Saturday 21 September 2019

Hamilton's the winner UK papers love to hate

'Like the Roman emperor before him, Hamilton likes to parade his success, but when he alluded to being one of the greatest drivers ever, it was a bridge too far for some of his competitors'
'Like the Roman emperor before him, Hamilton likes to parade his success, but when he alluded to being one of the greatest drivers ever, it was a bridge too far for some of his competitors'

David Kennedy

Had Lewis Hamilton uttered Julius Caesar's famous declaration - veni, vidi, vici - when he won his third world title in Texas, he would have been justified because, like in the battle of Zela, it was a short war that brought the Englishman to his latest triumph. In the final reckoning he won it with consummate ease.

Like the Roman emperor before him, Hamilton likes to parade his success, but when he alluded to being one of the greatest drivers ever, it was a bridge too far for some of his competitors. When you win and boast about it, there's no accounting for the arrogance of others.

His former team-mate Jenson Button had a spot of amnesia when he said: "If you put myself or Vettel in the same car as him, I think Lewis would not have quite as much confidence as he has today."

Leaving the four-time world champion Vettel out of that scenario, when you compare Hamilton and Button, in their three seasons together as team-mates at McLaren, there is no doubt who reigned supreme. In 2010, Hamilton beat Button. In 2011, Button beat Hamilton, however Lewis out-qualified Jenson in 13 of the 19 events. That was the same season that Hamilton received no fewer than six penalties from officials. Remember his famous reply when asked why that may be so, "Maybe it's because I'm black". He was 'let off' for bringing the sport into disrepute. F1 and the truth are on nodding terms, when it suits them. In 2012, Hamilton beat Button.

Hamilton has won three championships with two different teams. There's no doubt that Button can be impressive, but some critics reckon that he got lucky when he won his 2009 title with Brawn, who enjoyed a technical edge before their competitors caught up.

Whenever there was gladiatorial wheel-to-wheel combat, whenever the two drivers went into a corner eyeball to eyeball, Hamilton invariably blew his team-mate into the weeds. It is that sort of knife-edge execution, that total commitment coupled with a finely-tuned supremacy that is the mark of a multiple champion. Hamilton knows it. Button knows it. Everyone knows it.

Button came to F1 in 2000 and has since accrued 15 wins. Hamilton came to F1 in 2007 and has 43 wins. Sometimes it's just better to let the statistics speak for themselves - and to let the victor have his moment through the triumphant arch, however loud and irritating it can sound.

Certain sections of the British print media keep a carefully laid table with a variety of sharpened instruments to unleash in the form of thinly disguised rants aimed at those that don't fit their Ken and Barbie image of a British champion. One particular headline, upon Hamilton becoming a triple champion, read: "The champion it is mathematically impossible to like." A quick glance down the spreadsheet to the debit and credit column by this 'accountant' and the first photo caption reads: "Is it possible to like Lewis Hamilton? Not really."

Hang on a second. There are now two British triple F1 world title holders; Lewis Hamilton and that most revered and respected figure in motorsport, Jackie Stewart. Just checking, because it was hard to find any platitudes in the patronising prose. The article went on to single out the Monaco resident for forgetting his roots, like that's a crime if you're from a council flat.

By contrast, the same newspaper with a different writer at a different time gave us a gushing account of how Button was a "resident of Monaco, poster boy for shampoo commercials, with a lingerie model for a girlfriend, who had come to define that familiar Formula One archetype of the tamed playboy".

So you get the picture. Hail Lewis Hamilton! The only Englishman to have won three Formula One world championships. You came, you saw, you conquered. Now you can tell them all to go to hell. Just keep an eye out for Brutus.

Mexico had its first Grand Prix in 23 years last weekend, and to say it was a huge success is an understatement: 300,000 people came to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City over three days. The interaction as cars and crowd were woven around one another, where the fans became central to the racing and the celebrations, was orchestrated by Carlos Slim, ranked the richest man in the world.

The enthusiasm of families as three generations of Latin American supporters cheered every driver and nationality, the sheer passion they displayed, was something to behold and reminiscent of a bygone era. "There were probably more German flags here than in Germany," Sebastian Vettel remarked. Mercedes, who won the race as well as the 2015 drivers' and constructors' titles, have no German Grand Prix. The race itself wasn't that exciting and Hamilton may have felt Rosberg was "gifted" victory, but that didn't dampen either the winner or the crowd's enthusiasm.

Red Bull still don't have an engine for 2016, although they have four chassis ready to drop something in. They've called time on their Renault relationship, which has become toxic, while Ferrari, Mercedes and Honda have blocked or have been blocked from supplying the multiple champions. It beggars belief that Dietrich Mateschitz, the man who helped transform F1 in recent times, is a power-unit refugee. An already skeletal F1 grid with four cars short is unthinkable. Or is it?

The Chinese are looking at buying into F1. What they'll make of the dictatorial, autocratic, imperious, free-speech-quashing totalitarian regime, headed by some who at best could be described as anankastic, narcissistic and obsequious is anyone's guess.

Despite Kiwi success in the Rugby World Cup, Status GP hasn't quite mastered the haka despite New Zealander Richie Stanaway winning for us in GP2 in Sochi last month. It's Richie (and the team's) rookie season so two wins to date - Monaco being the other - is pretty good going when you look at some of the professional players who've been around for years.

The final two races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi wrap up the season. Hamilton won both in 2014. Bahrain was the third race of last season and now it's the penultimate. Now that the championship has been decided, everyone's racing freestyle, so expect the unexpected. Drivers will be out to impress and here is their golden window to do so. They have two weeks to work out their strategy. Good luck to them.

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