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.