that.

Hamilton was awarded two time-penalties in Monaco and complained that he felt victimised by race stewards after appearing in their office five times in the first six races. He later backtracked, however, and sent the FIA, the sports governing body, an apology.

Yet he showed no signs of curbing his aggressive enthusiasm at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, despite dreadful and dangerously wet conditions. The 26-year-old clipped Mark Webber, the Red Bull Racing driver, on the opening lap, which has started under a safety car.

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren's team principal, said he would never ask his drivers to change their driving styles.

"Lewis is an extraordinary driver; he pulls off so many moves and looks fantastic. Tries to race, tries to overtake. Both drivers saw it same way. Lewis is always a passionate driver, it's what world expects and it would be wrong for us to detune that.

"Jenson didn't know [Lewis] was there, Lewis was trying to make good progress. Fortunately both see it the same way. Button wouldn't squeeze Lewis into wall deliberately. We have spoken about it, and we are all pretty relaxed."

Hamilton certainly appeared relaxed as the race was suspended under a red flag for a long period. Images showed him chatting to American pop star Rihanna in the McLaren garage.

Jonathan Neale, McLaren's managing director, also played down the incident, but said neither Hamilton nor Button was to blame.

"I think there is such a thing as an accident; there doesn't always have to be somebody at fault," Neale said. "We're not the first team to have drivers come together and I don't suppose we'll be the last team either. Obviously, it's not good for us, or for either driver, but we've looked at it and we just think it's a racing incident."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae