Would Lewis Hamilton prefer it if his Mercedes-AMG F1 was fully automatic?
Car enthusiasts’ collective scorn is already audible. Pray, who would want an automatic, less involving transmission in a road car, let alone a racing car? Surely not Britain’s lion-hearted Formula 1 world champion?
This may sound a modern gripe, yet the first mass-produced car with an automatic transmission was an Oldsmobile in 1940, a decade before Formula 1’s inaugural grand prix. The situation of a driving icon turned iconoclast did actually happen, 58 years ago, in an article in Autocar written by 1958 champion Mike Hawthorn.
Despite “sharing a genuine love of the vintage car” with the “tweedy motoring experts with moustaches as sweeping as his statements, and possessed of a firm belief that anything new is a bad thing”, Hawthorn nonetheless had his own ideas about technology.
“For everyday motoring on what, laughingly, passes for a road system in this country, I would not choose anything but the most up-to-date and completely equipped motor car I could lay my hands on,” he wrote. “For this reason alone, I would go for an automatic transmission on a car.”
His reasoning was simple: “With the automatic ’box, optimum performance may be constantly utilised to the full, because the maker of the car has predetermined maximum speeds in relation to maximum power output.