Lewis Hamilton spends about 15 minutes with the written media as a matter of routine on the Thursday before each Grand Prix. The session is broken into three parts; international media first, reducing to the British daily press and then leaving about five minutes with the top British driver for the Sunday papers.
There is always a potentially tense moment when the ‘rest of the world’
journos are reluctant to leave at the first break, their British counterparts closely questioning and then banishing any interloper who chances his arm by trying to stay on for more quotes. This is watched with great amusement by Hamilton as the media carries out its self-policing, Lewis shaking his head with amazement as the competitive instincts that drive him on are displayed in a very different branch of the same sport.
The questions from the Brit Pack followed the expected routine – the confidence boost of two wins in a row, prospects for this race, memories of the tense atmosphere within McLaren in Hungary last year – before suddenly veering off into dangerous territory; dangerous for Hamilton, that is.
The Daily Mail’s Jonathan McEvoy, who had been quiet until this point, began to quote comments allegedly made my Max Mosley 50 years ago when referring to Britain’s immigrants. According to the quotes, Mosley’s views were less than charitable. Hamilton, asked for his views, made the correct reply by saying he was there to talk about racing, not politics.
When McEvoy persisted, it was clear he was on a mission. The Daily Mail was obviously out to diss Mosley and McEvoy had been instructed to obtain, by whatever means, the views of one of Britain’s leading sportsmen, who happens to be of mixed race. When Lewis, almost as an aside, quietly said such thoughts were ‘obviously a worry’, it was interesting to see how his response would be treated by the paper.
To be fair to McEvoy and the menacing intent of his bosses, it was handled properly, Hamilton’s remark being put in proper context.
More interesting is the thought that the Daily Mail, among other newspapers, is not going to bend over backwards – so to speak – by following the FIA boss’s assertion that all is sweetness and light following the decision by the court to find in his favour after the News of the World had made such a comprehensive hash of their case.
Mosley gave an exclusive interview to Autosport this week, the FIA president using his campaign for safety, ecology and cost cutting as the hobby horse on which to ride back to respectability. It is not going to be as simple as that; not if the general view within the paddock here is anything to go by.
Mosley remains the figurehead of a powerful international sporting body, a man who last year roundly condemned McLaren for ‘polluting’ the sport and who felt a ludicrous $100 million fine was not enough. It is no defence to say that his antics in a Chelsea basement were private. That, alone, is not sufficient. Unfortunately for Mosley, his behaviour is now public, regardless of the deceitful means employed by the News of the World.
It is difficult to decide which is the more worrying: the fact that the NotW has more readers than any other newspaper in Britain, or that Mosley appears to sincerely believe he can continue to operate in his high profile role as if his behaviour in that basement was normal.