Bob McMurray: Winners: Love ’em or loathe ’em
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Formula 1 fans can take a break this weekend after the hopefully never-to-be-seen-again run of three races back to back.
Silverstone’s British Grand Prix was a huge success at the home of British motorsport — and indeed of F1 itself.
The crowds arrived in huge numbers to see Lewis Hamilton break yet another record — six British GP wins — and all went to plan until he made a bad start and was bundled off the track, by a Ferrari of all things.
While his car was scrambling for grip to rejoin the race, the flawed genius that is Hamilton bubbled up. The fastest driver on the grid came to the fore with a display of speed and craft that few could match.
Yet the other side of the man seemed to take hold, with radio messages to the pits revealing his frustrations.
At race end, Hamilton had delivered a masterclass in race driving but the petulant side of his nature seemed to surface as he ignored fans and refused to appear for a TV interview, preferring to stomp off.
And by doing so, he invited the vitriol of the Hamilton haters.
Hamilton is the latest in a line of sportspeople who have simultaneously been adored and hated by the public and fans of their sports.
Ayrton Senna, perhaps the greatest driver of all time, cared nothing for his fellow drivers and used whatever tactics he could to intimidate them on track, alienating many fans and competitors.
This was in sharp contrast to his considerate, almost tranquil, life off track and his unwavering support of children’s charities and friends.
Michael Schumacher was the driver British fans especially loved to hate for having the temerity to rob their hero Damon Hill of the World Championship title in 1994.
Schumacher was a personality that was seen as arrogance personified, with every win handed to him on a plate by his Ferrari team. He was also a blindingly quick, incredibly skilled driver who was a true multiple world champion.
Other drivers have polarised opinions in different ways.
Nigel Mansell was a “racer” in the true sense —and brave beyond belief — but his flat “Brummie” accent set a new standard in boring. He had a TV presence that would make a crash test dummy yawn, and he was both vilified and given hero status.
The fickle Italian fans, the Tifosi, labelled him Il Leone from his Ferrari driving days, “the lion” in their eyes.
Yet, once again, out of the paddock environment he was fun, generous and entertaining.
Hamilton’s current nemesis, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, has his own haters but doesn’t seem to attract the same extremes as Hamilton, his more narcissistic rival.
It has been said many times that Hamilton wears his heart on his sleeve — and love him or loathe him, the world of F1 would be worse off without him.