McLaren would not cut Lewis Hamilton so much slack, says Ron Dennis

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton would be less of a party animal if he was still a McLaren driver, according to his mentor, Ron Dennis.

The CEO and chairman of the McLaren Group, who has described himself as being like a “surrogate father” to the three-times world champion, went on to say: “If he was at McLaren he wouldn’t be behaving the way he is because he wouldn’t be allowed to ... He’s shaking off some chains he didn’t want to have.”

Hamilton admitted in Brazil two weeks ago that his recent road accident in Monaco, when his 200mph Pagani Zonda supercar collided with three parked cars, was “a result of heavy partying and not much rest for a week and a half”. He added: “I am a bit run-down. I have been non-stop and trying to fit training in at the same time and not getting a lot of sleep.”

Even before his accident, and after he won the US Grand Prix to retain his title, the Mercedes driver admitted to enjoying a somewhat hedonistic lifestyle. “I’ve been enjoying this year like … if only you knew,” he said. “I’ve been enjoying this year like it was my last. It has been unbelievable. It’s just work hard, play hard.” When asked by a tabloid newspaper if he was “shagged out” he smiled and rolled his eyes to the ceiling.

Dennis, speaking at the Marketing Society annual conference in London, seemed a little unimpressed by all of this. It was he, of course, who signed Hamilton at the age of 13 and under the now 68-year-old’s guidance, Hamilton made his Formula One debut in 2007, missing out on the world championship by a single point. He would go on to win his first title the following year.

Dennis said Hamilton had occasionally gone “off the rails” because he missed a “formative” part of his childhood in order to become a world-class racer. Then asked if he viewed Hamilton as a “dirty word”, he replied: “No, of course not. I look at him with mixed emotions.” Looking back at the driver’s McLaren days, Dennis added: “It was an interesting experience for everybody and it wasn’t completely smooth and harmonious, and I don’t approve of everything he does or says.

“But, nevertheless, great athletes are great because of the sacrifices they have to make. And sometimes sacrifices are in a very formative part of their childhood [so] they don’t always emerge with the all the right social process or behaviour or tendencies that you like.”

This begs a question: would Hamilton be winning races and championships if he was still a McLaren driver? His departure from the Woking-based team at the end of 2012 coincided with them going into steep decline. Mercedes, on the other hand, were gathering momentum though the prodigious work of the previous team principal, Ross Brawn.

Since winning in Austin, Texas, to clinch this season’s championship, Hamilton’s season has tailed off. His team-mate and main rival, Nico Rosberg, has won the past two races, in Mexico and Brazil. The German has also taken the last five poles.

Powered by article was written by Paul Weaver in Abu Dhabi, for The Guardian on Thursday 26th November 2015 15.39 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010