Lewis Hamilton on F1 collision course over Snapchat at Bahrain Grand Prix
Mercedes driver defies social media ban and posts videos of practice sessions from the Mercedes garage
Lewis Hamilton will be hoping for a clear run to the chequered flag in the Bahrain Grand Prix, but he remains on a collision course with the sport's authorities after defying a ban on using social media.
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has banned Hamilton, and everyone else for that matter, from filming videos in the paddock in an attempt to retain total control of the sport's media rights.
Hamilton confirmed that he was aware of the edict this week, but the avid social media user, who regularly posts updates on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, could not help himself and uploaded footage from the Mercedes garage during practice.
"F1 promoter Bernie Ecclestone charges TV companies millions to broadcast each Grand Prix and transmit from the paddock and his lawyers aggressively chase teams, drivers, journalists and even fans who break the rules," reports the Daily Mirror.
But Hamilton says: "Fans should know what happens in my life."
That commitment may come at a cost, however, and the Mirror claims that he could now face a bill for tens of thousands of pounds for posting the three ten-second clips on the Snapchat app.
His behaviour may also infuriate his employers, claims The Sun. "He also risks the wrath from his Mercedes team after his latest string of videos were shot inside the team's garage.
"Hamilton is in danger of posting clips that contain top-secret car designs or data that is usually kept away from prying eyes."
It's not the first time Hamilton's Snapchat posts have landed him in hot water, he was the subject of a police investigation in New Zealand last month when he used his mobile phone to film himself while driving a motorbike on a motorway.
Lewis Hamilton: 'Rock star' rebel is the only hope for F1
Lewis Hamilton got his F1 season off to a rocky start at the Australian Grand Prix, finishing behind team-mate Nico Rosberg and finding himself in trouble away from the circuit. But the Mercedes driver remains the sport's biggest draw as the circus heads to Bahrain this weekend.
As well as a brush with the law in New Zealand, where he apparently took a selfie while riding a motorbike on the motorway, Hamilton has also found himself at loggerheads with Formula 1's organisers after criticising their efforts to make qualifying and racing more interesting.
"Plans are afoot to make cars five seconds per lap quicker in 2017 through aerodynamics but Hamilton, who was criticised by F1 technical delegate Charlie Whiting for failing to attend driver meetings to express his views, says he knows racing won't improve with the proposed changes," reports Sky Sports.
Hamilton argues that more grip rather than more speed is the answer, but says he has given up trying to communicate with F1's rulers, reinforcing his self-styled "bad-boy" reputation.
Away from the sport's politics, Hamilton provided some easy headlines with a visit to an indoor skydiving facility in Bahrain ahead of this weekend's Grand Prix. But after the jokes about making a flying start has come praise for the often-criticised driver.
Never mind his preening demeanour, the police investigation in New Zealand, a recent run-in at a casino, complaints about his use of social media and corporate concerns about his treatment of sponsors, Hamilton remains a "rock star" driver.
"Take Lewis Hamilton out of F1 and what are you left with? A bland, uninteresting, stale, mediocre sport, watered down and controlled by PR's with a God complex," says Gary Chappell of the Daily Express.
"Bernie Ecclestone knows it too and has said almost as much. Lewis takes Bernie's sport into all different facets of life; fashion, music, the working classes. But his Prada sunglasses and gleaming white teeth appearance continues to make him a figure of fun to many in the paddock."
Yet he should be appreciated for the stardust he sprinkles on the sport, says Chappell.
"I want my F1 stars to be just that. Stars. Larger than life. Non-human almost. Make-believe... The criticism is taking the moral high-ground for the sake of it. It is an attempt to spread their air of superiority... Give Lewis Hamilton a break. Without him in this sport, we would be lost."
Lewis Hamilton: motorbike and fashion gaffes mar new season
Lewis Hamilton is in pole position to retain his F1 crown ahead of this season's opening Grand Prix in Melbourne. But while the British driver was happy to discuss his ambitions for 2016 on the track, he was less forthcoming about controversy off it.
The Mercedes favourite declined to answer questions about a police investigation in New Zealand prompted by selfies of him riding a motor bike which were apparently taken on his mobile phone and then posted online. Using a phone while driving is illegal in New Zealand.
Asked about the incident a "stone-faced" Hamilton replied: "I don't have much of an answer for you, unfortunately," reports The Guardian.
The issue has, according to the Daily Mail, "clouded the build-up" to his season and his reticence to discuss it led to some raised eyebrows.
"For a man who has spent the last week revealing every minutiae of his life online, Lewis Hamilton was remarkably short on disclosure when it came to an incident which arguably concerns his reputation as Formula One world champion, and as an ambassador for road safety around the globe," adds Daniel Johnson of the Daily Telegraph.
Neither FIA nor Mercedes are likely to censure Hamilton over the incident, Johnson adds, but he may still be in hot water with his team.
It has emerged that Mercedes' legal department spent much of last season waging "a constant battle to stop Hamilton wearing clothing brands that were nothing to do with the team", reports Kevin Eason of The Times.
The revelation came from Caroline McGrory, the director of legal and commercial affairs, speaking at an event in London. She "seemed unaware that there were journalists at the Law in Sport seminar as she gave answers that might be seen as indiscreet in the Mercedes boardroom in Stuttgart", writes Eason.
Both driver and team have sponsorship deals with brands including Hugo Boss and Puma, but Hamilton has a keen interest in fashion and become friendly with several designers
"I always have to send stroppy messages on race weekends telling Lewis to stop wearing his bright yellow Louis Vuitton trainers when he should be wearing his Puma trainers," McGrory reportedly told her audience. "It's a fine line because then we have to phone Lewis up and say, 'Actually, can you please not tweet so much about all these other fashion designers? Just say something nice about Hugo Boss now and then.'"
Lewis Hamilton hits a 'new low' ahead of F1 season
Lewis Hamilton's unorthodox preparations for the start of the new Formula 1 season continued in New Zealand, where he became the subject of a police investigation after posting videos of himself riding a motorbike.
The clips, which appeared on his Snapchat account and appear to have been filmed by Hamilton on his phone, show him driving a Harley Davidson on a motorway. It has been illegal since 2009 to use a mobile phone while driving in New Zealand.
Police have elected not to take action on account of "insufficient evidence", although they did remind Hamilton of the dangers of using a phone while driving, reports the Daily Telegraph.
The incident has taken the British driver's "chequered build-up to this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix to fresh lows" and "raises questions over his suitability to be a road safety ambassador for the FIA, motorsport’s governing body", adds the paper.
Earlier this week, Hamilton launched an online tirade at Auckland's Sky City casino after an altercation with staff, who he claimed had treated him "like dirt".
There was speculation after his angry outburst on Twitter that he had fallen foul of the casino's strict dress code. He later deleted his tweet.
Another video post from New Zealand this week raised eyebrows after Hamilton said he was on board an aeroplane with "a lot of Chinese people", while in the wake of the casino row he appeared to take umbrage with the media for contacting his team, Mercedes, when he posted something that "upset" people.
Hamilton has appeared tetchy for some time now, notes Kevin Eason in The Times.
"Hamilton was in a strangely irascible mood at an engagement in Europe last Friday before leaving for the southern hemisphere, snapping at Nico Rosberg, his team-mate, at a function in Stuttgart that was thrown by his team. But it seems unlikely that the Briton will arrive in Melbourne in anything less than full confidence in his ability to turn two successive world championships into a hat-trick."