Lewis Hamilton has admitted to being shocked by fellow Formula One world champion Nigel Mansell's belief that he has been 'manufactured' as a racing driver by McLaren.
Mansell made the claim during a visit to Britain's Hay-on-Wye literary festival on Friday, criticising the way in which promising young talent is being snapped up, financially supported, nurtured and subsequently moulded by top teams, but Hamilton suggested that the 57-year old get his facts right before launching a personal attack.
While McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has admitted that Hamilton had been something of 'an experiment' for the Woking team after predecessor Ron Dennis signed him to a long-term deal as a twelve-year old [see separate story – click here
], Mansell suggested that the practice had left his fellow Briton a flawed character, as well as damaging the chances of other drivers grafting their way up the racing ladder.
“I think sometimes it all becomes too easy,” the 1992 world champion told the Press Association
, “How many people from seven years of age have been given £2.5m to go karting? I know drivers now are being signed up at seven, eight, nine years of age. They're all being picked now to be grand prix drivers in five and seven and ten years' time.
“That negates everybody out there now doing the job, and that is frightening. I don't decry what Lewis has done [but], when he initially started having tough times, he didn't handle it very well, [because] that's the first time ever in his life he's had a tough time.”
Hamilton, however, was clearly surprised by the claims, and immediately set about setting Mansell right.
"Wow," he exclaimed to Reuters
after qualifying at the Turkish Grand Prix, "Clearly, he has not been reading the right stories, or he just has not got his facts right. I wasn't signed up until I was 13, so I would love to see where the rest of that money was since I was seven. I don't know how he was funded when he was younger but, for us, it was virtually impossible to find money. It got more and more expensive. My parents paid all the way until I was 13 by re-mortgaging the house. They were broke."
Mansell knows all about selling off personal possessions to finance his way up the ladder, having been single-minded in his pursuit of a place in Formula One, but Hamilton insists that his outburst was uncalled for.
"He is a world champion, he was a great star and I look up to him, but I wouldn't have expected that from him," the 2008 world champion admitted, "I just think he is clearly ill-informed and doesn't have the right information. He has his right to his own opinion, which doesn't really bother me. I don't really care about his opinion."