Count Damon Hill among those defending Lewis Hamilton’s celebrity lifestyle as the 1996 F1 world champion says “it’s good for the show”.
Hamilton’s busy off-track agenda includes travelling around the world in his private jet, attending fashion shows, and rubbing shoulders with US rap stars, while sharing pretty much all of it through his social media channels.
Opinions on the Briton’s behaviour are divided within the paddock. Ron Dennis said his former protégé would not act like this had he stayed at McLaren, while Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff claimed his driver has found the right balance that enables him to deliver strong results.
Having no vested interest in the topic, Hill thinks Hamilton’s way of life helps promote F1 to a greater audience.
“[Hamilton] is using F1 as his own launchpad for himself,” he said at the Autosport International show on Sunday.
“And some people might say we're not so interested in what you're wearing, what hat you've got on, or what club you went to. But other people are.
“We've got a driver out there in the world, putting himself about, enjoying his life, enjoying his celebrity status, enjoying the fact that he's a three-time F1 world champion.
“People who may know nothing about F1 say who the hell are you? He says, 'I race F1, watch me.' That's got to be good for the show.”
Hamilton’s failure to win a race since wrapping up his third world title have raised questions about his jet-set lifestyle potentially spilling over and disturbing his work and preparations.
The Briton was for instance involved in a car crash in Monaco ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix and admitted later that it “was a result of heavy partying” following his championship success.
Hill believes that Hamilton knows he will be held accountable for any slump in his performance.
“The only time it really concerns the sport is whether or not a driver's lifestyle is affecting his performance. We're asked to comment on what we see, and we're asked to speculate as to why a driver is on form or off form.
“Some of the speculation about his form does sometimes centre on whether or not he's been in the gym, or in the factory working on his performance. So [Hamilton] invites that criticism, I think. He's got to accept that, and I think he does.”