The 'real' Lewis
Sunday 11.22 am and here he comes…
Head down with a flat-peaked black cap on, dark shades concealing as much face as possible, collar up and ear buds pressed hard in place. Lewis Hamilton is on his way to the British Grand Prix drivers’ parade.
This was last Sunday at Silverstone but you’d witness the same scene at just about any other grand prix of the season.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the two-times world champion – my picture library of the overly affected, wanna-be-cool-shoe-shufflin’-wanna-be-rap-star-Lewis will be worth a fortune one day!
I’m simply intrigued – as so many others within the F1 paddock are – as to which is the ‘real’ Lewis Hamilton.
Intrigued because look how the English superstar was post-victory. As happy and rightly proud as any man could be, while also showing remarkable levels of humility in his respect for the history of our sport and the drivers who preceded him on the British Grand Prix top step, Lewis revelled in the adulation of well over a hundred thousand exultant fans, celebrating with his team, answering questions from the media, appearing for TV interviews and then scaling a high fence and jubilantly holding aloft, above thousands of his adoring fans, the priceless gold trophy he so splendidly cherished.
I know which Lewis I prefer…
Hamilton is proper box office celebrity gold dust for Formula 1. Can you remember another driver – let alone the reigning world champion – who towers over the sport in the way the Mercedes man does this year?
Sure we’ve had many legendary drivers who raced hard and won lots, while displaying varying levels of character and charisma, but when it comes to having just about the whole shooting match I don’t think any driver can compare with where Lewis is right now.
The intrigue is not just mulled over by the media hordes – Lewis’s competitors wonder too…
Of course when questioned by sycophantic TV luvvies on how chummy they all are, many will eulogise effusively about how they’d relish the opportunity of a windy walk or dinner date out with the gold-chain-wearing champ. Talk to most away from a mic and… Well, I’d better stop there!
The Sunday morning drivers’ parade green room (actually an FIA garage at one end of the pit lane) is a revealing place to watch. As the logo’d apparel-wearing multi-millionaires arrive they chat enthusiastically about road cars they’d like, private jets they ride, girls they’ve had and ones they want. The scene is one of fun and frivolity.
Save, of course, for Lewis. Shunning – almost 100% of the time – the attention of his peers, Hamilton cuts a lonely figure, playing the role of the remote and insular dude.
It sounds sad, doesn’t it, but guess where all the snappers are? That’s right, they’re shootin’ Lewis!
The ‘act’ plays well for guys like me. As a photographer trying to get a sense of the person and bring out a human element, in this sport so obsessed with machines, having a champion who ‘gives’ so much is a dream.
Whether Hamilton plays this role out of choice or not is beside the point because, believe me, he’s well aware of the character he’s playing and his appeal to my lens-wielding competitors and me.
Perhaps F1’s very own homie from homely Hertfordshire has been advised by his fellow superstar ‘friends’? Kanye West or the Kardashians helping Hamilton cultivate that disdainful hauteur so beloved of those we deem ‘interesting’ is not difficult to imagine.
Whatever the reason, I’m a sucker for the performance and come each and every grand prix this year – and probably beyond – I’ll be there, camera pointing at the champ and playing his game…
Damn, homie is fine as hell!