The populace of Formula One take a break this weekend, albeit a short break, after the hopefully never to be seen again run of three races back to back.

A weekend off before yet another back-to-back starting next weekend.

The British Grand Prix, a race that the Mercedes team, as well as Brendon Hartley who, once again, was denied being able to demonstrate his talent due to mechanical problems, will be happy to see the back of, was a huge success at this home of British motor sport and indeed of Formula 1 itself.

The British crowds were there in huge number to see Lewis Hamilton break yet another record — six British Grand Prix wins — and all went perfectly to plan for a while, but then that plan fell apart very quickly as he made a bad start and was bundled off the track, by a Ferrari of all things, and another famous victory seemingly snatched away.

At that moment, while his car was scrabbling for grip to re-join the race, the flawed genius that is Lewis Hamilton, the enigma that is the man, bubbled up.

The fastest driver on the grid, perhaps one of the fastest ever to race in Formula One, came to the fore with a display of speed and race craft that few others could match.
Yet during the race the other side of the man seemed to be taking hold with radio messages from him to the pits revealing his doubts and frustrations and at race end it was the Lewis Hamilton that many people love to hate that climbed from his car, after a master class of Grand Prix driving and a brilliant drive through the field.

The petulant, sulky and sullen side of his nature seemed to surface as he ignored his waiting fans by refusing to appear for an interview then stomping off to apparently calm down and recover from the mental and physical exhaustion he felt and by doing that he invited the vitriol from the Hamilton haters.

For Hamilton is the latest in a very extensive line of sports people that have simultaneously been both the most adored and most hated by the public and fans of their sports.

In Formula 1 the list is long and as social media has grown so have the entrenched views of both sides.


In my own memory their have been some above others who courted controversy and divided views to become the devil incarnate or an angel personified, some with horns while in the car and wings outside of it.

Ayrton Senna, once again perhaps the greatest driver of all time, was also seen by some as having a strong Christian belief in God but who cared nothing for his fellow drivers and used whatever tactics he could to intimidate them on track, alienating many fans and competitors alike.

This was in sharp contrast to his considerate, almost tranquil, life off track and his unwavering support of children's charities and those who he called friends.

Michael Schumacher was the driver that the British fans especially loved to hate, a villain who had the temerity to, not only in their eyes but the eyes of most, unfairly rob British hero Damon Hill of the drivers World Championship title in 1994 and managed to court some sort of extreme controversy in almost every race in which he took part.

A personality that was seen as Teutonic arrogance personified, with every race 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 polarised opinions in different ways.

Nigel Mansell did not translate well to a television audience. Although a 'racer' in the true sense and brave beyond belief in the car, his flat, monotonous 'Brummie' accent set a new standard in boring and combined with a public and TV presence that would make a crash test dummy yawn, he was, concurrently, 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. I well remember a very pleasant afternoon spent in his company in a spa pool in Texas, but that, as the saying goes, is another story.

Hamilton's current nemesis, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, has his own haters and believers but doesn't seem to attract the same extremes of venom, as does 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 hero or the villain that he may be, grumpy self centred schoolboy or supreme artist on the track that he is, the world of Formula One would be immeasurably worse off if he were not in it.