Stewart defends 'inexperienced' Hamilton
|By Jonathan Noble||Monday, June 23rd 2008, 09:06 GMT|
Former world champion Jackie Stewart has urged Lewis Hamilton's critics to go easy on the McLaren driver - and remember he is only in his second season of Formula One.
Hamilton has endured a troubled two races in F1, earning a grid penalty for crashing in the pitlane in Montreal and then getting a drive-through in the French Grand Prix for gaining an advantage by cutting a chicane on the first lap.
And with Hamilton aware that he is coming under more media pressure over the errors that have dented his world title challenge, Stewart thinks that everyone – including the McLaren driver himself – must remember how inexperienced he is.
"Lewis Hamilton is already world-famous, thanks to the amazing opportunity he was given last year, and the incredible skill with which he took advantage of it," said Stewart in his column for the official RBS Formula One website.
"He's now experiencing both the privilege and the penalty of celebrity. He's excited the media so much, and now some people are starting to feel let down. But we should remember that Lewis has only been in F1 for fifteen months. He's not the finished article yet – and it's wrong to think that he should be.
"He might not like to hear this, but he has a fundamental lack of experience at the top of the sport. If he asked for my advice, I'd say, 'Take your time, and don't expect too much of yourself'.
"I know because I've been there myself. I had a big accident in my second year, which I was lucky to survive. Over the next few years I changed: I gained experience, which gave me knowledge, which in turn enabled me to deliver."
Stewart has also questioned the consistency of the FIA after the spate of punishments that have been handed down recently.
"We've seen a rash of penalties handed out by the FIA recently – both in the form of grid penalties and in fines," said Stewart. "There rarely seems to be any compassion or any real attempt to see the driver's side.
"The drivers are also complaining at a ten-fold increase in the cost of the super-licences which allow them to race. No one can see what they're getting in return for the extra charge, which makes it look like just another way for the FIA to raise money. I don't know of any other sport where the competitors have to pay for a licence to take part.
"You can also ask questions about the consistency with which penalties are applied. A lot of people – and not McLaren personnel – are saying that the FIA are more interested in finding faults at McLaren than at other teams.
"For example, in the French race, Kimi Raikkonen's exhaust system broke and part of it was visibly hanging off the car. Why wasn't he called into the pits to have the loose piece removed? That could have been the 'Make it happen' moment of the race.
"Eventually the loose bodywork flew off the car, which could easily have been dangerous to the public or to another driver. Some people will say that if it had happened with a McLaren, the team would have been fined."