Lewis Hamilton found himself in hot water here yesterday, and then found himself in the gravel. The contrast in fortune between McLaren's drivers could scarcely have been more stark as Jenson Button won the Belgian Grand Prix from the front and Hamilton was taken out on the first lap.
Beneath the victorious post-race smiles there was tension in the team's camp after Hamilton followed up a series of tweets on Saturday by posting on Twitter an overlay of his qualifying lap and Button's that supported his view of how much benefit the latter derived from the rear wing that he chose.
It is thought that Hamilton posted the telemetry not to suggest that Button had been favoured but to illustrate the difference in performance between the two wings. He had freely admitted that he chose to go with the higher downforce configuration, which cost him top speed.
"In free practice I had some instability with the new wing that we tried," Hamilton explained. "At the time, we had a relatively big gap between ourselves and the Red Bulls and the Ferrari, so we felt on our side of the garage that we should try something to fix it. For us, there was potential to go to the wing that we used in the last race. We believed that the gap between those two wings wasn't so big, but we proved ourselves wrong."
McLaren's engineering management were angered that such sensitive information as suspension settings and ride heights was placed in the public domain by their own driver. It will be highly illuminating to rivals who spend heavily seeking to match or beat McLaren and are keen to learn as much as possible about the intricate details of their on-track performance. Hamilton was immediately instructed to remove the information, but it created bad feeling within McLaren at a time when everyone needs to pull in the right direction to maximise raceday performance as they chase after series leaders Fernando Alonso and Ferrari, and the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
"We didn't ask Lewis to remove yesterday's tweets," team principal Martin Whitmarsh stressed, "but we did ask him to remove this morning's telemetry tweets." Hamilton subsequently took down many of his comments, which contained the sort of colloquialisms that abound on the social networking site, such as the acronym WTF. He said that he had done this of his own volition after reflecting on the suitability of such expressions.
While Button's fortunes picked up, Hamilton's race was a disaster. Lotus driver Romain Grosjean, who has been involved in a series of incidents on his return to Formula One this season, pushed Hamilton's McLaren onto the grass to the right of the track just after the start, and as Hamilton half spun he inadvertently pushed Grosjean into contact with Alonso's Ferrari. As Grosjean then went over the back of Sergio Perez's Sauber before cartwheeling across the front of Alonso's cockpit, Hamilton was thrown into contact with the Ferrari and then with Kamui Kobayashi's Sauber. After debating the matter after the race, the stewards banned Grosjean for one race.
Though he clearly remonstrated with the Frenchman in the immediate aftermath, Hamilton declined to comment about the incident later on. "I've had a lot worse than that," he said. "But I don't want to talk about the start crash. Just congratulations to Jenson, he did a fantastic race. It looked like a walk in the park for him. It's great to see that the team had the pace and I've got to try to pull that out of my car in the next race."