You don’t feel sorry for someone like Lewis Hamilton exactly, not with the salary he’s on, the talent he’s got and the Pussycat Doll he’s, er, courting, but before yesterday’s Chinese GP I was feeling, well, a little sympathetic at the very least.
Last week, the media was reporting a whole stream of anti-Lewis invective from the likes of Robert Kubica, Mark Webber, Jarno Trulli and Flavio Briatore.
Flav dissed our man’s lack of experience and suggested that he was ‘no Muhammad Ali’. Funny, I’ve interviewed Lewis on three separate occasions and I don’t recall him ever claiming actually to be Ali. He merely holds him up as an inspirational figure. Which, to be fair, he is for millions of sports fans worldwide, including ones like me who don’t even watch boxing very often.
As for Trulli and Webber moaning about Lewis’s ‘aggressive’ driving style, well look guys, you’re racing drivers for God’s sake, it’s what you’re meant to do! No-one ever won a race without putting their big, brass balls on the line from time to time, and if forcing your opponent wide is what you have to do, then it’s what you bloody well do. It’s what we want to see too, and most of the time Lewis makes it stick.
It’s surely not coincidental that the two drivers whose comments were most widely reported – Trulli and Webber – are the two drivers whose often epic qualifying performances never translate into race wins. (Trulli has won once; Webber has yet to manage it.) Rather than slagging Lewis off, perhaps they might like to watch a replay of what he does. They might even learn something.
So what if Lewis is a bit cocky? He has every right to be. Nevertheless, Sunday’s otherwise dull race was one long, majestic two-fingered salute to Flav, Trulli, Alonso and everyone else who’s been having a pop. Pole, fastest lap, win: ‘screw yous’ don’t come much more poetically emphatic than that.
Bottom line is, like Senna and to a slightly lesser extent Schumacher, Lewis has got the opposition so rattled that they’re having to resort to bitching and moaning about his ability to do what many of them seem to have trouble doing: not just racing, but winning.
China demonstrated that not only can Lewis beat them on-track, he can win the psychological battle too. Just like Ayrton and Michael used to.
Roll on Brazil. And roll on the first British world champion since 1996.