Lewis Hamilton has long been recognised for giving it his all on the race track, but even he realised that he had gone too far by carrying that emotion into the television enclosure after a fraught Monaco Grand Prix.
Having been denied a legitimate shot at pole position by the confluence of McLaren's qualifying strategy of the red flag for Sergio Perez's accident, and then further penalised for cutting the Swimming Pool chicane on his only flying lap, the Briton had it all to do on race day. However, having first been clipped by Michael Schumacher at Ste Devote, breaking a rear wing endplate, Hamilton then clashed with Felipe Massa, shortly before the Brazilian brought out the safety car by crashing in the tunnel.
Having served a drive-thru' penalty for the Massa incident, the 2008 world champion was attempting to salvage as many points as possible when he was caught up ion the accident that brought out a late red flag, with Jaime Alguersuari climbing over the rear of the McLaren and further damaging its rear wing. Although the stoppage gave Hamilton's crew time to repair the wing, he then collided with Pastor Maldonado at the restart, putting the Venezuelan into the barriers and earning himself another penalty.
Although the post-race punishment did little to alter his sixth-place finish, Hamilton was on the warpath when he met the media, lambasting the fact that he has been called before the stewards at five of the six races this season, criticising the driving standards of his rivals as 'frickin' ridiculous' and suggesting to the BBC
that his punishment was 'maybe because I'm black' [see separate story – click here
However, having had time to cool off - and give the media time to digest and revel in what he had said - the Briton decided that he needed to apologise for his comments, returning to the circuit to meet, voluntarily, with the stewards to explain his actions.
"What I said was a bit of a joke, which wasn't funny at the time," Hamilton insisted, "I made [the stewards] aware that, when emotions are high - and it's very intense at the end of those kind of races - you don't always say the right thing, and the joke didn't come at the most appropriate time. I went there, made that clear to them, and we've made our peace. They accepted my explanation, they understood, and we all shook hands afterwards."
The 26-year old also said that the stewards 'would clarify [the situation] with [the FIA]' and would not take it any further than the meeting room.
"Like I said I was trying to be funny, but it wasn't funny," he accepted, "You're not always right when you're trying to be funny. Sometimes you really put your foot in it and you offend people, and I did not really set out to offend anyone. I'm just passionate. I drove my heart out, but the weekend was tough. It started out perfectly, and I finished the race, but only just."
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh admitted that Hamilton's on-track style was always likely to get him involved in incidents, whether of his making or not, and confirmed that his driver had returned to apologise for his comments.
"Lewis had a frustrating afternoon," he noted, "I guess the reality is that, if you start anywhere other than at the front of the grid here in Monte Carlo, you're always going to run the risk of getting involved in incidents – especially if, like Lewis, you're a forceful driver who never, ever, gives up. But that's Lewis. That's why he's such a fantastic driver – and that's why watching him race is so thrilling. So, yes, he's disappointed, because he's been seriously quick all weekend here, but that's Monte Carlo; that's racing; that's life.
“Immediately after the race, he was very down and, during a post-race TV interview, he made a poor joke about his penalties that referenced [UK comedian/actor] Ali G. However, I'm pleased to say that he chose to return to the track a little while later to speak to the stewards about the joke. They accepted his explanation."