“The first thing I want to stress is that Niki raced in an era when deaths were commonplace. Niki himself was read his last rites after a horrific crash at the Nürburgring in 1976, so if anyone is qualified to comment in the way he did, then it is him. What I would say, however, is that the world moves on. When Niki was racing in the 1970s, drivers would frequently give each other a full car's-width so as to minimise the possibility of a potentially fatal incident. Drivers these days are giving each other a cigarette paper's width. Accidents will happen.
“Lewis' first collision [in Canada] was with Mark Webber's Red Bull, almost immediately after the safety car came in at the end of lap four. He took a bit of a gamble going up the inside, slid ever-so-slightly going over the kerb and out-braked himself. Mark, who had generously given him room, at this point came back onto the apex, as he was entitled to do, and their cars touched.
“If anything, I would veer towards blaming Lewis, simply because – as is the case on any road – it is more the responsibility of the chasing car to make a safe overtaking manoeuvre as he has the better field of vision, but the stewards called it a 'racing incident', and I'm happy with that decision.
“Most controversial [was] the collision with Jenson on lap eight. Again, on the same basis as before, I would veer towards blaming Lewis as the chasing car. If you don't get your front wheels right up alongside the other driver's cockpit, with his limited field of vision through the 'letterbox' of his helmet, there is always a fair chance he won't see you. The wing mirrors do not angle out sideways, so there is a substantial blind spot. When conditions are as they were on Sunday, the risk of not being seen is redoubled.
“Lewis had the run on Jenson, was entitled to try the move, but didn't get up alongside him enough hence should have backed off. I don't profess to know what is on Lewis' mind or why he is getting into so many scrapes, [but] he does seem a bit distracted at present, certainly in contrast to his main rivals.
“I see he has been linked again with Red Bull
[see separate story – click here
]. Maybe a move away from McLaren
is something he needs after literally growing up there over the last decade – a bit like when the kids finally move out – to drop the emotional baggage, both good and bad, which inevitably grows in every relationship. But do I think Lewis is a liability to other drivers? Not for one minute.”
“It's easy to knock someone when they're involved in a series of incidents, but it's why Lewis has so many fans around the world,” Coulthard added, in an interview with the BBC
. “This is just a phase he's going through. He believes he's the best driver in the world, but right now McLaren
are not able to give him a winning car, and he's getting frustrated. He wants to win, and that passion, that drive is what's causing him to get up-close-and-personal with other cars.”
Hamilton himself has similarly defended his driving, albeit now acknowledging that he was 'in the wrong place at the wrong time' in the incident with Button and opining that an easier way to 'stay out-of-trouble' in the future would be to start grands prix further up the grid. The 26-year-old began ninth in Monaco and fifth in Canada.
“He (Button) made a mistake into the last corner, so I got the run on him,” he recounted, speaking to the BBC
. “I felt that I was halfway alongside him and he just kept moving across, whether or not he saw me, and I was in the wall. It was only the tyre that was busted, so I put the diff-lock on and I was going to drive it back to the garage but the team told me to retire. I thought that the suspension had gone, because that was what they told me, but it turns out it was not.
“You know what, I think you make your own luck. Onwards and upwards. Go to the next one and try to stay out-of-trouble. It would be great if we could qualify a little bit higher and try to avoid these sorts of situations, but that's the way it is.