when Lewis Hamilton was wondering how a turbulent few days could get any worse, the British racer was labelled a “dickhead” by an Australian politician.
Former world champion Hamilton suffered the ignominy of being arrested and having his personal luxury Mercedes impounded after pulling a boy-racer-style stunt in the streets of Melbourne on Friday.
Then on Sunday the 25-year-old vented his anger at his own team’s tactics after finishing sixth in the Australian Grand Prix, while his McLaren colleague Jenson Button romped to victory. His misery continued yesterday, however, when Tim Pallas, Victoria’s roads minister, mounted a verbal attack on Hamilton while launching the state’s new ‘Don’t Be A Dickhead’ motoring safety campaign.
Asked on local radio whether Hamilton deserved that tag, Pallas said: “Well, he’s certainly a very silly young man.”
When pressed further, he added: “OK, I’ll say it: he’s a dickhead. His behaviour put people’s lives at risk. Whether you’re a world champion racing driver or someone who’s just got their license, if you decide to behave in an unsafe manner on a public road that is dangerous.”
Hamilton was forced to make a public apology after his arrest on Friday, which followed the first day of qualifying for the race at Albert Park. He was spotted by police allegedly performing a so-called burn-out – spinning his wheels to create clouds of smoke.
He said: “I was driving in an over-exuberant manner and, as a result, was stopped by the police. What I did was silly, and I want to apologise for it.”
The policeman who apprehended Hamilton, constable Scott Woodford, said: “Given that Melbourne is on the world stage with a lot of interstate and international visitors, we would expect drivers to observe road rules.”
Hamilton, who became the youngest ever world champion when he won the title in 2008, has made a disappointing start to the season. He took third place in Bahrain but trailed in sixth in Melbourne after being told to pit for a second time.