"Do you like Lewis Hamilton?” So asked a poll about the current and three-time world Formula 1 champion at the end of an article on The Telegraph website recently, titled: ‘Lewis Hamilton: the champion it is mathematically impossible to like’. For: does a lot of good work for charity, drives a car quickly. Against: sings rap songs, wears bad clothes. Harsh.
Now, I don’t know whether it says more about Lewis Hamilton or The Telegraph’s demographic that only 47% of responders clicked to say that ‘yes’, they did actually like him.
Curious. We’re talking about the reigning F1 world champion, a Briton racing for a team based in Brackley, the first British three-time world champion since Jackie Stewart. As British as ‘our Nige’. Yet less than half of a survey think he’s all right?
Anyway, I’m sure he’s mortified. Or something. Either way, Hamilton has had an interesting time of it recently, which is the kind of thing that divides opinion of him. First, there was the thing the other week when he crashed his Pagani Zonda into some parked cars in Monaco late at night while suffering excess tiredness.
Then last week he told German magazine Sport Bild that it’s difficult to assess how good Sebastian Vettel is because his team-mates haven’t been fast, like Fernando Alonso, but have been “Mark Webber, who was not on his level, and Kimi Räikkönen, who is no longer at the peak of his performance”. Which is the sort of comment that might rub some people up the wrong way.
Is it a surprise, then, that earlier this year a poll run by the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association/motorsport.com found that fans’ favourite three drivers were Räikkönen, Alonso and Jenson Button? Even though most respondents were British, Hamilton didn’t figure.
And, you know, I don’t get that. Granted, how Hamilton spends his free time is not the same way you or I might. I wouldn’t want to record my own rap songs, go to fashion shows or dance topless with Rihanna with my Calvin Klein underwear showing. Well, probably. But in an age where a perpetual complaint about sports stars is that they lead really dull lives and trot out the same guarded, platitudinous responses to questions in interviews, I find it frustrating that the first reaction to a sportsperson who doesn’t do that is get on his case about it.
So, yeah, Hamilton: perhaps not exactly your cup of tea, and maybe not mine, either. But I love the sheer fact that he’s happy to make it possible to dislike him and probably not give a stuff. He’s exactly the kind of sportsperson I want to watch. So put me down as one of the 47%.