Friday 15 December 2017

Gushing Hamilton lauds the crowd, and, himself, in victory


Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates his win on the podium (Reuters / Paul Childs)
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates his win on the podium (Reuters / Paul Childs)
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates his win after the race with the fans (Action Images via Reuters / Hoch Zwei)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory during the 2015 British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, Towcester on Sunday (David Davies/PA Wire)

Oliver Brown

He might be domiciled in Monte Carlo and spend his winters in Colorado, but for one weekend a year at least, Lewis Hamilton is happy to be as British as his beloved pet bulldog.

From the moment he clambered up a wire fence to salute 140,000 cheering disciples, to the podium speech in which he dedicated his victory to "you guys" at least 10 times, he wore the cloak of patriotism with aplomb and elevated himself to the company of Jim Clark and Nigel Mansell with a third win in his home grand prix.

This mercurial if magnificent driver is only ever gushingly happy or smoulderingly angry. There seldom seems to be any in-between state.

In Monaco six weeks earlier, Hamilton had barely been able to utter a word, such was his fury at Mercedes who mistakenly ordered him in for a late pit-stop and scotched his chances of glory.

Hamilton heralds his triumphs with gusto and his disappointments with a sullen fractiousness. Such, perhaps, is his natural deportment as a champion. He is a joy to be around when everything flows in his favour and a nightmarish sulk whenever the slightest detail goes awry. It is the classic behaviour of a driver who, for all his diplomatic insistence that he is a consummate team player, none too secretly believes that it is all about him.

"We win together, we lose together," Hamilton said, in the wake of the Monaco debacle. Seriously? It sounded as if he was only too prepared to reap the plaudits, ascribing his 38th career win more to his own brilliance - evident both in his searing pace on slick tyres and his astute decision to switch to intermediates just as the rain was starting to fall - than to the collective ingenuity of Mercedes.

"The rain came and I just lost temperature in my front tyres," he said. "It's always trickier for the guy who's out in the lead, because you're the first one to get it and it's questionable how much risk you take.

"But for the first time in my Formula One career, I made the perfectly right choice in coming in. I feel extremely happy about that."

This was a textbook example of a technique known, in our social media age, as the humble brag, where Hamilton's feigned modesty belied an invitation to marvel at his genius.

Of this, there was plenty, as the world champion combined electrifying speed and clear strategic thinking to overhaul both Williams cars after they had bolted past him off the start.

He exhibited a mastery of every condition and permutation that an inclement summer's afternoon in Northamptonshire could throw at him. The race itself, never less than enthralling as the battle for ascendancy switched relentlessly between Williams and Mercedes in a succession of wheel-to-wheel duels, leapt instantly into the canon of Silverstone classics. It might not have challenged the spectacle of 2008, when Hamilton produced a masterclass in the wet to rival the heroics of his idol Ayrton Senna at Donnington in 1993, but it captured the essence of his formidable driving intellect.

A more callow Hamilton might have buckled when Felipe Massa stole a march into the first corner, but the mature 2015 version was patient in asserting his supremacy. When his efforts at reeling in the Brazilian after a brief safety-car period came to nought, he exacted his revenge with a startling out-lap from a swift pit-stop. If Hamilton is to clutch a third championship, he will reflect on this performance as one that crystallised all his best qualities.

And as Bernie Ecclestone trawls the globe for more petrodollars in soulless venues, he was given a glaring demonstration here that the passions for the sport run no deeper than they do at home. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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