Sports In the room where it happens: The totally real, not made-up Lewis Hamilton cheating scandal
Sports In the room where it happens: The totally real, not made-up Lewis Hamilton cheating scandal
In the room where it happens: The totally real, not made-up Lewis Hamilton cheating scandal
April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

At the beginning of the year, as I was eagerly anticipating the release of season three of Netflix’s Formula 1 (F1) documentary series Drive to Survive, I was shocked to have found an email in my inbox from the members of its production team themselves, telling me they had a story they wanted me to run as an exclusive with The LaSallian. Without missing a beat, I replied, set a meeting, and they told me their story—and it was the story I had been waiting to hear for years.

As the Drive to Survive crew told me what they knew, showed me their footage, and handed over their evidence to me over our Zoom call meeting, I was feeling rather apprehensive. At first, I didn’t understand why they were handing me this evidence, but they explained that as a long-time Lewis Hamilton hater and based on my many previously published conspiracy theories against him, they figured I could tell this story best, without a touch of bias. 

So, here it is—the Lewis Hamilton cheating scandal.

The recording

During my meeting with the Drive to Survive team, I did not know what to expect. And honestly, when it started, I did not even know if it was real. I think anyone would have been stunned if someone began a meeting saying, “Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have been cheating.” 

But they had the footage to back it up.

The story begins at the 2020 British Grand Prix, where some of the Drive to Survive camera crew were with the Mercedes team for the weekend. This race was particularly difficult for Mercedes because, at lap 51, Valtteri Bottas’ left front tire had blown out, with Hamilton experiencing the same ill fate on the final lap. Much to my dismay, Hamilton still ended up winning the race, limping his car all the way across the finish line. 

It was a stunning race for Mercedes, and many would say they were extremely lucky to have gotten away with it—a statement perhaps more true than people realize. 

After the devastating race, the Drive to Survive crew had a small meeting in one of the office rooms at Silverstone to discuss their footage for the day, where they were suddenly interrupted by Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal. He entered the room and simply told the group that he needed the space for an emergency meeting, so the crew filed out as around 10 or so Mercedes team members took their place. Bottas, however, was not part of this meeting.

After the Drive to Survive team was exiting the building, one of the members realized that he left one of his recording devices in the room and needed to go back for it. And to our benefit, he had kept it on, and the device captured the full length of Mercedes’ emergency meeting.

On the recording they played me, with Hamilton’s and Wolff’s voices perfectly clear, the team was arguing over whose fault the double-tire-failure was—because apparently, there was someone to blame. Over the 21 minutes of their meeting, it was back and forth, with accusations being made left and right, that made it somewhat confusing to completely understand what was going on.

Although, I think two lines sum it up perfectly: “I thought the fake tires were supposed to go Valtteri!” an angry Hamilton exclaimed, to which Wolff replied, “It was a mistake.”

The truth

As I listened to the recording of Mercedes’ entire meeting, I discovered a lot of secrets that their team might have been keeping for some time—secrets that not only worked in Hamilton’s favor, but did so directly against his teammate. The following is a summary that I have tried to come up with based on everything I had heard. 

Mercedes, for an unknown period of time, had been giving Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, fake tires. Based on what I could gather, these were actually used up tires that have lost a significant amount of rubber; Mercedes had simply been buffing them up so that they would look just as new as fresh tires.

In F1, there is a saying, “A driver is only as good as his tires.” This is a very true statement. With Bottas unknowingly driving with used-up tires, this could have not only slowed him down but also given him a harder time controlling the car and a lesser amount of time to completely use them up. The fact that both the Mercedes cars experienced tire failures during the British Grand Prix last season is proof that driving on good tires is important.

But in the recording, there were not only talks about the fake tires they had been giving Bottas. Hamilton also frequently put into question their other secret plans, which included slowing down Bottas’ pit stops, disabling his Dual Axis Steering system, and for their “worst-case scenario”, ordering him to move over to let Hamilton take the lead if need be.

Based on their discussions and many arguments, it was clear that these plans were set in place as a way of conspiring against Hamilton’s teammate. To Hamilton’s defense, there were many times during the meeting where he seemed unsure of getting wins with these plans, but Wolff made his thoughts on the matter perfectly clear, saying, “We have the fastest cars on track. He’s the only one in your way.”

These conspiracy plans were sickening to hear and difficult to stomach, but they were also highly incriminating evidence that Hamilton and Mercedes indeed were cheating to get Hamilton the race wins, and possibly, even the World Championships.

Hamilton’s fate

At this point in time, it is still unclear how long these plans have been in the works. For all we know, this could have already been in place as early as Nico Rosberg’s days as Hamilton’s teammate. All we do know now, with the evidence we currently have, is that it is highly likely that Hamilton and Mercedes are about to face a trial that could very well end their time in racing for good.

After the Drive to Survive team showed me this evidence and discussed how they wanted this exposé to come out, I reached out to Hamilton and Wolff personally, asking for a statement regarding these allegations being made against them, but I am still waiting on a response from either of them. Although, I doubt they will get back to me after all the hate mail I’ve sent them over the years.

The Drive to Survive crew also informed me that they have sent the recording to the International Automobile Federation (FIA), and they are currently reviewing the evidence before taking any further action. Hamilton’s and Mercedes’ fates now hang in the balance, but based on the gravity of their actions, as well as the FIA’s track record, it seems probable that this could go one of two ways: either Hamilton gets away with it, as he gets away with everything, or we may finally see him launch his music career as XNDA.