Lewis Hamilton is an extraordinary talent. His racing flair, skill and panache is of a quality that is so rarely seen in Formula One, and he is possibly the most supported driver in the world. Since he quite literally burst onto the scene in 2007, he has established himself as a truly world class driver, and someone with talent to die for. And yet he seems to be quite troubled, in particular last season.
Hamilton has often said that he needs to find a "happy place", most notably to the BBC in the build up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Interestingly, he won that race, and seemed to avoid the question about a "happy place" following his victory. He stated that his team mate Jenson Button, who finished forty three points ahead of Hamilton in 2011, had definitely found a "happy place." This seemed to reflect the two's performances in 2011, with Button performing brilliantly and taking the runner-up spot in the Championship, while Hamilton struggled to fifth, after having various collisions, in particular with Ferrari driver Felipe Massa. Hamilton's issue of not being in a happy place seemed most apparent at the Korean Grand Prix. Hamilton took the only non Red Bull pole with an awesome lap, and yet seemed disinterested, and subdued after he took pole.
|The world's best overtaker at his best|
|Collisions like this were frequent for Hamilton in 2011|
He made lots of errors and sometimes didn't seem particularly bothered. One minute he'd be brilliant, the next he'd be all over the place. His performance in the Monaco Grand Prix was frankly ridiculous - it was easily his worst ever drive. After the Singapore Grand Prix I analysed the problems with Lewis Hamilton's career, and one of the things I discussed was his desire for a better car. He always wants the best car, and that's natural, but he got quite frustrated with his mediocre car in 2011, which resulted in the incidents. But we can also take another look at the "happy place" thing - because that's another huge factor in his problems. He clearly has a very on-off relationship with girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, and there's the thing that his Dad no longer manages him. I was really surprised when I first read that was happening - and I still am. He is being managed by an entertainment company, and he isn't an entertainer, he's a sportsman.
Most sports seem to have a controversial/troubled star, whether it's snooker's Ronnie O'Sullivan, football's Luis Suarez, Rugby League's Martin Gleeson, and many others. I really do hope Hamilton doesn't have these personal issues in 2012, as he battles for glory in the MP4/27, launched yesterday. If F1 has an untroubled Lewis Hamilton, and an on song Lewis Hamilton, it is a better sport.
Over the next few weeks I will be looking at the six world champions on the grid, as well as three other drivers in top teams, in articles like this, as we prepare for the start of the season.