Under-fire McLaren-Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton has found an ally amidst all the criticism he has received of late for his on-track aggression, with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone asserting that 'people have been wrong to rubbish Lewis' and arguing: 'Let him race!'
In the past two grands prix in Monaco and Canada, Hamilton has collided with four separate rivals – Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado in Monte Carlo, precipitating both drivers' retirement from the race, and Mark Webber and his own McLaren team-mate Jenson Button in Montreal.
The latter incident marked the first time that Hamilton has actually come off worse, with his first DNF of the F1 2011 campaign, and in the wake of his spate of run-ins with stewards and a series of investigations and penalties for some borderline manoeuvres and avoidable accidents, the 2008 world champion has found himself lambasted by the likes of former multiple title-winners Emerson Fittipaldi and Niki Lauda, with the Brazilian arguing that 'sometimes he is too aggressive when he tries to overtake'.
The unfailingly outspoken Austrian went somewhat further, blasting that Hamilton's driving on occasion this season has gone 'beyond all boundaries', describing the 26-year-old as 'completely mad' and even suggesting that unless something is done to tame him, it will all 'result in someone getting killed' [see separate story – click here
]. Lauda's erstwhile Brabham team manager and current F1 commercial rights-holder Ecclestone, however, disagrees.
“People have been wrong to rubbish Lewis,” the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive told British newspaper The Independent
, stressing that Hamilton's detractors should back off and simply let the 15-time grand prix-winner get on with what he does best. “What we want is people racing, and all the people who watch it want that.
“If you analyse what's been happening and how other drivers have been performing, Lewis shows up very well, and so do Sebastian [Vettel] and Jenson – so let him race. That's what people like him do. I was very, very good friends with [Ayrton] Senna, and if you look at what he did, he was a racer, too, and people had to move over for him.
“Perhaps Lewis has made one or two questionable moves, but so have many of the others, and nobody bothers to look what's happening further down the field. It's always been like this. We saw a lot of people racing in Canada on Sunday, and Jenson did a super job. That's what the fans want to see.”
Those sentiments have been echoed by Jos Verstappen and Christian Klien, with the two ex-F1 drivers both urging Hamilton not to change a thing.
“He has had two unfortunate races, but each incident must be viewed separately,” Verstappen wrote in his column for De Telegraaf
newspaper, contending that the flurry of condemnation has been 'exaggerated'. “In Monaco with Felipe Massa, he did something stupid, but the collision with Button last Sunday was not Hamilton's fault. I could understand his overtaking attempt there, and Button could have given him more space. Despite all the commotion, Hamilton is a great driver. He just needs to empty his head now and get luck back on his side.”
“He is just a very aggressive driver, a thoroughbred,” echoed Klien, speaking to Red Bull television channel Servus TV
. “We need that, and it's because of him that many races are so exciting.”