Confidence, it all comes down to this.
Box-fresh Puma boots, oh-so-intentionally ripped jeans, a thick and heavy diamond-encrusted gold chain that Jay-Z would be proud of, rock-sized diamond ear rings, Bose buds playing tunes, and – predictably – the ubiquitous flat-peak rapper-style cap. Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1’s very own ‘Homie-from-Hertfordshire’, is in the room.
Shufflin’ this way and that, the 2014 world champion-elect is ‘enjoying’ his own personal catwalk, and how the assembled photographers are lapping it up!
It’s a familiar scene to those of us who cover this at every race event. One hour and forty minutes before the race, the drivers’ parade ‘green room’ – or should I say a conveniently empty garage at the FIA end of the pit lane – is the venue for Lewis to strut his brooding stuff.
Eschewing the friendly chat, banter and gossip so popular with every one of his driver colleagues, Hamilton almost always cuts a lonely figure. That’s good for me and my photographic rivals – hell, it makes for a great picture! But I wonder, I wonder, is our English hero posing for the cameras? Is he just being unsociable? Has XIX Entertainment boss Simon Fuller advised Lewis to play the loner role with an overly affected tortured soul routine? Who knows?
What a roller coaster season of Mercedes driver emotional highs and lows we’re enjoying.
Lewis Hamilton’s early season dominance came crashing to a halt on the tight and twisty streets of Monte Carlo, Nico Rosberg taking a morale boosting win by ensuring Lewis had no chance of beating him to the all-important pole position.
By Canada, Nico was about as confident in his demeanour as I’ve ever seen any F1 driver. Swaggering about, winning races, extending his drivers’ championship points lead and marching towards title success. Lewis, head down, the weight of the world seemingly on his shoulders, looked like a crestfallen boxer slumped in the corner. Rosberg had the Englishman right where he wanted him.
Well what a difference a summer break makes….
To see the 2008 champion now is to see a completely different man. Confident, happy, winning races, racking up the points and seemingly heading for title number two. In the face of such a run of poor results Rosberg – to his credit – hasn’t fallen apart; he’s still cheerful, amenable and upbeat, but one senses a slightly despairing tone to his post-race, post-being-out-raced, media interviews.
The way Hamilton exposed Rosberg’s palpably poor race craft when taking the lead at last weekend’s Austin race will play on the German’s mind, denting his confidence just that little bit more.
Talk to the team, especially those in a management role, and they’re nervous. One very senior figure opined to me – pre-Austin – that reliability is the key. “If Lewis wins both the United States and the Brazilian Grands Prix with Nico second, Rosberg can still take the title at Abu Dhabi by winning and Lewis non-finishing. We have to ensure against mechanical failures.”
The double-points showdown at the sparkling jewel of a venue that is the Yas Marina circuit could yet be one of the most dramatic races F1 has ever had. One hopes that both Nico and Lewis enjoy reliable cars at both the remaining events and that the title goes to the man who deserves it most.
I’ll leave you to decide who you think that is…