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Whitmarsh defends Hamilton's crash record

Laurence Edmondson
August 29, 2011 « Red Bull confident for Monza | »
Lewis Hamilton crashed out of the Belgian Grand Prix at the weekend © Getty Images

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has defended Lewis Hamilton's crash record this season after he spun out of the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hamilton has been involved in a number of incidents this season from two collisions at Monaco to a clash with his own team-mate in Canada. He has received four drive-through penalties (or the equivalent post-race penalty) and two reprimands for his driving and on Sunday night took the blame for his accident with Kamui Kobayashi.

Some believe Hamilton has been unfairly picked on and in Monaco he said: "You know what, out of six races I've been to the stewards five times - it's a joke, it's an absolute fricking joke." Asked in the Spa-Francorchamps paddock whether Hamilton had become the "crash kid", Whitmarsh was quick to jump to his driver's defence.

"I think he's an immensely competitive and passionate racing driver," Whitmarsh said. "People know they've got to commit quite heavily to get past him and he's always going to commit to go past. I think Lewis Hamilton makes Formula One a more exciting place to be, so we should all hope that Lewis continues to be one of the most exciting racing drivers that any of us have seen. I don't want him to change, I've spoken to Lewis out of the car and I think he's had some disappointments recently and I think the new Lewis has dealt with those very well.

Hamilton's latest drive-through penalty came at the Hungarian Grand Prix when he tried to recover from a spin by pirouetting his McLaren in front of oncoming traffic. Paul di Resta instinctively took avoiding action but was quite a long way from having a collision. Whitmarsh felt the penalty was harsh and said the way Hamilton had dealt with it was admirable.

"I think he was dealt with very harshly in Hungary and I think a lot of people felt that," he added. "He dealt with that with maturity, dignity and in a cool way. That was a step in the right direction I think, so he's learning and developing, but he's a racing driver who's competitive. I'm sure people were saying that at various times, or most the time, in Ayrton [Senna]'s career and they said it for Schumacher's career, in fact I think they're still saying it. So I think with those competitive drivers, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't."

Whitmarsh also felt that Kobayashi was to blame for Sunday's crash, but admitted his position was naturally biased.

"My opinion is that Lewis was extremely unlucky," he said. "I think he gave some space, you can always say why didn't he give more, but he gave some space. He had to move over to the racing line and the onus is trying to avoid hitting the car in front of you, in my view, but in these matters my view doesn't amount to much, it's up to the stewards and the stewards felt that it was just purely a racing accident. I felt that Kobayashi was much more responsible than that but perhaps I'm not the most impartial witness."