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Hamilton told to temper celebrations?

NEWS STORY
20/10/2007

In days of old, Grand Prix winners would often complete a victory lap of the circuit on the back of a trailer, drinking Champagne from their trophy, and waving happily to the crowd. There would be an abundance of young models, usually sporting a sponsors colours or sash, while the victor would grin through a laurel wreath.

Not any more.

The proliferation of sponsors badges means the wreaths had to go, while the lap of honour consists of an arm punching the air as the drivers gushes "thank you, thank you, thank you... this is for you guys," into his radio. The pretty models on the podium have given way to corporates and politicians in suits, the whole thing becoming stage managed, formal and somewhat sterile.

It is natural for the victor to want to show his joy, his exuberance, but in these corporate times, where everything is done by the book (or else) there are strict guidelines. No more stopping off to meet the fans, no grabbing your national flag to wave on your lap of honour, no getting personal with the tarmac on which you scored your victory and definitely no do-nuts.

Therefore, particularly in the current climate, it doesn't come as too much of a surprise to hear McLaren claim that it has been warned by the FIA to instruct Lewis Hamilton to temper his celebrations should he win the race, and thereby the World Championship, on Sunday. The Woking team claims it has been warned that the strict rules regarding celebrations must be adhered to.

"There are regulations that govern the post-race procedures and I think the important thing is that we are in a heightened atmosphere of compliance, let's put it that way," said Ron Dennis yesterday, "and it was quite clear that we were told to please strictly adhere to the regulations."

Ferrari's Jean Todt admitted that he had never heard of such regulations, though he fully realises the need for drivers to show their joy.

"It depends on the situation and the emotion is not something you have to guide, you have to control that," he said. "Normally if you are on the podium, it is such a pressure and a moment of attention and the tendency is that you forget everything around you and you just feel happy and deliver and that is about it."

With British journalists under the impression that Hamilton is being singled out, Dennis attempted to qualify his comments.

"They were simple things that they said, they would prefer it if we were mindful of being appropriate to happen and I suppose their thoughts were the youthful behaviour that Lewis may have if he had been in the fortunate position of having won the world championship, very mindful of the very hyper-sensitive environment in which we are competing at the moment and I had no problem in being asked to ensure that we were in strict compliance of the regulations.

"It was not directed at me it was directed at our team principal and team manager," he added, "and I am cool and relaxed about it as I am about many of the other things that come our way at the moment."

Concerned that the media might see this as a threat to its hero - 'Hamilton stripped of title for punching the air in delight', 'Lew loses for laughing' and 'Our Lewis forfeits title for smiling' - the FIA was quick to step in, a spokesman telling favoured sections of the media that Dennis' comments were "far fetched". Then again, the fact that this was revealed at the same time as the Englishman was being investigated for using two sets of wet tyres - a rule last invoked in the time of Ben Hur - the media, and many fans, are exceedingly twitchy.

No doubt, should he win, and subsequently obey orders, simply standing still on the podium, quietly acknowledging the (polite) applause of the fans, Hamilton will be charged with being overly glum and thereby bringing the sport into disrepute.

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