The wheels have come off the meticulous planning of top Formula One racing team McLaren for the British Grand Prix after being informed that their ace driver, Lewis Hamilton, would be spending next weekend on a Speed Awareness Course.
Surrey Police 'extended the invitation' to attend the course after Hamilton, 26, collided at speed with another car at the Canadian Grand Prix. As the Montreal circuit utilises public roads, traffic officers decided his erratic driving style merited further investigation. Once it was realised that a very similar offence on the streets of Monaco had been captured on CCTV, they felt his chequered track record left them with ‘no option but to act’.
Martin Whitmarsh, team principal at Woking based McLaren, said the summons had caused considerable consternation in the garage: ‘We thought about saying that Hamilton’s team mate Jenson Button was driving at the time, but it got a bit complicated. Button would have had to be in the wrong car wearing the wrong helmet and then crash into his team mate who happened to be in the other car and also wearing the wrong helmet. Unlike the circuit that day, it didn’t hold water.’
‘Of course,’ continued Whitmarsh, ‘ Lewis had the option of paying a fine instead, but the penalty points on his licence would have meant his premium going through the roof. He’s already lost his no claims bonus.’
The news is sure to further tarnish Hamilton’s public image following a number of petulant outbursts after racing incidents in recent weeks. Continued press criticism and rumours that their star driver was seeking a move to rivals Red Bull has been a wakeup call for McLaren with Whitmarsh consulting media gurus in an attempt to boost PR for their diminutive driver. Their only suggestion to date, that of re-launching his profile as ‘Diddy Lewis Hamilton’, has been rejected out of hand by Simon Fuller, Hamilton’s new manager as 'lacking the all-important X-Factor formula.'
Surrey’s Chief Constable Mark Rowley said last night that Speed Awareness Courses were only available as an option to lower speed offenders, and would not normally be considered for Grand Prix champions. ‘However, said Rowley, ‘given Hamilton’s recent record we’ve made an exception. While we’re about it we might get an instructor to show him how to drive a bus through a gap without hitting anything else.’