The calm be­fore the corona­tion

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - SPORT -

LEWIS Hamil­ton’s mood is calm and still.

It is in di­rect con­trast to the fevered roads out­side the Au­to­dromo Her­manos Ro­driguez, where armed guards roam the pave­ments by the eight lanes of bumper-to-bumper traf­fic.

His an­swers at his Press con­fer­ence in the fit-to-burst Mercedes mo­torhome were barely au­di­ble.

As if on pur­pose, he held the mi­cro­phone a lit­tle fur­ther away from his mouth than usual and spoke sotto voce, leav­ing us in no doubt about his in­ner seren­ity.

Hamil­ton’s tran­quil­lity is pro­tected both by math­e­mat­ics and op­por­tu­nity: he has no rea­son to panic when a fifth­place fin­ish in to­day’s Mex­i­can Grand Prix would put him beyond the reach of Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and de­liver a fourth world ti­tle.

And if his car or a barely imag­in­able driver er­ror de­prives him of sat­is­fac­tion here, he has Brazil and Abu Dhabi to wrap up the for­mal­i­ties.

Table space was re­served for his guests as the sense of ex­pec­ta­tion and oc­ca­sion rises in the sunny, high-al­ti­tude pad­dock.

Mother Brenda and triple world cham­pion boxer Canelo Al­varez are cer­tain at­ten­dees. His brother Nic is a pos­si­ble vis­i­tor if he can ditch his work com­mit­ments.

There will be room if he should need it for Hamil­ton’s fa­ther, An­thony, who is con­sid­er­ing a “spur of the mo­ment” ap­pear­ance with wife Linda.

They showed up at Abu Dhabi in 2014, when Hamil­ton clinched his first world ti­tle at Mercedes and his sec­ond in all.

Of course, they were there for ev­ery race of Hamil­ton’s first cham­pi­onship tri­umph in 2008; An­thony as man­ager, ad­vi­sor, en­forcer, con­science.

When An­thony talks of that ti­tle it is the one “we” won.

Re­la­tions have some­times been tem­pes­tu­ous since, but the two halves of the sym­bio­sis are now seem­ingly rec­on­ciled.

That smooth­ing out of re­la­tions is no doubt part of the rea­son for Hamil­ton’s set­tled na­ture this sea­son, though the great­est dif­fer­ence is that he feels com­fort­able in the Mercedes team with­out the re­tired Nico Ros­berg get­ting un­der his skin.

That con­tent­ment, where be­fore para­noia had been wont to tor­ment him dur­ing his ca­reer, has helped Hamil­ton to pro­duce his fastest and most blem­ish-free driv­ing, aged 32 and at his peak: he has fin­ished the last 22 races, a tes­ta­ment to man and ma­chine.

“Ex­pe­ri­ence,” as Os­car Wilde noted, “is the name ev­ery­one gives to their mis­takes.”

It is an apho­rism that might have been coined for Hamil­ton, who has never been far from the head­lines for the won­der of his driv­ing or some ex­trav­a­gance.

But he can now flick the switch in­stantly from as­pi­rant ac­tor-mu­si­cian-fash­ion­ista to se­ri­ous rac­ing driver, hav­ing fi­nally struck a bal­ance in his glo­be­trot­ting ex­is­tence.

“The only dif­fer­ence is that in 2008 I was a kid,” he said. “I had all the nat­u­ral tal­ent I have to­day but I didn’t have the knowl­edge or ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I’m now fight­ing a cham­pi­onship-win­ning team in Fer­rari and a cham­pi­onship-win­ning driver in Se­bas­tian, and I am much bet­ter equipped than I was in 2008.

“It’s been more en­joy­able for that rea­son. I’m al­ways chang­ing things, adding things. Even­tu­ally you learn about your­self, what you like, what you can and can­not take on to con­tinue to per­form at your best.

“Rac­ing is my pri­or­ity and I have got to make sure what­ever I do out­side the cham­pi­onship com­ple­ments that. So bit by bit, trial and er­ror, I add things into my life,” he said.

Ac­cord­ingly, he spent part of the build-up to the race at a style awards cer­e­mony in Los An­ge­les and film­ing as part of a “se­cret” project.

Hamil­ton made a rare mis­take dur­ing prac­tice on Fri­day, miss­ing some run­ning af­ter spin­ning off, but he was still sec­ond fastest to Red Bull’s Daniel Ric­cia­rdo and re­mains hot favourite to eclipse Sir Jackie Ste­wart, who will be watch­ing here among a 135 000-strong crowd, as the most dec­o­rated cham­pion in Bri­tish mo­tor rac­ing.

Hamil­ton has said he does not ex­pect to be rac­ing at 40, leav­ing him one or two more con­tracts — or six or so years — to chase the 30 more wins he needs to beat Michael Schu­macher’s record num­ber of vic­to­ries, 91.

“My bucket list at the mo­ment is win­ning the fourth world cham­pi­onship and then it’s pre­par­ing for the next,” he said. - Daily Mail.

Lewis Hamil­ton’

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