- The Thursday press conference is usually something to be got through on the day you arrive at a Grand Prix. Three drivers are selected by the FIA and they must appear on pain of receiving a large fine. Most of them reflect the obligation in their disinterested replies. Today was different; the three Brits appeared.
The occasion assuming an immediate poignancy as David Coulthard announced, with great dignity and sincerity, his intention to retire at the end of the season. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton spoke with genuine affection about their elder colleague and his 13 GP wins, two of them here at Silverstone. When asked about good memories, Button and Hamilton both mentioned an occasion in Sardinia but neither would elaborate further in public, DC adding to the sense of intrigue by saying he could actually remember very little about the night in question.
The subject moved on to Hamilton having claimed – foolishly as it would turn out – that he is fitter than Button. ‘I had to say that because Jenson probably believes he is fitter than me. That’s the way we are,’ joked Hamilton. Button, having been previously made aware of Hamilton’s statement, was clearly waiting for this moment and sprung a carefully laid trap.
In the event of being lumbered with a car that has occasionally has difficulty in getting out of its own way, Button has been keeping his competitive juices sharp by taking part in triathlons, a punishing combination of swimming, cycling and running. Button immediately challenged Hamilton to join him the City of Bath Triathlon on 27 July, with the loser giving £10,000 to charity.
Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place. Lewis hesitated at first but, clearly, the racer in him wanted to accept the challenge. With pressure from the audience, orchestrated by Jenson, Hamilton eventually agreed. As Lewis explained later to BBC Radio 5 Live, the hesitation was because he knew the decision could not be his alone but ‘when it comes to something like this, bring it on!’
Not half an hour later, his manager (aka his father, Anthony) issued a brief statement.
‘Lewis accepted the challenge like the good sport he is, and in the spirit with which he accepts things. But unfortunately for Lewis we are withdrawing him from this. We are in the middle of the championship, and
that is the focus of our attention.’
I join in the general disappointment – how must the Bath organisers feel?! – but, in my view, I agree with the reasoning. It was also the correct decision to nail it on the head straightaway. What do you think?
- Formula 1