“I don’t really have all the facts to give you the best answer, but honestly I’ve been asking friends and family and business colleagues what effect is this. I mean this is the biggest thing that I think I’ve experienced or at least I remember experiencing and that I’ve seen in England in terms of a change. Whilst sometimes change is frowned upon or some change is not always welcome, I think sometimes change is a good thing. The fact is that it has happened, whether or not everyone that voted exactly knew what they were voting for. Now it’s the job of the government to make the right steps forward, it’s kind of a new... maybe it’s a new fresh page for them, who knows? With the pound going down, I have no doubt it’s going to come back. I think it’s just during that period of time when we’re losing [David] Cameron. It’s [the UK] the fastest growing economy in Europe so it will continue to be, I think. That’s all I have to say, really. I don’t think it’s affected... I don’t so far believe it’s affected the [British] Grand Prix. We shall see tomorrow, but for sure it’s affected people but we all have these dips and maybe the next high will be higher.”
So who do you think spoke those eloquent, considered, balanced and refreshingly positive words?
A spin-doctored politician? A well-informed Westminster-based journalist or maybe a number crunching figures obsessed economist?
Wrong, on all three.
Our reigning Formula 1 world champion? Correct!
A few minutes after achieving a stunning pole position for his home grand prix, Lewis Hamilton is facing the media in the FIA’s post-qualifying press conference. The commonly asked and entirely relevant questions regarding tyre choices, track limits, likely race strategies and race fan inspiration are trotted out in the Silverstone media interview room before a gutsy Latvian journalist grabs the mic and asks Lewis for his Brexit result thoughts.
Rather than ducking a question riddled with risk, in a way so beloved of all but the most intelligent of sporting stars, Hamilton chooses to face the challenge head-on. Praising his interrogator’s enquiry before proceeding with his knowledgeable answer.
Now you may agree with Lewis’s rejoinder, expressing confidence in his country’s ability to thrive, or you may take a different view, but whichever side of the Brexit fence you choose to stand upon you will, I’m sure, respect and rejoice in the fact that one of the world’s premier sportsmen has, and willingly, articulated his view.
Lewis polarises opinion. F1 fans seem to either love him or loathe him in equal measure. Recently I’ve sensed a change. A shift in attitude from those not fully signed up to #TeamLH.
Our three-time world champion is coming of age. His mighty on-track pace and racecraft dominance is now seemingly backed up with a worldly wise attitude. Sure the petulant mood swings of a feted self-obsessed superstar can occasionally surface, but isn’t that to be expected in the pressure-cooker environment of top-level international sport?
Some question Hamilton’s private-jet-flying globetrotting lifestyle, but, as long as he delivers when it counts, there’s little reason for any concern.
Heaven knows the sport needs all the pizzazz and interest-generating celebrity it can muster, so when the reigning drivers’ champion appears in glamorous locations with music, movie, television and lifestyle superstars we should surely rejoice.
I know many of us older fans of Formula 1 look on in a puzzled and perplexed way when we see the often vacuous and empty-headed nature of many that achieve fame in the modern world; surely, though, if Lewis’s taste for the high life means F1 can reflect in his glory then that’s good for us all.
Lewis’s attitude towards those of us who specialise in photographing F1 can be disappointing. His head-down face-covering poses are both predictable and tiresome. Most of us, and certainly me, are only ever attempting to make him, and indeed all drivers, look heroic. You won’t be surprised to learn that our irritation is only increased when, between races, he’ll be posing for ‘photographers’ – with anything but Hamilton’s best expectations at heart – in a New York nightclub, Barbados carnival or Los Angeles fashion show, etc, etc, etc.
Whatever, Hamilton IS box office. When he wins he wins well. Fist pumping, team high-fiving, podium jumping, trophy throwing and, at Silverstone last weekend, for the first time ever by an F1 driver, crowd surfing!
For his team, his fans, the photographers, the television cameramen, and the sport, Lewis is gold dust.
Leaving the Silverstone paddock late after a pressure-filled day our champion signed every programme, every cap, every T-shirt, every replica helmet, everything thrust under his busy pen. Posing for smartphone selfies over, the crowd’s hero climbed aboard his powerful black motorbike. Cheerily waving goodbye to all, Lewis roared away under an orange and yellow setting-sun sky.
Gold dust indeed…