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Jim Clark and Lewis Hamilton. More than just statistics

Gasperotti/Sutton Images

Much has been made of Lewis Hamilton's fourth British Grand Prix victory. It was a consummate drive, worthy of comparison with Jim Clark and Nigel Mansell, whose home win totals Hamilton has now equalled.

Such an evaluation may stick in the craw of an older generation struggling to get their grey heads around the modus operandi of Britain's latest world champion, particularly when mentioning Clark in the same breath. But that should not detract from Hamilton's similar towering natural presence at the wheel of an F1 car. The huge difference in style and culture beyond the cockpit can be summed up by the aftermath of their respective wins in Britain.

Lewis went beyond even the most enthusiastic excesses of Mansell when he twice went to see his fans, on the second occasion launching into a crowd surf from the top of the pit wall. In a sport noted for its insularity and blasé approach to the paying public, this was as refreshing as it was novel; total engagement that will have given those present something to talk about in the pub for years to come.

Forty-nine years ago, I stood on the outside of Woodcote and watched my hero, Jim Clark, power to a similar imperious victory. This was in the days when Woodcote was a very quick 170 mph curve with a nasty bump in the middle of it, the cars having come flat out from Abbey Curve, rocketing into view from beneath what was known as The Daily Express bridge, thanks to sponsorship from the national daily. Just as memorable was the very British tone of track commentator, Peter Scott-Russell. "Eyes right Woodcote!" he would bark. "Daily Express bridge. Here they come! One hundred and seventy-five miles'n'hour!"

Clark's Lotus led once Lotus team-mate Graham Hill had retired with broken suspension. Denny Hulme's Brabham was a distant second. The only interest was a tenacious duel between Jack Brabham and Chris Amon, settled when the Brabham-Repco got sideways on the Woodcote bump. Jack never lifted for a second, but the brief loss of momentum was enough for Amon's Ferrari to take a successful run at him into Copse. When I say this happened right in front of us, it was exactly that, and at eye level. There was no debris fence. My mates and me leaned against a horizontal scaffolding pole that, along with the grass bank, delineated the boundary between spectator and race track.

There was no podium as such, the presentation being made on a trailer, manoeuvred onto the grid and loaded with the green and yellow Lotus 49, plus Clark, the Lotus team -- probably in its entirety -- and several trade associates and luminaries from the RAC. Clark, bedecked in the winner's wreath and holding the same cup cherished by Hamilton, waved modestly to the crowd - as was his wont as a Scottish sheep farmer who happened to have been blessed with car control seemingly from another planet.

As the flotilla set off, we joined a surge of spectators who dared to duck under the scaffolding poles, climb the bank and venture onto the edge of the track. In 1967, this was tantamount to seriously unruly behaviour. There was cheering and warm applause. Then everyone dutifully and quietly returned, aware there was another race to run. It was as different to last Sunday post-race as a gospel meeting to Glastonbury.

You might think there are similar opposites when comparing Clark with Hamilton. Yet, bearing in mind how Lewis has seemed more at peace with himself in recent months than ever before, it was the same with Jim. He was living in Paris and Bermuda, having had to forsake the family farm and become a man of the world in many respects.

"I noticed a big change in Jimmy that year," recalls his close friend and fellow-countryman, Sir Jackie Stewart. "He was no longer the Border farmer depending on [Lotus boss] Colin [Chapman]. He was a different man. He was more independent, more vocal about what he wanted. He had become very aware of who he was and what he was worth. I sensed he was going to give Colin a much harder time!"

Sadly, that would not come to be. Little did we realise this was the last time we would see Jim Clark race and win in Britain. He would be killed nine months later. But the memory of Silverstone 1967 lives on. Just as Sunday -- and, hopefully, more like it -- will for many happy and satisfied fans.