Monaco: Blame game in print

AP Photo/Gero Breloer

The Monaco Grand Prix can be a reporter's worst nightmare. Forget the glitz and the glamour; if the race is processional - which it usually is - there's not much material with which to fill space generously devoted by your Sports Editor to 'the most famous motor race in the world'. But throw in those extraordinary 20+ seconds late in Sunday's race and you have a major story. Particularly if it involves the darling of the British media: Lewis Hamilton.

Your troubles are not over, however. Monaco is a complete nightmare when working to a deadline. The layout is by no means conventional, the pits being here, the paddock over there, the media centre some place else and the entire network of narrow walkways, bridges and gates policed by officials who, at times, can be less than helpful for anyone trying to piece together the facts. How, then, was Sunday's debacle reported?

Naturally, there was just one theme: it could hardly be otherwise when the Mercedes bosses immediately put up their hands. It would come down to a question of tone and interpretation that ought to have been led by the man himself. Hamilton showed commendable dignity as the implications of the pit stop really hit home when he eventually parked by the Royal Box and saw Nico Rosberg preparing to receive the trophy Lewis coveted most.

Most newspapers picked up on this, although the back page headline in The Sun referred to a Hamilton 'strop' (not the writer's choice of word, it should be said) and later described Nico Rosberg as 'smug'. The 'Our Lew Was Robbed' line was carried by all of the dailies, the degree of potential outrage being mitigated greatly by the flood of apologetic statements from anyone wearing a Mercedes managerial hat.

With such agreement on the broad line to be taken, it was interesting to see if any of the writers had mentioned the part Hamilton played in the pit stop decision. The Daily Mirror referred to 'Mercedes ordering' Hamilton to pit due to a 'monumental gaffe' (and, sadly but inevitably, then seeing fit to mention 'dirty tricks' in the fifth paragraph). The Times used the words 'astonishing' 'baffling' and 'incomprehensible' when discussing the sequence of events and implying, along with everyone else, that the fault lay with the team.

Analysis took on a broader and more pertinent meaning when the Daily Express, quoting Hamilton, was alone in using the words: "The team said to stay out". That, as things turned out, was a critical statement in the light of Hamilton seeing the giant screens and misreading the situation to the point where he thought Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel had stopped for fresh tyres.

Throw in (which none of the newspapers did) the memory of 2014 and Hamilton's criticism at the time of the team's pit stop strategy under a safety car and you begin to appreciate another side to the story beyond the obvious.

That said, The Times summed up my feelings entirely with the paragraph: "Yet common sense and years of experience - even gut instinct - should surely have come into play." Exactly. This is Monaco. As the Daily Telegraph was the only paper to remind us, in 1992 Ayrton Senna kept a freshly-tyred Nigel Mansell at bay. Surely, the same would have applied on Sunday no matter what state Hamilton believed his tyres to be in?

If ever there was a case for an experienced racer - let's, for the sake of devilment, mention Ross Brawn - simply to say 'Yes' or 'No', then this was it. Monaco is a motor sport anachronism that can make a million quid's worth of technology redundant at the nod of a calm head at the pit wall. Makes a good story, though...