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The incredible outspokenness of being Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton’s denouement with scribes came shortly after he faced a barrage of criticism for playing with his Snapchat application

brunch Updated: Oct 15, 2016 19:40 IST
(HT Archives/Vipin Kumar)

Lewis Hamilton, the first ever black Formula One world champion, recently stormed out of a Japanese Grand Prix press meet saying he would ban most print journalists, including those from newspapers on the English Fleet Street, henceforth. To bring you up to speed, Hamilton’s denouement with scribes came shortly after he faced a barrage of criticism for playing with his Snapchat application in an earlier public interaction with the motoring hacks.

Am I surprised? Not in the least. In a world full of diplomatic athletes whose schedules are dictated by the suits, comprising numerous spin doctors, sycophants and savvy marketers, Hamilton has never been afraid to speak his mind.

I last experienced the extent of his forthright nature and refreshing candour when I interviewed him one-on-one (not in another press conference, mind you) during the Indian Grand Prix.

Hamilton appeared to be proud of his Black legacy. After all, wasn’t he the victim of racial abuse in Barcelona in 2008, an incident that threatened to snowball into a diplomatic row? How did he respond to detractors who said being the first non-white world champion was no big deal? “ Formula One is a white-dominated sport. You haven’t seen any black athletes till now, have you? I mean there have been a couple of Indians who have come and broken that barrier, and now in every sport throughout the world, that’s how it has been. Tiger [Woods] came in and broke that barrier and now you have people from different cultures who are getting into golf, and the same is the case with karting and racing; and that is great I think.”

When I pointed out that even India-bred racers such as Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok had struggled to find international backers for many years in the initial part of their career and asked him if it was indeed tougher for a non-white driver to break through the Formula One funding barrier, he concurred. “It was definitely the case I think. My dad used to go and meet potential sponsors when I was younger and ask whether they would like to back a non-white driver and they used to laugh at him. Now that attitude has changed. I hope there will be many more non-white drivers on the grid now, including those from India.”

On the grid, his engine failure at the Malaysian Grand Prix and the subsequent implosion: “Someone doesn’t want me to win this year, but I won’t give up. I will keep pushing,” he roared. If you thought the insinuation was to his team Mercedes, you thought right. “My question is to Mercedes. We have so many engines made for drivers, but mine are the only ones failing this year. Someone needs to give me some answers...”

Off the grid, too, Hamilton is the stuff good copy and tabloid dreams are made of. His on-off relationship with former Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger gave enough fodder to keep the paparazzi to trigger-happy.

Will his decision to keep Fleet Street journalists at bay continue if he bounces back to pip his Mercedes teammate and became champion again? Now that’s another story. But whatever he does, Hamilton will always stay interesting.

Follow @Aasheesh74 on Twitter

From HT Brunch, October 15, 2016

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