Can’t even move house in peace

I can’t believe that the fact that Lewis Hamilton is moving is still in the news. They were talking about it on the radio last night. I mean, when was this announced? Two, three weeks ago? And the media is still yammering on about it.

I will actually defend Lewis Hamilton here. It is not as if “rich person moves to tax haven” is exactly shocking news. Loads of F1 drivers move to Switzerland. Motor racing is illegal in Switzerland, so an F1 driver can declare himself unemployed. Ka-ching!

But this just underlines how obsessed the media is with Lewis Hamilton. I was just going to let the whole thing pass without commenting on it, but this story has been in the news for weeks now, and there is little sign of it running out of steam.

It is not even the fact that he is British, because Jenson Button and David Coulthard both live in Monaco and I don’t remember the media going on and on about it then. Nigel Mansell has lived in the Isle of Man and Jersey as well.

Moreover, the very fact that the media keeps on banging on about it kind of proves the point that Hamilton has been making — that he can’t get enough privacy in Britain. I can well believe that. The man probably can’t even take a shit in peace.

This is a country with a skewed culture that thinks it is newsworthy if a celebrity has a wardrobe malfunction. If a contestant on Big Brother from five years ago gets a wedgie it makes it onto the front cover of Heat.

And with the tabloids’ relentless obsession over every single female that stands within 100 yards of Hamilton, I would not be surprised if he is rather fed up with it.

And here is the thing. Only two out of 23 F1 drivers currently live in their home country, according to the August issue of F1 Racing, which coincidentally ran an item about F1 drivers moving country. Only Giancarlo Fisichella and Anthony Davidson have stayed at home.

But, it’s not all for tax reasons, as some may believe. While 15 drivers currently live in either Switzerland or Monaco, some prefer to live in the UK, even if they aren’t from there. Mark Webber, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Heikki Kovalainen all live in the UK. Presumably this is for work reasons, as the vast majority of F1 teams are based in Britain. Meanwhile, Rubens Barrichello lives in Portugal. I would guess this is so that he can be based in Europe while still speaking his native Portugese.

What I am worried about now is that the near-inevitable backlash will be every bit as unbearable as the hype. Jenson Button was right yesterday when he said that 2007 was possibly Hamilton’s best chance to win the Championship.

It is conceivable that McLaren will produce a bad car next year. Going by recent form, they are not likely to strike gold twice in a row. And with the FIA getting in the way of the process this year, it’s easy to see how they might get put off for 2008.

Today Hamilton is talked about as a near-certain future World Champion. But say McLaren go into a slump for a few years. Hamilton may be loyal to McLaren now, but that’s what Button said when he was at Williams. Hamilton will get itchy feet if he isn’t given a car that can win. He could move to another team and end up in that classic situation — always being at the right team at the wrong time. Good cars aren’t easy to come by, as Button knows all too well.

All of a sudden, Lewis Hamilton gets a touch of the Buttons. No longer will he be future World Champion. He will revert to Plucky Brit status and the media will start to hate him for blowing his opportunity.

It could happen, although I hope it doesn’t. But if the media is this bad when Hamilton simply moves house, imagine how bad it would be if he stops winning races.


  1. Yeah I could see why this was in the papers etc on the day it was revealed, but it is time to move on now – at the end of the day who really cares where he lives?

    The thing which irked me a little was that I didn’t fully believe the story about the press being the only reason for the move – now he has said the tax situation added to it as well so as far as I’m concerned it’s over. The press will still follow him though no matter which country he lives in!

    If some of these big earners chose to stay here in the UK then the rest of us might not have to pay so much tax! 😉

    As for his future chances, they must be rated pretty highly at the moment but a driver’s career is relatively short so a few uncompetitive cars and he wil be starting to sweat a bit.

    Remember he doesn’t see himself as a potential world champion – it’s multiple championships he’s after.

    He’s the new Senna after all…

  2. Evening All!

    Nice thread DrV. I, as many, are getting somewhat hacked off with the column inch count given over to reporting old news about Hamilton’s move.

    I would only make a couple of minor points:

    First, a quick read-up on Swiss taxation regs might be useful [Motor racing is illegal in Switzerland, so an F1 driver can declare himself unemployed. Ka-ching!]

    Not quite as simple as that….Swiss tax laws, applied to those with resident status, are based on world-wide income, not income earned in country. There are a couple of exceptions; real estate outside of Switzerland is, apparently, exempt and income from enterprises too. I suppose LH could create a company into which his income is paid and then draw a salary (as many self-employed do). Perhaps that would count as an enterprise and save a few quid.

    The main savings are associated with the lower tax rates, rather than paying no tax at all.

    Secondly, i’m not sure about the parallels between Hamilton’s declaration of loyalty to McLaren and Buttons statement about Williams. Hamilton is contracted to McLaren and shows no signs of wanting to leave, Button had to leave Williams to make way for Montoya and, later, when Williams tried to get him back from BAR, BAR won the contract battle. Whether Button wanted to return to Williams, i’m not sure of.

    I think it’s a little early to say whether Button is right about Hamilton’s WDC chances…..i can’t help but see a little spitting of sour grapes, given Button’s lack of luck on that front. There’s certainly a trend for a team to produce consecutive championship winning cars (the last single championship win, with no win the following season, was back in 1987). Yeah, Ferrari won this year, but it was close enough that it could have gone either way. It’s just a case of whether the 2006 and 2007 MP4s were McLaren’s best offering, or if the 2007 car will evolve into an equally good 2008 car.

  3. Thanks for the clarification on Swiss tax laws. I knew there had to be something more to it because of the dinosaur rock stars that live there!…

    the last single championship win, with no win the following season, was back in 1987

    Wow, that’s a great statistic — I’d never thought of that before. Although it applies a little better to the Drivers Championship than the Constructors. I guess 1999 was different because Michael Schumacher’s legs broke and McLaren didn’t win the Constructors Championship. Nor did Benetton win the Constructors’ Championship two years in a row.

    So your idea that McLaren could snatch it next year is a big possibility. They also have an advantage because all of the cars are using McLaren’s ECU next year.

  4. They also have an advantage because all of the cars are using McLaren’s ECU next year.

    I can see it now…….Ron D sitting in front of a panel if 20 little red buttons with his finger hovering over whoever happens to be in front of his drivers. One little push and, ‘phsst’, a circuit burns out in the ECU of the offending car!

    Hell…now you’ve got me getting all suspicious.