• The Inside Line

Hamilton shows the mark of maturity

Kate Walker July 6, 2014
We have seen a more measured approach from Lewis Hamilton in 2014 © Getty Images
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Of all the races I remember watching in my days as an F1 fan (as opposed to the professional blatherer I seem to be these days), one truly stands out in my mind.

The 2009 Italian Grand Prix may not have been the most exciting of recent years - or even of the 2009 season - but it was while watching that race that I decided I wanted to throw away my desk job, pension, and normal life and pursue a nomadic existence chasing race cars around the world.

Lewis Hamilton was defending world champion that season, and McLaren had gifted their young prodigy with an absolute dog of a car. Hamilton had managed to wrestle the MP4-24 to a win at the Hungaroring and a second place in Spa, and it looked as though his season might finally be improving. On the Saturday at Monza, Hamilton secured pole over the dominant Brawn pair and an increasingly threatening Red Bull.

In the race itself Hamilton's two-stop strategy saw the McLaren driver behind the one-stopping Brawns, but having started on the front row he was unwilling to concede defeat by crossing the line in third. Pushing hard, the closing stint saw Hamilton giving chase to Jenson Button, and by the last lap the Brawn driver looked to be tantalisingly close - from the point of view of a racing driver accustomed to winning.

Pushing too hard, the last lap saw Hamilton in the barriers at Lesmos as he tried in vain to overhaul Button. And it was in that moment that I knew F1 was where I wanted to be. Second place is just first of the losers, after all, and any environment populated by Type-A personalities happier to throw away a clutch of championship points than to stand on the bottom step of the podium was exactly what I was looking for.

It was a moment that changed my approach to life, but it was also one that changed the way Hamilton approaches a title fight.

Lewis Hamilton pushed too hard at Monza in 2009 © Getty Images
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The natural heir to Gilles Villeneuve, Hamilton remains a thoroughbred racer in pursuit of as many victories as he can manage. But the 29-year-old we have seen racing this year is a very different creature to the hot-headed 24-year-old who crashed out in Italy. Still just as determined to win, Hamilton now concedes the wisdom of keeping half a mind on the points haul while continuing to race as hard as he can.

This year Lewis has been gifted with what he describes as the best car of his career, but the combination of a competitive team-mate and mechanical failures have meant the season has been anything but a cakewalk. The gung-ho racer with his heart on his sleeve may have let his emotions spill into the public sphere a few times this season, but his maturity as a competitor has come on in leaps and bounds since his passion inspired this writer to follow hers.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.
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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.