Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Hamilton, the media, and the rest of us - How and why is there hype surrounding the British driver?

Published by Dan Brunell

The usual process of including guest posts on a blog is for the owner to ask some of their favourite writers to come up with a piece or two to be featured. As you well know, Sidepodcast likes to do things a different way. The Facebook Group has plenty of fascinating discussions going on, and we want to bring those to the main site. The idea is for you guys to write your opinions and entries over on the group, and then we pick the best ones for feature over here on Sidepodcast. Sort of self-selecting guest bloggers, if you will. If you want to get your name in bright lights, just join the group and get writing. We read everything and everyone will be considered.

This second guest entry is by Dan Brunell, talking about Lewis Hamilton and the hype.

One of the good things about living on the west side of the Atlantic is that Hamilton-mania doesn't reach my fair ears that much. Sometimes I will read someone lashing out on a blog, the random Telegraph/Times/BBC article or the occasional voice on the SPEED channel with unending praise. I consider myself lucky. The British press coverage of Hamilton is overwhelming sometimes. It's to the point where it frays some nerves. On top of that, there seems to be some deeper resentment of not just his press coverage, but at the speed with which he has achieved his success. Is all this really Hamilton’s fault? Do the people who hate Hamilton hate him, the ease with which he achieved success, or his media coverage?

To give Mr. Lewis Hamilton the benefit of the doubt, let’s go over a few things. First off, he is 23 years old. There is a lot of maturity left to be achieved, as with anyone that age. It just happens that his immature moments are magnified all over the television and the back pages of the papers. With that said, for a 23 year old, he carries himself in front of the media remarkably well. He is a very savvy individual; perfecting that "awwwweee… shucks", batting his eyes and laughing at every bad joke amazingly well. To some people, this is some sort of diabolical front to trick the masses. Whether it is genuine or fake, he puts up a front remarkably well. Is that the "real" Lewis? I don’t know and really don’t care to be honest.

It is amazing to me how some in the F1 community break this down and read into the slightest things with Hamilton. For example some in the blogging community broke down his victory celebration and press conference like the Kennedy assassination footage; looking for some nefarious motives behind his post-race actions and speeches. This is all a little excessive, if you ask me. I really don’t think a person who is in the euphoria of winning a grand prix is thinking "If I jump around like a mad man and talk about how good I feel, that will intimidate the competition!" If anything was intimidating, how about the margin of which he won the grand prix?

Second, there are some people who hate Hamilton because they feel he hasn’t "earned" his F1 seat and the ease which he has achieved success. There is no doubt that since a very young age he has been bred to race in Formula One by his father and McLaren. Some even go as far to say that he has been given everything in life and had an easy road to F1. My response is, how is that different than many others on the grid? You only need to look at Nelson Piquet, Jr., Nakajima, and others, how much their rearing into racing has helped them get into F1. More importantly in my opinion, it is hard to deny the man has a natural gift behind the wheel. Yes, McLaren has an advantage over a majority of the grid, but a car alone doesn’t win championships. You only need to look at Fuji last year to look at the god given talents of this man. Is his talent as great as the British press has hyped it up to be? I am not sure but only time will answer this question.

Now, given this talent and natural presence I can see the appeal of media to cover him like they do. Yes, it really annoys people like me who have followed F1 since the days of Mansell, Senna, and Prost. However you must remember who the media produces for. The media at it’s root writes/produces to make people interested in what they are covering. They write for their next paycheck and to draw more readers. Therefore they write what will appeal to the most people, even if that may not appeal to them personally.

After all, if you ask most people at a Grand Prix these days who are the two drivers for Super Aguri, most of the time you’ll get a blank response with some saying “Who are they?” If you ask them about Lewis Hamilton, their kids will get excited and they'll say something like “He’s such a swell guy! I hope he wins!”

This might anger people like you and me who follow this sport, dare I say, religiously. Yes, it is upsetting that the media is fawning all over the guy. Yes, it gets annoying that F1 has turned into “all Hamilton, all the time.” However, you can’t really blame Hamilton for that. It’s not his fault that they show his goofy smile every 15 seconds on the television and quote his generic speech in every back page. You can’t blame the media for it either because they are fulfilling what is a strong public sentiment for the guy. It is a monster which the media help creates, but that's what they are in business for.

With a little bit of luck, Hamilton-mania will birth a new generation of fans who find that there is more to the sport than this single personality. Let’s hope that they glance beyond the surface of Hamilton and look at the deep richness of F1.