Formula One - On And Off Track Week 43

Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent

Story Highlights

  • A new Lewis Hamilton says father Anthony
  • Still confusion ahead of Indian Grand Prix
  • No race seat for Chandhok during Indian GP

A new Lewis Hamilton says father Anthony

Lewis Hamilton is on the right track again, his father Anthony told BBC Sport last week. The British McLaren driver has been involved in numerous incidents and accidents this season, and there have been plenty of speculations as to why the talented 2008 Champion seems to be ‘off beat’ this season, which is in fact the worst season in his career. Especially during the last Grand Prix at Korea, it was painfully visible Hamilton was in no mood for jokes, and his behavior during the post qualifying press conference prompted a lot more questions about his apparent mood swings.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes and his father Anthony Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes and his father Anthony Hamilton

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McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh refused to answer questions from the media about Hamilton’s problems during the Korean weekend. “He says he is happy, and any other enquiry regarding his state of happiness should be directed to Lewis and not me,” Whitmarsh insisted.

News has emerged Hamilton has split with his American girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger after a four-year relationship and according to his father this has been the reason why he has been very unhappy recently. But father Hamilton also thinks the split could be a good thing and perhaps even refreshing for his 26-old son, ”He's turned a corner in everything he's done, his life, his loves and his love of motor sport. Next year is going to be interesting.”

Father Hamilton himself has been his manager since he was eight, but earlier this year both split and Hamilton is now managed by Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment. Fuller at the time commented, “It's an honor to be partnering with Lewis in what will be a very exciting stage of his career.” And indeed, very exciting as Hamilton has been accused of aggressive driving, and was handed several penalties by the FIA Stewards, he has tangled with Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Kamui Kobayashi and also with his own team mate Jenson Button.

The last few months he fell back in the Drivers’ championship from second to currently fifth place, 26 points behind Button who is second. About the criticism father Hamilton said to the BBC, “There's only so much that one person can take. Lewis is an extremely talented individual and I tell you what, most of us would not have been able to come back from what he has had to face this year.” And of course he defended his son “Let's face it, he's had a tough year, he's faced a lot of criticism and yet still he comes back fighting and can produce results that he did last week. He's an incredible man and an inspiration to so many people.” And added, “You've only seen a young Lewis Hamilton. Now Lewis Hamilton the man is coming!”

Still confusion ahead of Indian Grand Prix

After many speculations the Formula One circus has finally arrived at the Buddh International circuit in India. There have been rumors about the actual state of the circuit, as photos had emerged in the German media showing the construction of main structures were not finished yet, however, it was unknown when these pictures were taken, but nevertheless it sparked a discussion whether the circuit would be finished in time or not.

Mysterious India
Mysterious India

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There also have been reports angry farmers had threatened to disturb the Grand Prix, it was also reported drivers and team personnel had problems obtaining the necessary visa, teams would face tax problems, and there were even reports teams would bring their own food to the venue as they supposedly were afraid the Indian food wouldn’t match their high standards, those reports were of course complete nonsense.

With all these rumors buzzing around in the Formula One paddock, even FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone admitted he had his doubts until two weeks ago, “I was pessimistic a fortnight ago. I was sent pictures of the track and I thought Christ, we're not going to get it finished in time,” he told the UK Guardian. But he changed his mind after he had received more recent photos of the track, “But what they have done in the meantime -- and I've been sent more recent pictures -- is incredible.”

German designer Hermann Tilke who is in charge of the project also rubbished the rumors, “It is safe to assume that certain parts of the infrastructure will still have something to do. But that's true of almost everywhere as well.” HRT driver Indian Narain Karthikeyan had visited the circuit and concluded there was no reason to panic, “There is still some work being done on the landscaping but everyone is working 24-7 to make sure everything will be fine on the day.”

Force India’s team owner Vijay Mallya is proud his country will finally host a Formula One race, “I have been involved in motor racing for over 30 years and it's one of my greatest passions. I brought the first Formula 1 car over to India in the 1980s and it was always a dream of mine to one day see this great nation host a Grand Prix. So this weekend is a very significant moment and I'm extremely proud.”

Team Lotus test and reserve driver Karun Chandhok warned teams will be in for a real culture shock when they arrive in India, “It is organized chaos, maybe like a mixture of Brazil and Malaysia. It affects everything -- the traffic, the food, our way of life. We are very loud, chaotic.”

And Chandhok predicted, “From the moment you arrive you will experience this madness, which will surprise everyone but it also means India is a country with soul. Nothing is structured -- if someone says 12.30, he means 1 or 2 o'clock.” He also thinks travelers should be careful with food and drinks, “Only drink bottled water, don't use ice, don't eat salad. Only eat cooked food. This should mean you won't have problems.”

A taste of a different culture
A taste of a different culture

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Of course India has staged big sport events before, but Karun’s father, Vicky Chandhok, told the organizers will certainly learn from the event, “India has never hosted such a big event. It's the largest ever,” he was quoted saying in the Times of India. “No IPL [India’s Premier (cricket) League], no Commonwealth Games comes anywhere close to it.” A Jaypee spokesman reported some 80,000 tickets have been sold, which is roughly two-third of the circuit’s capacity. “Of course we would have been happier had we sold off 90 per cent tickets because ticket sales are the only source of revenue for us. But there are still a few days to go and we are keeping our fingers crossed,” the Jaypee spokesman reported.

But as some members of the Formula One circus and the media have arrived in India today, it seems there are apart from traffic issues, no serious problems, although Heikki Kovalainen has complained about obtaining a visa, but he nevertheless has arrived in India. And India shouldn’t be more of a culture shock than China or Japan, besides that, India will be a part of the Formula One World Championship for many years to come, so it is also fun and exciting to get to know other nations and cultures, certainly when they share the same passion for motor sport.

No race seat for Chandhok during Indian GP

A big disappointment for Indian Team Lotus test and reserve driver Chandhok, as his team announced regular drivers Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli will be in the car for the Indian Grand Prix. Chandhok had hoped to strike a deal with team owner Tony Fernandes to take over Trulli’s seat, but apparently contractual issues with both drivers have led to the decision that Chandhok will not make a race appearance during his home Grand Prix.

“It's a complicated thing because there are contractual complexities as the team has to honor the two contracted race drivers,” Chandhok earlier this week reported. But there are also other things at stake for Team Lotus, they currently hold tenth place in the Constructors’ Championship, which means they also get a share of the Formula One revenues, and Fernandes admitted this was one of the reasons not to put Chandhok in the car.

Karun Chandhok, test driver, Lotus F1 Team
Karun Chandhok, test driver, Lotus F1 Team

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“We had to make the best decision for the future of the team,” the Malaysian said. “While this is obviously not the decision Karun wanted us to take -- he understands that we have to take the long-term view and do so in the best interests of the team. If we don't have the right finances there won't be a team, and that includes Karun.”

And to make the decision somewhat more bearable for Chandhok, Fernandes hinted there is certainly a future for him at Team Lotus, “He understands that his relationship with our team is not about just one race, it is about growing together.” And he added, “While this is an historic event, there will be many opportunities to race in India in the future, and he is in the best possible place with us to take advantage of those chances in seasons to come.”

Chandhok, who replaced Trulli during the German Grand Prix, commented, “I understand that this isn't about me, it's about the team and everything the 254 people on track and back at the factory are doing to build for the future.” And he will take part in the Friday morning free practice session, so his Indian fans can still see him driving a Formula one car and cheer him on, “You will definitely see me in Friday's practice session and there I will definitely give my best,” he said.
Join us again next week for another episode of “Formula One: On and off track”

Formula One - On and Off Track week 42

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Fernando Alonso , Narain Karthikeyan , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Heikki Kovalainen , Karun Chandhok , Kamui Kobayashi , Bernie Ecclestone , Anthony Hamilton , Martin Whitmarsh
Teams Team Lotus , Force India , Lotus F1 Team
Tags bouman, chandhok, fernandes, hamilton, indian gp, mallya