Former F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has been stopped by police and his road car towed away and impounded in Melbourne ahead of this weekend's Australian Grand Prix in the city, for being caught 'driving in an over-exuberant manner' on public roads – an incident that he admitted was 'silly'.
Having topped the timesheets during opening practice in Albert Park, Hamilton perhaps began his celebrations a little too soon, and the McLaren-Mercedes star was pulled over by Victoria Police at 9:15pm local time for performing a smoky 'burn-out' following a 'deliberate loss of traction of the wheels' of his new silver Mercedes sportscar, ABC
“A man who resides in Switzerland was stopped after leaving the grand prix circuit at Albert Park at 9:15pm local Melbourne time today,” confirmed a Victoria Police spokesman. “Officers noticed there was a deliberate loss of traction of the wheels of the motor car, ie. the wheels were spinning.
“Legal process will take place in due course and there is a monetary charge by summons. The man was returned to his hotel and the car has been impounded for 48 hours. He does not have to appear in court, and alcohol was not a factor in the incident.”
“It would have been fair to say he was fairly disappointed with the incident,” added Senior Constable Scott Woodford, who affirmed that the Stevenage-born ace stopped immediately and was 'extremely co-operative' during the half hour he spent inside his car being questioned by police.
Hamilton is expected to be summonsed, charged and fined for improper use of a motor vehicle, and in a McLaren statement, the 25-year-old confessed: “This evening, I was driving in an over-exuberant manner and, as a result, was stopped by the police. What I did was silly, and I want to apologise for it.”
The episode is sure to cast a shadow over the eleven-time grand prix-winner's preparations for the second race on the F1 2010 World Championship calendar, and comes unfortunately a year on from what he described as the personal nadir of his career, when he was caught lying to race stewards in the aftermath of the 2009 Australian Grand Prix in an effort to get Toyota rival Jarno Trulli unjustly stripped of his third place and thereby inherit the position for himself – with the public condemnation that followed very nearly causing him to quit the sport.
It is also not the first time Hamilton has had his road car removed from him by police, after similar action was taken when he was clocked speeding at 196km/h on a French motorway less than three years ago. How this latest PR blunder will affect his reputation remains to be seen.