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GP Week : Issue 145
At the end of the day, it all comes down to body language. Modern Formula One is so tightly controlled by the PRs that it’s very hard to get a real answer out of a driver, whether he’s on top of the world or out on the first corner. But when Lewis Hamilton stormed into the post-race press conference in Melbourne on Sunday evening, it was obvious to all and sundry that the sunny disposition we’d seen the previous evening was very much a thing of the past. This was supposed to be Hamilton’s weekend. The British driver delivered a beautiful lap for pole on Saturday afternoon, and it looked as though the boy from Stevenage had his 2011 demons well and truly buried. But after losing out to team-mate Jenson Button off the start – his McLaren took a more commanding line into the first corner before speeding off into the distance – Hamilton had to suffer the twin indignities of a delay in the pits and the sight of Sebastian Vettel’s RB8 powering past as the Safety Car hit the track. Whatever the truth in the McLaren motorhome, there is little doubt that in Hamilton’s mind, Button is now his team’s de facto number one. And for a racer who has been groomed to be McLaren’s posterboy from the age of 12, it’s an emotional knock that’s harder to recover from than anything Felipe Massa dished out on track last season. McLaren have always prided themselves on treating their drivers equally, and when it comes to information sharing across the garage there is no better team. But in F1 the emotional battle is as important as the action on track, and Hamilton is now starting the 2012 season at a serious disadvantage in the confidence stakes. Add to that the fact that the Melbourne race winner has gone on to take the drivers’ title in five of the past six seasons and it’s easy to see why the formerly happy Hamilton had the hump in the press conference. LITTLE BOY LOST Hamilton losing the psychological battle 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> AUSTRALIA