Was Lewis Hamilton sexist to spray champagne in podium model's face?
One title Lewis Hamilton probably doesn't want is that of a sexist pig but that's just one of the choice phrases being used to describe him after images of him celebrating his Chinese Grand Prix win on Sunday were published.
Several press photographs show Hamilton smiling and laughing as he sprays Mumm champagne directly into the face of one of the hostesses beside him on the winner's podium. His behaviour has been slammed by the chief executive of Object, a campaign against media sexism and "sex object culture."
"The photographs appear to show that the woman is not just being splashed, but that the champagne is being very specifically directed into her face, which does not look like a voluntary piece of horseplay on her part," said Roz Hardie. "If this if the case we think Lewis Hamilton should apologise for his actions and think carefully about how he behaves in the future. For most people, it would be apparent that she is not enjoying it. It is surely a very difficult position to be a grid girl and she would have had little option but to stand there and take it. That is something of which he should be aware. But instead, he appears to have abused her position. It's unfortunate that a great victory has been marred by what appears to be selfish and inconsiderate behaviour."
It turns out spraying a grid girl with champers is something of a ritual for Hamilton, who also did it at the Spanish and Austrian Grand Prix (despite having lost out on the top spot at the latter). In fact so renowned are his champagne popping skills that he was asked to demonstrate them on The Graham Norton Show in 2013.
Many social media users have echoed Hardie's views, calling the Formula One champion "an embarrassment to the U.K.," an "ignorant clown" and "a scumbag". Some went as far as to accuse him of bullying and racism.
However, not everybody has been offended by his actions. One Twitter user posted: "'I can think of worse things to happen at work than getting sprayed in the face with champagne by @LewisHamilton.. Lighten up people!"
Drivers spraying each other and their crews with champagne after a race has been a Formula One tradition for almost 50 years and a little collateral damage is to be expected by anyone in the vicinity. It's Hamilton's targeting of the women — in what is one of the most male-dominated sports — on the podium that has angered so many people.
If the grid girl had the option of grabbing a bottle of fizz and returning the favour — right into Hamilton's face — the balance would be redressed a little. But, of course, she has no option but to stand there and look pretty.
What do you think? Is Lewis Hamilton guilty of sexism or are people making too much out of it? Let us know in the comments section below.