The Last Word- Catterick looks back at Massa/ Hamilton spat
By Phill Catterick
Wednesday 28 Sep 2011 15:16:00
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The Singapore Grand Prix may not have brought the World Championship to a premature close, but Sebastian Vettel has all but sewn it up following another impressive display around the streets of Marina Bay.

The battle for the lead didn't exactly pick up pace until the final few laps, but further back there were plenty of talking points for the F1 paddock to mull over, including the incident between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa which resulted in an unwelcome exchange between the two in the press area following the race.

After being crowded at the start Hamilton found himself behind the Mercedes duo of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. He cleared the pair very convincingly and set off in pursuit of Massa, the man who he beat in the race for the 2008 World Championship.

At turn seven on lap 12 Lewis attempted to pass the Brazilian around the outside, and having given up on any potential manoeuvre he turned into the corner too early and as a result made contact with the rear of the Ferrari. Massa suffered a puncture, and Hamilton had to pit for a new front wing.

The incident between the pair resulted in the Mclaren driver receiving a drive through penalty for causing an avoidable accident, but having looked at the incident several times I feel it was just an inevitable consequence of racing. It wasn't done deliberately and wasn't over aggressive by any means.

However, as BBC commentator Martin Brundle rightly pointed out, the consequence is just as important as the contact itself, and because Massa's race was affected as a result it gave the stewards little alternative but to punish the Englishman for his actions. Heinz Harald Frentzen obviously had the same views as he was the drivers' representative in the steward's room during the course of the weekend.

Both drivers then had to work their way back through the field, with Hamilton being the more successful after ultimately earning 5th position, while Massa (having been passed cleanly by the Mclaren on lap 25) had to settle for 9th.

It isn't the first time the pair have collided this season either. Hamilton ran into Massa at Monaco earlier in the year as he attempted to pass at the Grand Hotel curve, a move which at the time looked near impossible as Lewis looked to force his way through the field. They also nearly collided during the weekend's Qualifying session on Saturday evening as Hamilton did his best to get some clear air.

These three incidents combined, along with the Brazilian's disappointing season to date, led Massa to be very outspoken in his post race press conference, where he told BBC Sport:

"He cannot use his mind, even in Qualifying. How many times has he done that this year? It's important that the FIA is looking and penalising him all the time when he's not thinking."

In addition to this he also made a point of interrupting an interview of Hamilton's by tapping him on the arm and saying 'good job pal. ' Lewis replied by saying 'don't touch me, ' as the Ferrari driver concluded his media duties and left the 'pen' as its known.

He refused to withdraw his comments and actions on Monday, while at the same time Lewis's father was accusing his son's management team of not offering enough support to the former champion. All of this adds to the forever mounting attention on Hamilton who by his team principal's admission has 'not had a good season.'

Martin Whitmarsh, the CEO of Mclaren Racing, who has known Lewis from a very young age defended his driver after the Grand Prix by telling the BBC:

"He felt he got a penalty that he didn't deserve and it would have been easy for that frustration to affect him. Is Lewis occasionally over impetuous in situations? Undoubtedly he is, he's a racing driver with a great passion. Undeniably this has not been a great year for Lewis Hamilton.

"I've known him since he was 11 and have seen him go through moments of elation, great moments of achievement and disappointment. You have to take some risk in overtaking and he is a driver that wants to do it in a hurry. He will win again this year, of that I'm sure, and I'm confident he will be World Champion again."

Aside from the incidents mentioned, Hamilton has also been involved in scrapes with other drivers as the season has progressed. Firstly he was punished in Malaysia for veering across the track as Fernando Alonso attempted to pass, and in addition to colliding with Massa in Monaco he also made contact with the Williams of Pastor Maldonado, which resulted in another drive through penalty.

Next time out in Canada he very nearly took team-mate Jenson Button out of the race by making contact with him on the start and finish straight, despite the fact there was absolutely no room to even attempt a move. Hamilton retired, while Jenson went on to record a famous win in changeable conditions.

Attention from the stewards didn't stop there either. In Budapest he spun his car as Paul di Resta's Force India was fast approaching, and the Scot had to take to the grass to avoid hitting the Mclaren. Lewis had lost control of his car on the exit of the chicane, and he was awarded a penalty for the incident which could have been far more serious.

Collisions with Kobayashi in Spa and now with Massa in Singapore have called into question the mindset of Hamilton, and whether he is too aggressive with his tactics in regards to overtaking. He has gained a reputation as being one of the best racers on the grid, but more often that not he is out of position and therefore racing cars which are not as fast as his. Consequently it makes the task a lot easier.

For example in Singapore, with the exception of Massa, he didn't actually pass any of the front runners, and in Monza he spent more than 20 laps behind Michael Schumacher's Mercedes when team-mate Button did it in just a few corners.

Granted he put some fantastic moves on Webber and Alonso at the Nurburgring, but it would appear he's struggling with his on track tactics, and he will need to assess his wrongdoings to ensure he is far more clinical in the future.

One of the reasons for Hamilton's apparent frustration at the moment is the possibility of losing out in the championship to a team-mate for the first time in his F1 career. Both drivers have two victories to their name, but Jenson has been far more consistent in terms of results, and is on course to finishing as runner-up to Sebastian Vettel.

The German began the weekend's event in Pole Position and made yet another terrific get away, roared off into the distance and abused the pace of his mighty Red Bull to good effect as Button, Alonso and Webber failed to keep up with his blistering lap times.

The safety car may have put an element of doubt in his mind, and although traffic reduced the gap to he and Jenson at the end of the race, his performance was certainly one worthy of becoming the youngest champion in the sport's history, and this is the accolade he will achieve at Suzuka next Sunday if he can finish in the top ten, or Button fails to win.


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