Sebastian Vettel’s controlled and dominant flag-to-flag win under the lights at the Marina Bay street circuit in Singapore put the German sensation just 1 point away from his second consecutive F1 driving World Championship. In qualifying, Vettel joined Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen with 11 pole positions in a season, and is closing in on Nigel Mansell’s record of 14 set in 1992.
This article titled “Felipe Massa slams Lewis Hamilton as Sebastian Vettel nears F1 title” was written by Paul Weaver in Singapore, for The Guardian on Sunday 25th September 2011 10.19 America/New_York
A furious confrontation between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa dominated the aftermath of the Singapore Grand Prix, even though another superb drive from Sebastian Vettel had taken the German to within one point of the title.
Singapore is Formula One’s only night race but the temperature kept rising well after the chequered flag had fallen on Vettel’s Red Bull, with Jenson Button second for his eighth podium place this season and his fourth in as many races. Button is now the only man who can stop Vettel winning the title. But once again it was his McLaren team-mate, Hamilton, who was the talking point following an angry exchange with Massa.
Hamilton started the race fourth on the grid but was squeezed towards a wall by the slow-starting Mark Webber. Attempting to make up ground on the 12th lap, Hamilton crashed into the back of Massa, damaging his front wing and puncturing the Brazilian’s Ferrari. Hamilton was given a drive-through penalty and after his involuntary five?stop strategy finished fifth, after overtaking more cars than any other driver, often thrillingly.
However, after the race Massa slapped Hamilton on the shoulder during a television interview and said, with bitter sarcasm: “You’ll win a lot of world championships driving like that. Good job huh. Very good job.” In response, Hamilton shouted after a departing Massa: “Don’t touch me man. Don’t touch me.”
In the post-race interview the Brazilian added: “Yesterday he tried to be Superman in the qualifying and today he tried to do the same. He could have caused a big accident. I tried to talk to him but he doesn’t listen. It’s important that FIA is looking and penalising him all the time. He’s paying for it because he had the drive through. But he can’t listen, he can’t understand, he doesn’t learn anything. That’s the problem.”
The pair have been fierce rivals since Hamilton beat Massa by a single point to win the 2008 title. Earlier this season, after another collision in Monaco for which Hamilton was punished, Massa called on the FIA to issue further penalties against the British driver.
The Brazilian said: “What can I say? How many races this year has he gone in the wrong direction? I tried to speak to him, but he didn’t listen to me. I called him twice but he didn’t listen, he passed through. He didn’t even look at me. I went to him and went like that [thumbs up], and said to him: ‘Very good job, well done.’ That’s it.”
Hamilton left the track without speaking. The McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh, who might regret his call for the return of the “old Hamilton” after the previous race in Monza, said of Massa’s comments: “I think [Massa’s] wrong.
” I think Lewis is a young guy. He’s an aggressive and assertive driver He’s learning and he’ll learn from all these. I believe he’ll win races and he’ll win more championships.”
Worryingly, however, Whitmarsh appeared in denial when asked about the avoidability of the accident. “If you stay in the garage any accident is avoidable,” he said. “Any serious questions?”
This has been Hamilton’s most harrowing season. As well as Monaco, he was also involved in collisions in Malaysia, Canada and Belgium and was given another drive-through penalty in Hungary.
Last year Hamilton decided to split, professionally, from his father, Anthony, who had worked as his mentor and manager since childhood. And on Sunday night Hamilton Sr appeared to blame his son’s new agents, XIX Entertainment, who also manage the affairs of David Beckham and Andy Murray.
He said: “You look up and down the pitlane and every driver, except for Lewis, has a driver-manager in his life, not people from a company. I am sure his management are very good – I don’t know – but Formula One drivers need people personally involved in the driver’s life because it is a big pressure. They have got to be here and I don’t think you can do the job by sending someone else.
“I don’t know any other driver-manager who sends someone else to do the job. You sign up a Formula One driver, so come and do your job. No disrespect to anybody but that’s how this business is.” Simon Fuller, the head of XIX, has been seen at two races this season but his representatives have attended a number of others.
Hamilton added: “I have seen Lewis and he is fine. He will be back. It is hard right now but he will come back, there is no doubt about that.”
By the end of the long evening Vettel’s 19th career victory had almost been forgotten. And so had the even more spectacular crash involving the seven times world champion Michael Schumacher, who went into the back of Sergio Pérez. But, winning or losing, the remarkable Hamilton dominates the agenda.
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