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Ecclestone slams Hamilton's managers
In an interview with the Guardian, Ecclestone described Hamilton's decision to sign with XIX management, which looks after celebrities such as David Beckham and Jennifer Lopez, as "a disaster". Hamilton had been managed by his father Anthony during his early F1 career, but split with him at the start of 2010 before signing with Fuller earlier this year.
"I think it's a disaster," Ecclestone said. "He gets to meet people that probably he wouldn't have met, and [who] have probably the wrong sort of influence on him. He's at the age, perhaps, and he has the amount of money, where when he's influenced, he can carry things through, which he wouldn't normally have done."
Hamilton's 2011 season was one of the worst of his career, with a fifth-place finish in the championship standings and several on-track incidents, resulting in 14 visits to the stewards' office. Away from the circuit Hamilton split with girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, which he admitted put him in a 'bad place' towards the end of the season.
"I think he had some personal problems during the year which affected him quite a lot," Ecclestone added. "A lot to do with these things, it depends an awful lot on the people you surround yourself with, and who are in a position to influence you. I think he just fell into a lot of people that I think weren't good for him. When his dad was looking after him, his dad was a bit more … obviously it didn't suit Lewis, which was why they split, I think he didn't appreciate how much help his dad was."
Earlier this year Ecclestone was reportedly unhappy about a video that appeared on YouTube in which McLaren guest Ice-T walked around one of the team's cars making lewd comments.
"It's our fault, because we tend to encourage celebrities," Ecclestone said. "It's good. Not so much for those of us who get our hands dirty but for all the sponsors who turn up with their guests and like to say: 'Oh, we saw whoever-it-was.' They forget they've come to watch Formula One. The difference is that we can handle them, because we're not directly involved. He [Hamilton] sees somebody like that, he admires the guy, so he'll start copying a little bit what they're up to."
But Ecclestone has been impressed with how Hamilton's team-mate Jenson Button has conducted himself this year.
"I'm very happy with Button this year," he said. "He's done a really good job and he's been much better as a person with the public than he was when he was the world champion [in 2009], which is good, because he's a nice guy."