Firstly, I support all the British drivers and teams. Secondly, I’m a Lewis Hamilton fan. At least, I’m a fan of the Lewis Hamilton circa 2007-2008. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a massive supporter of his, but there have been some distinct changes in him over the last couple of years and I’m not sure all of them have been to the good.
A good friend of mine likes to constantly wind me up about Jenson Button being “Britain’s Number 1″. And, after a season like 2011, the Championship standings cannot be argued with – Jenson scored 270 to Lewis’ 227 points. However, there’s always more to it than that…:-)
The success of Jenson at McLaren has only served to enhance the pressure on Lewis. And whilst his team mate has stuck to being a racing driver, Lewis appears to have embarked upon the David Beckham path of celebrity status, popstar girlfriend and establishing himself as a brand – leaving F1 fans wondering how long it will be before the Hamilton perfume range hits the shop rather than how long before he becomes F1 World Champion again…
At the heart of it all you do get the feeling that Lewis is still a pure racer and up there with Vettel and Alonso when it comes to taking it to the limit, extracting the extra tenths from the car, and fighting for position. This contrasts strongly with the long game approach of Jenson of looking after the tyres, driving strategically well in changeable weather conditions and being there to pick up the pieces when the others make mistakes.
If Lewis and Jenson were contestants on the X-Factor, I’m pretty sure Simon Cowell would be saying that one had star quality and one had the likeability factor. There’s nothing wrong with being likeable, indeed, thats why it’s so easy to support Jenson. However, it’s not quite the X-Factor, which I’m convinced is what gives Lewis a certain “edge”.
The danger is of course that having this “edge” means that you live life on it, and this can lead to a certain lifestyle where it’s hero (2008) to zero (2011) in a matter of moments – race by race or season by season. The press are particularly key in this area and it is notable that they are quick to jump on anything negative around Lewis, playing up the rivalry at McLaren for all it’s worth.
I hope the 2012 McLaren (which, by the way, is the prettiest 2012 car!) is worthy of a Championship and we get to see Lewis v Jenson for race wins each weekend. I’m hoping that way I’ll be reading about their rivalries in Autosport rather than Heat magazine…