Hamilton in his element at wet Silverstone
It is a wet afternoon at Silverstone, with the British Grand Prix circuit awash with water and the rain tipping down. Lewis Hamilton is in his element. The Formula One champion blips the accelerator, grins and then guns the Mercedes SLR supercar down the pit straight in a cloud of wheelspin and spray.india Updated: Jun 13, 2009 07:03 IST
It is a wet afternoon at Silverstone, with the British Grand Prix circuit awash with water and the rain tipping down. Lewis Hamilton is in his element.
The Formula One champion blips the accelerator, grins and then guns the Mercedes SLR supercar down the pit straight in a cloud of wheelspin and spray.
"You can't see anything," he said vaguely, the tone of his voice suggesting this was little more than a minor irritant even when belting along at 240kph and slipping sideways through Stowe.
"I don't even have windscreen wipers when I'm driving so...I can't see too much, can you see much?," he adds, snapping the swaying car back into line.
This passenger, who had earlier witnessed the Briton set the car's brakes on fire front and rear with some enthusiastic 'doughnuts' on the nearby Stowe circuit, can only nod in agreement.
Hamilton at least showed he has a sense of humour.
Being driven around the 24-year-old's home track, which may be hosting a grand prix for the last time next week, is an alarming and exhilarating experience even for those who have seen and done it all before.
"He's taught me stuff I didn't know," said 1996 world champion Damon Hill, president of the British Racing Drivers Club, somewhat implausibly after enjoying his own 'taxi ride' around the circuit where he triumphed in 1994.
"I said 'what are you doing over here?' and he said 'This is where the grip is' so I'm going 'Oh, right, I wish I knew that,'" he added.
"I didn't like going down to Stowe at that speed," added Hill. "I don't know what speed we were doing. I did actually say 'brake' there -- 'Do you mind braking, please'.
"You can see he's working at it. That's a beast to drive, that car. You need to be definitely on your toes."
Hamilton, like seven times champion Michael Schumacher before him, has shown already in his two years in Formula One that he is a master in the wet.
His victory in the rain at Silverstone last year was recognised at the time as one of the all-time great performances.
The Briton took the chequered flag a staggering 68.5 seconds ahead of his nearest rival despite starting only fourth on the grid. He says now it is still "the most fulfilling win of my whole life".
Hill agreed it was something special: "That drive he put in was right up there with the first one or two drives in history in motorsport," he said.
"I'd say if you go back through history there is (Juan Manuel) Fangio at the Nuerburgring, (Jackie) Stewart at the Nuerburgring and Ayrton Senna at Donington....Lewis can't say it because he's too modest but that was an absolutely stunning performance.
"He took all the risks on the first lap and then just nailed it for the rest of the race and left everybody completely floundering."
With his current under-performing car being compared to a boat, and not a speedboat at that, Hamilton is unlikely to relive last year's success a year on. He has failed to score a point for three races, his tally just nine from seven starts.
Compatriot Jenson Button, the championship leader in the dominant Brawn, is now in the spotlight as the likely home winner.
Hamilton, joking with reporters as he witnessed their underwhelming efforts in a similar Mercedes on the Stowe circuit, wished Button well ("I guess I should put some money on him") and said he would just try and soak up the atmosphere.
"I'm just going to make sure I enjoy it and embrace the fans because they were so supportive last year," he said.
"Every time I came past, in every single grandstand, they were waving the flags or cheering and it was soaking wet, raining non-stop."
First Published: Jun 13, 2009 07:02 IST