In the wake of the vilification he has received in the media following his misguided 'Ali G' remark and indignant post-race criticism both of his rivals and FIA stewards in Monaco last weekend, Lewis Hamilton has been defended by former F1 star David Coulthard, who stresses that even though he was in the wrong, the 2008 world champion should not be knocked for being bold enough to speak his mind.
Hamilton's response that 'maybe it's because I'm black' when he was asked why he feels he is being singled out for particular victimisation by the stewards this season has opened up a whole can of worms, with the governing body now debating whether any further sanctions against the McLaren-Mercedes ace are necessary for bringing the sport into disrepute in insinuating – however light-heartedly – that there is an aspect of latent racism amongst the powers-that-be [see separate story – click here
The 15-time grand prix-winner was palpably frustrated in Monte Carlo after being penalised for his aggressive overtaking manoeuvre on Ferrari's Felipe Massa, and he would later be further punished for the incident in which he tipped Williams rookie Pastor Maldonado unceremoniously out-of-contention in the closing stages of the race in the glamorous Principality – both collisions for which he was, and remains, adamant he was not at fault.
In an astonishing outburst, Hamilton labelled some of his adversaries – Messrs. Massa and Maldonado chief amongst them, no doubt – as 'absolutely frickin' ridiculous' and 'stupid', and lambasted the string of penalties that he has received from the stewards this year as 'a shambles' and 'an absolute joke' [see separate story – click here
The 26-year-old has since apologised in private to the Monaco Grand Prix stewards and in public via his Twitter
account to Massa and Maldonado and to his fans for his outspoken and controversial comments – and whilst not condoning the words that came out of his mouth and that have prompted such a furore, BBC F1
commentator and 13-time grand prix-winner Coulthard suggests that in an era of crushing political correctness and bland corporate soundbites, Hamilton's unusually forthright openness should be encouraged, not stifled.
“As someone who has been on both sides of the media/sportsman divide, I have sympathy for Lewis Hamilton,” the Scot wrote in his column for British newspaper The Daily Telegraph
. “I know what it is like to have a frustrating race weekend. I know what it is like to be prodded and poked until you snap – and then when you do, I know what it is like to be criticised and publicly shamed. It is a peculiarly British obsession. We build our sports stars up to knock them down.
“All I can say is, you reap what you sow. Don't now expect Lewis to say anything interesting over the coming days, weeks or months. Do expect him to give a lot of one-word answers about front wings and KERS devices. I for one won't blame him.
“My view is that we in sport are all drinking from the same well. When times are good, they are good for everyone – the sportsman will give good, honest interviews because he trusts the journalists – and when they are bad, he should be able to expect some support and sympathy in return. In the world of Twitter
and instant judgement, however, these relationships are dwindling. Perhaps there is no turning back.
“Of course, what Lewis said was not 'off-the-record'. It was in the public domain and as such could hardly be overlooked, but my feeling is that he should not be vilified for speaking his mind. Lewis made a mistake, yes; he knows that what he said overstepped the mark, certainly as far as his 'Ali G' joke was concerned. It was in poor taste, and he apologised for it. I don't believe he meant it seriously.