x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

TV spotlight has made Lewis Hamilton a villain

Rubens Barrichello believes that the McLaren-Mercedes drivers' high profile does not help him getting into incidents, while those in the midfield can avoid punishments.

TOKYO // Rubens Barrichello, the Williams driver, feels the searing spotlight of television has played a part in Lewis Hamilton's downfall this season.

Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, incurred his fifth drive-through penalty of the year for running into Felipe Massa's Ferrari at the Singapore Grand Prix 11 days ago, and has visited the stewards on numerous other occasions.

However, the veteran Barrichello believes the McLaren-Mercedes driver's high profile has cast him as the villain while other drivers in the middle of the pack and off camera avoid punishment.

"Formula One has more overtaking nowadays, but in reality DRS [drag reduction system] has made some cars quicker in qualifying, but not as quick in racing," Barrichello said.

The Brazilian said that Hamilton has had to make more overtakes this year due to poor starts off the grid.

"I'm not saying everything is OK," Barrichello said. "But as far as I'm concerned it would be too unfair to pinpoint this or that. If the camera was looking at 13th and 14th, for example, it would amaze you what is happening there.

"Sometimes we get to the briefing and say to Charlie [Whiting, F1's race director] 'I tried to overtake this guy but he just blocked me', but he didn't see it.

"It's just because he [Hamilton] is on TV, and he is a guy who can get to the top and win a race."

It has been suggested what happened in Singapore is the last straw for the drivers and they will make a complaint against Hamilton in tomorrow's customary pre-race briefing with Whiting.

But Barrichello does not believe that will be the case.

"I don't think that's happening. I think someone has made that up. During the briefings we talk about everything, and then with the GPDA [Grand Prix Drivers' Association] we get together and talk a bit further.

"For example, a lot was said about what [Michael] Schumacher did to Lewis at Monza [weaving across his line], that it was unfair, but then it got to the briefing and nobody actually said anything.

"There's too much talking and not enough action, so I don't think there will be anything regarding Lewis."

Barrichello also feels that too much has been made over a comment made by Rob Smedley, the Ferrari race engineer, to Massa during the race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Over the team radio Smedley urged Massa to: "Hold Hamilton as much as we can. Destroy his race as much as we can. Come on boy!"

"I understand that as stay in front of him for you to have a better race, more than to ruin somebody," Barrichello said.

"In Brazil it was madness. The translation got to the point where it looks as if Massa is a criminal.

"I haven't worked with Rob, and I don't know what his intentions were when he said that, but he is such a funny guy.

"You can close your eyes and hear that whatever he said to Felipe is a sense of him saying 'Do that boy'. I can't see something bad coming out Rob."