x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Lewis Hamilton's Ali G joke is no laughing matter

Five things we learnt at Monaco Grand Prix McLaren driver's attempt at humour to sum up his poor Monaco weekend was ill-advised.

Lewis Hamilton did not have a great weekend in Monaco, either on or off the track, as he finished only sixth.
Lewis Hamilton did not have a great weekend in Monaco, either on or off the track, as he finished only sixth.

Five things we learnt at Monaco Grand Prix: McLaren driver's attempt at humour to sum up his poor Monaco weekend was ill-advised, writes Gary Meenaghan

Hamilton showing the strain

There is no denying Lewis Hamilton is one of the most aggressive drivers in Formula One, but questions are being raised following the Monaco Grand Prix as to whether he is too aggressive.

His attempted overtaking manoeuvres on Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Williams's Pastor Maldonado were misjudged, unsuccessful and ultimately resulted in both his rivals being forced to retire.

The two South American drivers were quite rightly furious at having their races ended prematurely and called for Hamilton to be taught a lesson, but it is the McLaren-Mercedes driver's angry interview that will be remembered the longest.

In accusing - whether in jest or not - that race stewards penalise him more than other drivers "maybe because I am black", Hamilton played the race card rather than accept culpability for his mistakes.

France has already been rocked by their national football association being accused of employing a quota system for African-origin players, so for Hamilton to "joke" that the FIA may be racist is no laughing matter.

It was incendiary, reckless and, for a joke, not at all funny.

Changing times in Monaco

Monaco is changing, but not in the places it needs to be. The Circuit de Monaco, despite some changes over the years, remains the most dangerous track on the F1 calendar. It has also long been the most glamorous - a title it risks losing to Abu Dhabi or Singapore.

The Nouvelle Chicane in Monte Carlo has long been a hotpoint for high-speed accidents. When Jenson Button crashed exiting the tunnel in 2003, the organisers moved the barrier 30 metres further back.

This year they removed a kerb following Nico Rosberg's accident in the final practice and their prompt action immediately saved Sergio Perez from what could have been far worse injuries than concussion during his crash in qualifying.

More work needs to be done though, said Button, and more work must also be done in attracting celebrities to the Cote d'Azur. Leonardo Di Caprio was due to attend, but never showed, leaving Princess Beatrice, Geri Halliwell and the footballer Kieron Dyer flying the flag for glitz and glamour.

Vettel's bold decision

World champions demand respect and Sebastian Vettel is no different. When the Red Bull Racing driver arrived in the pits for his first stop, his team were unprepared because of a communication problem, resulting in what he called "the first stop this year that has not been perfect".

When his team called him in to the pits for a second time to change his tyres, the German refused and said he wanted to employ a one-stop strategy, meaning he would be forced to race more than 60 laps on a set of harder Pirelli tyres. "It was the only way I was going to win the race," he said.

The team agreed and, despite Vettel having to endure a ferocious Fernando Alonso in his rear-view for much of the remainder of the race, he held him off, changed his tyres under a red flag, and won his first race at Monaco. World champions are world champions for a reason: they make informed split-second decisions. And they get lucky.

Street life can bear points

Street circuits produce different racing to track circuits. As Alonso was quick to point out after Sunday's race, his Ferrari was identical to the car he drove in last week's race in Barcelona yet "we were two minutes behind there and we were two seconds behind here".

The next two grands prix, in Canada on June 12 and Valencia on June 26, are competed on the streets of the city, so aggressive drivers in the middle-order will view these as potential points-bearers.

Maldonado drove commendably in Monaco in his Williams before being forced out by Hamilton, with five laps left, while in seventh place.

Kamui Kobayashi also achieved Sauber's best finish of the season, placing fifth.

Petrov's escape

Vitaly Petrov, one of the biggest and most fearsome drivers in the sport, proved he is no milquetoast in his machine either.

Immediately after the Russian crashed his Lotus Renault into a wall at Nouvelle Chicane while trying to avoid a multi-car collision, he said he feared the worst, yet was joking with his team within a few hours.

"I hit the wall and then I couldn't get out of the car," he said. "First, because my legs were blocked and, also, I couldn't feel them. I thought, 'Oh, I have a problem,' because it looked like my legs were broken."

Having undergone a full body check and being diagnosed with some light bruising, the wheel of fortune spun in his favour. Now he is ready to race again.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae