<
>

What the papers said about Lewis Hamilton's engine drama in Malaysia

Charles Coates/Getty Images

The Mercedes-Benz management in Stuttgart ought to be thankful for the game of golf this morning as the Ryder Cup dominates the UK sports pages. Without the post mortem into Europe's defeat at the hands of a rampant American team, Lewis Hamilton's hasty comments would have created even greater headlines than they already have.

From the moment a microphone was stuck under his nose almost before the smoke had cleared from the stricken Mercedes, it was obvious that Hamilton's comments would be even more volatile than the failed V6.

Regardless of whether or not his heart-on-the-sleeve thoughts were ill advised, what mattered next was the manner in which the media would deal with the apparent implication that Lewis was receiving unfair treatment from the engine supplier. As soon as one reporter from a British national newspaper couldn't wait to tweet the quotes verbatim in the same knee-jerk manner, you had to fear the worst. Fortunately, a more measured response has been evident across most of the national media.

The Daily Mail found a reasonable balance by headlining and leading with Mercedes refuting "stupid" sabotage claims before going into detail of the race. The Daily Telegraph took the reverse option by headlining Hamilton's attack on his team and using the line 'stoking theories his own team have been conspiring against him' when, by incorporating such a seemingly innocent phrase in the opening paragraph, the newspaper is actually propagating this absurd notion. Thankfully, a strongly worded and informed column by David Coulthard puts the opposing view.

The Times talked of "hint of sabotage" in the headline but used a softer tone when reporting Hamilton's outburst, albeit stoking the fire with: "The noise from the conspiracy theorists believing that Mercedes are deliberately sabotaging Hamilton to favour a German driver in a car with a German badge will be difficult to silence now." Having made a comment that is virtually self-fulfilling, an analysis of the situation represented a fair attempt to redress the balance while intriguingly leaving that element of doubt hanging in the air.

It was necessary to read through the report in the The Star to understand that, in the end, Hamilton was not actually being super-critical of Mercedes, despite the suggestion in the opening paragraph that he "all but pointed the finger of blame at his own Mercedes team".

At least that eventually achieved an even-handed view, unlike The Mirror which jumped in with "Lewis Hamilton hints at Mercedes conspiracy" in the headline and carried on in that vein without recourse to the world champion's calmer thoughts later in the day. And it's not as if either the immediacy of the paper's website, or the time difference with Malaysia, presented a problem with UK deadlines. Tone and style are the publication's prerogative, of course. But the problem with online reportage is the effect this can have on the readers' subsequent ill-informed and sometimes inflammatory commentary.

The Daily Express made the important message clear in the headline 'Hamilton backtracks on Mercedes conspiracy theory comments', the report then detailing the original theory before adding a response from both Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda.

The headline in The Guardian had similar balance: 'Lewis Hamilton blames "higher power" not Mercedes for F1 engine failures'. Having detailed the original damning words from Hamilton, the paper then gave the driver's more considered thoughts before adding: 'Any suggestion Mercedes are nobbling the engine of their star driver is, of course, ludicrous.'

Amen to that.