FORMER world champion Emerson Fittipaldi believes criticism of Lewis Hamilton’s supposed reckless driving is over exaggerated and that the sport would be far less popular without its one remaining “showman”.
The British star heads into his home race at Silverstone this weekend having to field questions relating to speculation surrounding his future at McLaren and with condemnation of his performance at last month’s Canadian Grand Prix still fresh in his mind.
Hamilton was in trouble five times in just four laps of a chaotic rain-lashed race before crashing out against McLaren team-mate Jenson Button. A string of drivers, past and present, spoke out against the 26-year-old, but Fittipaldi (right) believes the Brit remains the greatest attraction in the sport.
He said: “Everybody has their own style of driving but I know who I would rather be watching. Lewis is extremely aggressive and is the ultimate competitor. His style is different to most of the guys these days but he makes for a great show.
“He is a tremendous natural talent who has incredible car control. He can get more out of a car than you think is possible and can really make things happen. Some of the races these days are so boring but Lewis is the one who can provide excitement.
“He is a real showman and the crowd know this. They know he is the man who can be at the back of the grid and then with all his skill make up many places in a very short space of time. This is the thing we love to see in this sport.”
Fittipaldi, 64, whose first and last career wins came at Brands Hatch and Silverstone, is delighted that the British Grand Prix remains an established part of the Formula One calendar. Two years ago Bernie Ecclestone threatened to wave the black flag after money problems beset the oldest race in the sport.
He said: “Bernie wants to take the sport to new places and that’s great. But we must respect our tradition and heritage. This is a great race, a real racing track which everyone, fans and drivers, really love.”
FORMULA ONE | THE SHOWMEN
James Hunt: A hit with the ladies who loved to party. He often turned up to black-tie events in jeans and t-shirt – one bore the phrase “Sex – The Breakfast of Champions.”
Ayrton Senna: Considered one of, if not the, greatest of all-time. His rivalry with Alain Prost was fierce and dominated the sport during the late 1980s.
Eddie Irvine: Outspoken Irishman Irvine was the Hunt of his era. He surrounded himself with the ultimate playboy toys and was linked to a series of glamorous women.