Lewis Hamilton has reopened old wounds by admitting that he came close to quitting F1 following the aftermath of the ‘Liegate’ scandal that briefly gripped the championship in the early stages of 2009.
The then-defending champion was widely – and rightly, it should be said – criticised by the media and other key motorsport figures when it emerged that he had lied to the Australian GP stewards over whether he had allowed Toyota’s Jarno Trulli to overtake him behind the safety car in the closing stages of the race.
Trulli – running ahead of Hamilton at the time – had run off the road at the penultimate corner at the precise moment the Safety Car was called, rejoining behind the McLaren.
Under instruction – as radio transcripts later revealed – Lewis backed off and allowed Trulli through to retake third place, and then later complained (under advice from Team Manager Dave Ryan) that the Italian had illegally passed him when questioned by the stewards.
Trulli was initially handed a 25-second penalty and Hamilton was awarded the podium finish. The decision was then reversed by the stewards when interviews Hamilton gave totally contradicted what he had told the stewards, when the Briton admitted that he had let Trulli through.
In spite of Lewis’ inability to remember which story to tell to all parties, Dave Ryan was made the fall guy and sacked from the team that he had served for years.
|Lewis was retrospectively disqualified from the Australian GP in an emergency hearing of the Australian stewards (held at the following round at Malaysia), and later made an emotional apology to the media throng in a special press conference.|
Speaking with the British media recently, Hamilton said: "There was a lot to take on board after what had gone on. I care about how people perceive me.
It was a feeling of ‘shoot, maybe I shouldn’t be in the sport’ rather than not in my team. I never had a desire to drive for anyone else. So it was not a desire to leave the team, just to stop racing.
"For a split second it was, ‘This is too much to take. How do I recover from this?’"
Perhaps telling the truth might be a start? In addition to being adult enough to know right from wrong? Look where that got Nelson Piquet Jr!
In a syrupy-sweet dose of sentimentality, Lewis admitted that support from his family, friends, fans and the team allowed him to soldier on and keep him going.
"There was support from my family, team, fans, amazing letters and I thought ‘you know what, I made a mistake but I am being given a second chance by all these people and support.’
"Sometimes it is hard to face the music; hard to face people … But slowly I began to realise that … I had a lot of support and respect from people. It made me stronger.”
The bubble burst on that fateful day, and I think Lewis has learned a tough lesson to assume more responsibility for his own actions and think independently.
One hopes he’s taken a lot from that experience.
[Original title image via This Is London]