Mark Webber has become the latest F1 driver to criticise Lewis Hamilton's level of on-track aggression this season, accusing him of repeatedly 'finding ways to trip over [his] own shoelaces' – but the McLaren-Mercedes star has revealed that he 'really couldn't give a toss' what others think of him and that the only person that could ever have 'affected' him with such words would have been the late, great Ayrton Senna.
After contentiously colliding with Felipe Massa and subsequently Pastor Maldonado in Monaco, Hamilton then went on to bang wheels with Webber himself and even his own team-mate Jenson Button in Montreal, on the latter occasion precipitating his retirement from the grand prix and in so doing surrendering potentially vital world championship points.
In both races, the 2008 F1 World Champion found himself hauled up before FIA stewards for his indiscretions, but he has since vowed never to moderate his famously uncompromising, hard-charging style. Webber believes the mistakes are a clear sign that Hamilton is struggling to handle the pressure of trying to take on runaway pace-setter Sebastian Vettel in inferior machinery.
“Any sportsman can relate to that little dip, whether it is in form or making the best decisions in stressful situations,” the Australian told British newspaper The Sun
. “Guys that should be challenging for podiums every weekend and who are finding ways to trip over their own shoelaces, it will be questioned.
“Off the back of the tough weekend he (Hamilton) had in Monaco, Canada was a repeat. It was clear the race was going to be a long one for all of us, so trying something in the first three seconds was a bit bizarre.”
Hamilton, however, has brushed off such censure – as well as cautionary remarks from the likes of F1 legends Niki Lauda and Sir Stirling Moss, the former describing him as a danger to his fellow competitors and warning that his actions could 'result in someone getting killed' [see separate story – click here
] – by underlining that the only person he would truly listen to in such circumstances would be his racing hero Senna, tragically killed at Imola in 1994.
“What people say doesn't affect me,” the 26-year-old told The Sun
, “but if Senna had been around, I think I'd have been deeply affected by it because what he did and what he said had a huge amount of meaning for me. People do forget the good things you do and the good races you have had; people forget that I was there in 2007 up against Fernando Alonso and had some mega, mega races with him.”
“It's the way the world works,” he added, speaking to London's Evening Standard
and claiming that comments such as Eddie Irvine's scathing 'losing the plot' observation are like water off a duck's back to him. “Everyone loves you when you're doing well; if Michael Schumacher was winning races now, everyone would be praising him, wanting to be around him, the same if it was Heikki Kovalainen or whoever.
“At the moment, Sebastian Vettel is winning and so everyone's loving him – but just because of what people say and how they act, that doesn't make me any worse a driver. You get tough. It's like if you fall down and bruise your knee, you get up and get stronger. What people say doesn't affect my life – it has no bearing. What Niki Lauda thinks about me, I really couldn't give a toss.
“Immediately I get in the car, I just think positive things and I'm cocooned in my own world. I don't think about anything else. Every elite athlete has to be strong and make sure not to let things get to them out of the car, but we're all human beings after all and sometimes they do get to you. In Monaco, things got to me but at least I didn't deny it and I learned from that.
“My judgment could be better, maybe. I don't think it's my aggressive style that gets me into trouble. Sometimes, maybe, I don't have the best judgment and sometimes maybe I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time – but the reality is that my priority in F1 is to be the best driver of all time, and that takes dedication.”