Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 1985 500SEC, 1991 190E 2.6.
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Rapid Escape Can't Hide Hamilton's Blushes
Rapid Escape Can't Hide Hamilton's Blushes
Thu 10 Apr, 04:09 PM
Lewis Hamilton showed tremendous speed and dexterity in Bahrain on Sunday - unfortunately not many people were on hand to witness it.
The sight was not of Hamilton cutting a dash in his McLaren at the Sepang track in front of a viewing audience of millions.
It was more of a mad dash as he dodged his way through a gathering crowd and into a waiting car less than 30 minutes after the worst performance of his short grand prix career.
As one paddock wag put it: "He was quicker there than he has been all weekend!"
Hamilton's assessment in the sole short interview he conducted in the wake of the race was brutal and honest as he described it as "a disaster."
His swift departure was borne from anger at himself, but the one gnawing question was whether this was just a rare bad day at the office, or was there something on his mind as it certainly did not appear to be on the job?
Careering broadside into a tyre wall in Friday's second practice session you could argue was just one of those things, a driver on the limit and pushing a little too hard.
But come race day, the 23-year-old showed more signs of being a rookie than at any stage during his debut season last year.
Third on the grid was still a respectable effort from Hamilton in the spare chassis, ensuring a podium finish remained a realistic possibility.
But his momentary lapse once the five red lights disappeared only compounded his mistake in practice.
Hamilton made what McLaren F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh described as "a procedural error" as his engine was on the incorrect setting that resulted in the anti-stall kicking in.
The young British star was glued to the track for a few seconds as the rest of the field swarmed past, culminating in an uphill fight from that point.
Worse was to follow, though, just two minutes later as Hamilton ploughed into the back of old adversary Fernando Alonso.
At first sight it appeared as if Alonso had either eased off the throttle, or brake tested a man with whom there is no love lost.
Not when you consider the bitter enmity that exists between the two after their turbulent season together at McLaren last year.
But Alonso firmly refuted the speculation sweeping through the paddock like wildfire, and Renault were able to show conclusive data the Spaniard was actually accelerating at the time.
So another Hamilton mistake then?
Ron Dennis admitted as much, but McLaren's technical specialists later proved the front wing of the car had dislodged itself just two seconds before impact.
That would have led to a loss of downforce and the surge in speed viewers would have witnessed on their television screens.
Let off the hook then?
Well, not quite, as Alonso admitted Hamilton had clipped him once before, damaging the diffuser on his Renault, as he tried to make up the places he had lost so alarmingly at the start.
Alonso suggested Hamilton was trying to be a little too hasty in his eagerness to make up lost ground, that his cool had been rattled by his earlier error.
Whatever the situation, Hamilton made more errors during his three miserable days in Bahrain than he did throughout the entirety of last season.
His eventual 13th place was the first time Hamilton had finished a race in his 20 grands prix career outside the top 10.
"A mental dip" was Dennis' assessment of what Hamilton has likely been through these past few days as he attempts to rationalise whatever troubled him in Bahrain.
Hamilton now has a fortnight prior to the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona to exorcise any demons that may exist.
Otherwise, if there is a repeat performance, then there will be nowhere for Hamilton to run from the searching questions certain to be asked.
It would appear beleaguered FIA president Max Mosley has finally found himself a supporter.
Mosley has come under increasing pressure to resign in the wake of highly-publicised allegations in a Sunday tabloid.Major manufacturers, motoring organisations and well-known motor-racing personalities have called on Mosley to resign.
So three days ahead of his 68th birthday on Sunday, it will be comforting for Mosley to know there is someone out there on his side.
Spotted at Bahrain International Airport on Monday after the grand prix was a thirty-something brunette in business class on a flight to Doha wearing a black t-shirt with silver print on the front that read: 'I love Max' and on the back: 'Max loves me'.
It is not known whether the Max in question is the under-pressure Mosley, but hey, better than nothing.
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