Some seek fame; others simply race
is one I’ll bet Seb will have used it. It was perfectly in keeping with this reputation that he got the timing just right in Monaco and bounced, like a year-old puppy, into the end of an unavoidably dour (thanks to Mercedes’ surrealist race tactics) post-race interview with my Sky F1 colleague, Martin Brundle, and reminded us all that he was very happy with his second place, thank you very much. As all good humour should, it dispelled the dread and lifted the moment beautifully. I would say this was good for the show.
The race was, of course, won by that other disappointment to Bernie Ecclestone, Nico Rosberg. Three times in a row he has deed his detractors and gone for the home win. The Grimaldis looked anything but grim. They could hardly suppress their delight as their Monte Carlo boy bagged a hat-trick. His German nationality might not be enough to save the German Grand Prix but when you have the Monaco Grand Prix as a fall-back position, it’s not so bad. Clearly his fame in this tiny principality is enough for the Monegasques and also for Nico.
Present in Monaco were the A-listers, who presumably came because they love ‘auto-racing’ as much as they love fame. Hard to tell though, sometimes. To some, fame is a thing in and of itself: a goal, an objective. The means is not important. To me, this is like saying ‘I don’t care how I win.’ Surely, it matters?
In days of yore, the race was graced by Princess Grace Kelly herself. Style was very much the thing in Hollywood in her day. Her co-star in the 1965 French Riviera thriller To Catch a Thief, Cary Grant, epitomised humour and stylishness. They also knew all about fame and how to work it. They understood image is important. But that is because that was their job; they created images on screen, and in life.
Racing drivers, I would argue, are not too comfortable with creating an image. There are enough people around doing that. Racing is about reality; sometimes, a harsh reality. There’s no dodging the facts of sport.
I’ve met a few Hollywood actors in my career and they are invariably impressed by the fact that we do something real, rather than pretending. What they do is real, of course. But it is acting reality. Their fame depends on a mixture of self-promotion, talent and marketing. Their value is their fame and is measured nowadays in Twitter followers.
But fame is also power, and power corrupts. Fame is a powerful mind-altering drug that affects not only the object but the subjects, too. When confronted by a famous person, people tend to get over-excited. This places huge responsibility on the famous to use their fame wisely and not abuse that power.
In Monaco, a group of children from the charity Starlight were on the trip of a lifetime to get special access to their heroes. Needless to say, Lewis did not disappoint, spending a good amount of his time exercising his fame in his own special way. He has a gift for this. Like Ayrton Senna, he is genuinely compassionate and has charisma. The positive effect of his fame is palpable. It was incomprehensible to them that he was deprived of his win, but Lewis works in a rather less charitable world.
Fame or infamy, it can be tricky being famous. But as they say, ‘Never explain. Never complain.’ There is always the alternative.
Sebastian Vettel is happy to pose for photos with his fans in Monaco – but there are others who shy away from fame