Sunday, February 01, 2009

Lewis Hamilton's Story- Engaging, but not enough

Lewis Hamilton: My Story was written after Lewis Hamilton's unimaginably splendid rookie season in Formula One in 2007. Which is why, Hamilton doesn't intend to call it an autobiography, because he is too young for one. The book maps out Hamilton's life, from being a kid in Stevenage, to the karting years, and then his career in Formula 3, GP2 and finally the glorious pinnacle of F1.

Few drivers, perhaps, have such sensational debut seasons. Hamilton made it to the podium at the season-opener in Melbourne and delivered nine consecutive podium positions before his run came to a halt at the European Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring. His consistency meant he led the championship from the third race of the season. His undoing was the Chinese GP, where he could have taken the drivers' title, and the final twist of fate, after the run of incredibly good luck throughout the season came to a complete halt at the Brazilian GP. Kimi Raikkonen won the championship- 110 to Hamilton's 109.

Hamilton would by no means be short of matter for a sequel. He has since had his revenge on Ferrari, winning the 2008 championship in just as heartbreaking a manner as Raikkonen won his. Hamilton finished with 98 points against Felipe Massa's 97.

It wasn't just Hamilton's skillful driving that created ripples that eventful year, though. His relationship with the then defending World Champion Fernando Alonso, making a transition from French team Renault to McLaren Mercedes hogged the headlines, as did the controversy of the British team being in possession of data belonging to Ferrari. These incidents are revisited in the book, and while nothing much is revealed in terms of the McLaren-Ferrari controversy, there is quite a bit about Hamilton's relationship with Alonso, his attempts to make the Spaniard feel at home in a British team. Hamilton, by his own admission, didn't have trouble settling in, having been a part of the outfit for a really long time through associations in his pre-F1 years, and understandably the team must have had a tough time juggling two extremely ambitious drivers and their careers. I wouldn't want to talk about which of them is a more thorough gentleman, though- having read about it all from Hamilton's point of view, who says Alonso could have done more to fit in, I would like to know why Alonso did lose his cool despite having all that experience. He was portrayed as a brat in the press, I remember, and it was rather astonishing why somebody seeking to defend his title would act in such an immature manner.

The book does for a smooth read about a driver's foray into motorsport, from the formative years to the destination, with descriptions of Hamilton's situation in each race of the season. However, I do think it could have done with a little more in-depth description of how the driver works with the team, how everything is put together over a race weekend.

But then, this is the first celebrity 'autobiography' I'm reading, and perhaps this is how they all are. Hamilton sounds decently humble, ambitious and confident. However, this isn't good enough to convert me. I was asked by a colleague at work why I was reading about a driver I didn't support. Well, this has just been one of my attempts at being unbiased and fair, and try to view things from the other party's perspective. That said, I just can't wait to see Ferrari make mincemeat of McLaren-Mercedes in the 2009 season. Beg to differ? Go ahead, dreamer.


Praveen said...

a Ferrari fan reading Hamilton's autobiography! 3 cheers to your attempts at being unbiased..
I do admire this guy for what he has achieved in such a young age and also for the way he carries himself..At the same time, I hate Alonso for all that he is..The way he shifts the blame to the team when he loses and cornering all the glory when he wins..and that ugly ego clash with Hamilton..this is one guy who doesn't deserve to be called a champion...
Can't stop without adding this..


Jaya S said...

Can I say no to that? Michael has been a very dignified champion and a complete team-man, and notwithstanding all the praises being heaped on Hamilton so early in his career, he still has a long way to go.

Brian said...

Atleast for the time being, Hamilton seems to be the greatest driver of all times. At the age of ten Lewis approached the McLaren team principal, Ron Dennis, at the 1995 Autosport Awards ceremony and told him "I want to race for you one day." Less than three years later, he was signed by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz to their Young Driver Support Programme.
Newport Driving School

Jaya S said...

Brian: I am still not sure if such an all-encompassing tag can be applied to Hamilton right now; he has indeed worked hard to prove himself worthy of patronage by McLaren-Mercedes, but the coming seasons should decide the matter.