To be a world champion Formula One racing driver, you need total focus.
So my question today is: Is Lewis Hamilton’s love life getting in the way of his race-driving?
Hamilton missed making it into final qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix today while his McLaren teammate, Jenson Button, wound up fourth behind front-row Red Bull starters Sebastien Vettel (pole) and Mark Webber, and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton will start 11th in Sunday's GP, which is not a good performance, at all, for a man who was world champion just two years ago.
People will point to the absence of his father, Anthony, who – much like Tiger Woods’s father trained him to be a golfer from the moment he was born – was the driving force (and calming influence) behind Lewis’s success in auto racing up till this year. (They decided to go their separate ways following the '09 season.)
Others will say Lewis’s obvious immaturity is catching up with him. (He’s 25 years old and a Formula One driver and he still tries to attract attention to himself by squealing tires on the public roads, as was the case the other night when the police impounded his multi-million-dollar Mercedes road car after they caught him layin’ rubber as he left the Grand Prix circuit in Melbourne.)
But I would suggest it’s none of the above.
I think his rekindled relationship with Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger has left him all tuckered out. No, not that way; this way.
Since they decided early in the new year that they were in love forever and ever, Hamilton has made six round trips to Los Angeles to visit his sweetheart. Uusually, she follows him around to the various Grands Prix, but this year she’s busy with the TV show Dancing With The Stars (Helio won that a few year ago, remember?) and has been in training and rehearsals for several months.
Ergo, to keep the fires burning, he’s had to go to her.
Dancing With The Stars made its season debut last Monday night and Lewis was in the audience to cheer on his beloved (who finished the evening in first place with her dance partner, Derek Hough). Then there were the parties afterward because – after all – it’s Hollywood.
So Lewis wouldn’t have left L.A. for Australia till some time on Tuesday and, as a result, didn’t get to Oz till a couple of days before practice while all the other drivers had been Down Under since at least last weekend.
If Nicole goes all the way to the finals, Lewis is going to have a real grind of flying back-and-forth because you just know she’s going to want him there to cheer her on a good amount of the time, just as he’s wanted her at his races.
The jet lag's going to be crushing.
Perhaps Ron Dennis (he’s still around, and very much a father-figure to Lewis) should have a sit-down with the young lovers and explain a few things ("absence makes the heart grow fonder," "parting is such sweet sorrow" – and so-on).
Why? Because even when you have all the talent in the world, the negatives can quickly start to outgrow the positives when your personal life gets in the way of your professional responsibilities.
Lewis Hamilton has been the golden boy of F1 up till now. But his place at the top of the perch is now officially precarious. Whether he stays there is completely up to him.