F1 Racing - - CHEQUERED FLAG -

and his team-mate Rubens Bar­richello in front of Honda’s Pad­dock Club guests at ev­ery race and, frankly, it couldn’t have been some­thing JB looked for­ward to. Hav­ing to break from race mat­ters to chat to peo­ple who weren’t nec­es­sar­ily pas­sion­ate about car rac­ing must have been un­set­tling. But, as soon as he en­tered the room, Jen­son had them hang­ing on his ev­ery word as he spoke with warmth, hu­mour and au­thor­ity. A real pro­fes­sional who re­alises that, in this com­mer­cial age, there is more to be­ing a top rac­ing driver than just be­ing fast on the track.

Per­son­al­ity and charisma are hard to de­fine but, as a mo­tor rac­ing icon, Jen­son’s got both, just like David Beck­ham who, as a top foot­baller with style, rings the bell even for ig­no­ra­muses like me. And that’s some­thing McLaren, as a very com­mer­cially ori­ented team, must surely ap­pre­ci­ate from a driver who could con­trib­ute so much from 15 years of ex­pe­ri­ence with Wil­liams, Benet­ton, Re­nault, BAR, Honda, Brawn and them­selves.

Jen­son’s had good times and bad times, from his stun­ning de­but with Wil­liams at the early age of 20 un­til now. That great first year in F1 was fol­lowed by ups and downs with his other teams, with just that one bril­liant win in Hun­gary 2006 un­til his su­perb world cham­pi­onship-win­ning sea­son with Brawn in 2009 and then a mixed bag of suc­cess and fail­ure with McLaren.

Just look at who Jen­son’s taken on and beaten over the course of his For­mula 1 ca­reer, start­ing with world cham­pion Jac­ques Vil­leneuve whom he blew away at BAR; his for­mer McLaren team­mate Lewis Hamil­ton; four time world cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel; the great Michael Schu­macher; Fer­nando Alonso; and Kimi Räikkö­nen. How has he done it? Like the rest of the su­per­stars he’s a think­ing driver with enor­mous tal­ent, brain ca­pac­ity to spare, a smooth and seem­ingly ef­fort­less style that treats his tyres with sym­pa­thy and, even more than most, an un­canny abil­ity to read race con­di­tions and re­spond to his ad­van­tage. All he needs is the right car.

There aren’t many who have been at the top level for 15 years but Jen­son has and his hunger to con­tinue and suc­ceed is as strong as ever. Popular with ev­ery­one he meets, ex­pe­ri­enced and suc­cess­ful and with his tal­ent undimmed, he still has so much to of­fer.

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