By Adrian Mann
For years a certain portion of Formula 1 fans and media have led what can only be described as a campaign aimed at diminishing Lewis Hamilton’s skills and accomplishments.
To do so they have been using every half-baked argument at their disposal, including their favourite go-to – the fastest car argument. However, in more recent years they started using Mercedes’ young driver George Russell as their favourite weapon, more specifically by pointing out Lewis’ supposed ‘fear’ of being paired with the young hopeful.
Ever since it became clear that Russell will eventually end up at Mercedes, many ‘reputable’ Formula 1 news outlets started publishing made-up rumours and insinuations that Lewis ‘feared’ George and didn’t want him as his team-mate. The worst part was – they tried to pass it as legitimate news. In their speculation, some F1 fans and media had a hard time hiding the fact that they were hoping for Russell to ‘blow Hamilton away’ and finally prove that the seven-time champion was a ‘fraud’ all along. Now that George has finally joined Mercedes, the rumour and innuendo factory has kicked into high gear.
Mercedes’ lack of pace in the first three races of the 2022 season has prevented both Hamilton and Russell to fight at the top, and even before the cars took to the track in Bahrain, there was speculation that Hamilton would not cope in a ‘difficult’ car, because he was supposedly used to driving ‘the best equipment’. To make things worse, they started using Russell to prove their point, predicting he would outperform Lewis due to his experience with terrible Williams cars.
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The first race of the season didn’t turn out this way, as Lewis managed to finish in P3, with George right behind him in P4. However, the haters got their wish at the second race in Saudi Arabia – by the time qualifying was over, Russell managed to get P6, while Hamilton was eliminated in Q1 for the first time since 2017. By Mercedes’ own admittance, they tried out different set-up paths with their two cars, and with Lewis it all went horribly wrong, but this did not stop aforementioned fans and media from basically proclaiming that the seven-time champ has been shown up. The race was just icing on the cake when Lewis unsurprisingly finished behind George, in P10. But what they failed to acknowledge was that his amazing drive could have landed him much higher, had he not been impeded by an ill-timed closing of the pit lane entry.
Then we moved on to the Australian Grand Prix, for which Lewis qualified in P5 and George in P6. In the race Hamilton finished behind Russell, but only due to the young Briton benefiting from a perfectly timed Safety Car. This circumstance, of course, wasn’t acknowledged by the critics and the narrative of Lewis being outperformed by George has continued to be perpetuated. Now, I am not saying George did not perform wonderfully in the first three races, he did and he’s an amazing driver, but to take these results out of context and say he has been outperforming Lewis, is at best uninformed, and at worst malicious.
And speaking of malicious, the most recent attempt to diminish Hamilton has been done via made-up statements from none other than two-time F1 champion Mika Häkkinen. Someone out there has reported that Häkkinen supposedly told Unibet he believes Lewis was “sulking” because of “George being ahead”, and went even so far as to say the Briton was considering leaving Mercedes. This was then reported by many of the most prominent F1 news websites, with some even twisting it into headlines like – “Hamilton thinking of leaving Mercedes” etc. Not only was this not what Häkkinen supposedly said in the original “quote”, but the whole statement was later completely dismissed by Unibet themselves.
“Fake News. Journalists with too much time and not enough traffic on their hands over Easter,” Unibet told grandprix247.com.
There’s no doubt that Hamilton’s detractors would use anything they can to take a shot at him, but major news outlets spreading unconfirmed rumours as facts, without even checking the supposed original source, is beyond reprehensible. And it’s not the first time, so we can’t call it an accident.
George Russell himself has stayed away from any attempts from the media to pit him against Hamilton, but they still want to perpetuate this narrative, even when it has no basis in facts. The fact is the first three races are not enough to tell a cohesive story of which Mercedes driver is currently better, and even if it was, Lewis was definitely not outperformed. So, I know certan fans and media outlets will continue to try and diminish Lewis and his accomplishments, but they should at least stop using George Russell to do it. At the moment, the facts are not on their side.
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