F1's radio double-standards after Lewis Hamilton Turkish GP calls

Jake Nichol October 12, 2021
Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton endured a tricky afternoon, with his radio calls in Turkey under the spotlight. The Briton issued a statement on Instagram, but another incident, earlier in the weekend proves there are double-standards when it comes to the radio in F1.

Lewis Hamilton frustrated over the radio in Turkey

To understand where Hamilton’s frustrations over the radio last Sunday come from, first we must go back.

In the 2020 race at Istanbul Park, the British driver expertly nursed a set of intermediate tyres for 52 laps.

He pitted early on to get rid of the full wets at the sodden track.

The Mercedes did not pit again after taking on the green-walled Pirelli rubber.

Hamilton created a set of ‘slickdermediates’ – where the tread was worn down to create, in effect, a set of slick tyres.

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That day, Hamilton started sixth, and by using the strategy dominated to the win race.

It is one of his finest grand prix drives and secured him his record-equalling seventh world title.

History lesson over, let’s get back to Sunday.

After his grid penalty was applied, Hamilton quickly rose through the top 10 at the start.

The #44 was soon running behind Sergio Perez.

A great battle between the two ensued, but Perez bailed shortly afterwards, opting to pit for fresh intermediates.

Hamilton, with the knowledge that he could make a set of worn intermediates last the distance, did not.

Photo by Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton’s radio calls in Turkey

The first call from Mercedes to pit for fresh intermediates came on Lap 42 from engineer Peter Bonnington – “fresh inter is the way to go.”

“I don’t think it is man,” came the reply.

On Lap 51, Mercedes finally hauled Hamilton in for the change to a fresh set, but dropped him below Perez and Charles Leclerc.

“We should have stayed out. I told you,” Hamilton said when informed of his position in the race.

“Just leave me alone,” was the final message on Lap 55 as Hamilton tried to fend off Pierre Gasly.

The Focus is not going to get into the rights and wrongs of the decision to pit or not, but the reaction to those radio messages is telling.

Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Perhaps it is because it is Lewis Hamilton involved that there has been such focus on it.

We’ve come to expect perfection from Mercedes and Hamilton.

He is, after F1’s biggest driver. Even those with no interest in motorsport have heard the name ‘Lewis Hamilton.’

When something goes wrong, he becomes the story.

People home in on any imperfection in the Mercedes machine wondering what has prevented another rendition of God Save The Queen on the podium.

F1’s radio double-standards

Hamilton dispelled some myths in an Instagram post, but should not have to explain himself.

Not even teammate Valtteri Bottas knew what it was like to drive that Mercedes car on that set on intermediate tyres in that race.

If Hamilton says he could go to the end, that should be the end of the story.

But because of the conflict and the end result, there’s a load of noise around it.

Remember Turkey 2020? Mercedes called him in to the pits last year too. He overruled them then as well.

He told the team he could go on to the end and did not want to risk entering the slippery pitlane.

But because that race turned out well, there was no hubbub around the radio interactions.

The other radio calls in Turkey

Instead, he’s been branded arrogant for overruling the team’s initial calls to pit and talking back to them. For being disrespectful.

But what about Kimi Raikkonen’s radio call during Friday practice?

The veteran Finn swore at the team for a leaking drinks bottle left fluids in the cockpit of his Alfa Romeo.

F1’s Twitter account put out a video of the call to the team, with replies including mentions of previous issues with the drinks bottle.

But it’s all ok, isn’t it? Because it’s Kimi Raikkonen and it’s funny.

Raikkonen’s issue was decidedly less important than Hamilton’s and his radio call requiring the bleep machine, whereas any Hamilton made did not.

The 2007 world champion also snaps at his team – basically telling them to shut up and, to coin a phrase, ‘leave him alone’. – see Abu Dhabi 2012.

Of course Hamilton occasionally swears on the radio, every driver does. But he doesn’t do it often.

He challenges the team’s thinking over pit strategy, using the calls constructively to try and optimise the result.

Raikkonen wants everything to be perfect- and as the most experienced F1 driver of all, he knows what he wants.

Photo by Clive Mason – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

But that’s no excuse to lash out and swear at the team just because something has gone wrong.

Whereas one world champion’s radio comments were seen as funny and typical of the man, another’s were picked apart.

Raikkonen’s radio hypocrisy

Indeed, Raikkonen is adored by some for his comments over the radio down the years.

From shouting he wants his “gloves and steering wheel,” to barking at his engineer when told about a penalty.

But that’s just Kimi being Kimi, isn’t it?

A bit of fun, a laugh to be had because that’s what Raikkonen’s reputation is built on: doing things his way.

So then, it shouldn’t be any different when Hamilton questions a team decision, right?

But it is, because it’s Lewis Hamilton involved.

Hamilton knows he must maximise every race possible to scoop the most points he can in his title fight with Max Verstappen.

Had he managed to get those worn intermediates to the end, he would be lauded for his expert skill in achieving it.

But because, this time, Hamilton came out on the wrong side of a fine margin, the radio calls in Turkey are a big story.

Raikkonen’s comments meanwhile will go into his back catalogue as another classic ‘Kimi’ moment, feeding the cult built around him as he heads to retirement.

Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.