Formula 1’s petulant wonderkid appears to have grown up and matured into a thirty-something team leader that finally reflects his huge driving talent, says Charles Bradley.
Strange how people mature at different ages. As a kid, I couldn’t wait to be grown up and discover the world for myself rather than from textbooks. I began covering race weekends for specialist publications before I was legally allowed to drive. As soon as my High School exams were over, I went straight to a racetrack in deepest, darkest Wales where I met David Coulthard for the first time – this was back in the late eighties!
Some people, however, seem to be happy to act like a kid for much longer into their adult life before they mature. When they do make that transformation, it seems starker, somehow.
When you look at the Lewis Hamilton of today, compared to seasons’ past, you have to say there’s been a marked change in his attitude and outlook. He even admits it himself, quite often remarking in interviews that he’s much older and wiser now. Hitting 30 in January certainly seems to have suited him really well over these past five months.
When you do hear a gnarly radio message from him today – even old stagers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen let fly with those! – there’s less of a blame game or petulant teenager tone to them. If he’s demanding something, it’s for a reason, not just a moan for the sake of it. Even Jenson Button chastises his engineer for talking to him in the corners…
Monaco was a perfect case in point. In years’ past, Hamilton’s toys would have been scattered from his pram all over the Principality after that pitstop blunder, irrespective of whether or not he had any of the blame to shoulder himself. And he certainly played a part in all that radio chatter that led to the bad call.
Sure, he was annoyed, as the realisation set in that he’d lost the biggest race of the year in highly unfortunate – and avoidable – circumstances, but he didn’t let it fester beyond the total desolation of the moment. Perhaps that composure moment at Portier on the in-lap was just what he needed.
On the rebound
In Canada, he was back to bouncy, positive Lewis – despite back-to-back losses. As a journalist that was annoying in itself – you wanted him to bitch and moan for good copy! No, this was new Lewis refusing to look backwards, he was only interested in what was ahead. Good for him.
An excellent mind-management tactic; why dwell on something you can’t undo? Why waste mental energy in going over something a thousand times?
Maybe negotiating his own megabucks contract with Mercedes has given him that extra confidence boost? Perhaps he feels like he’s living life on his own terms at last?
He just looks so much more comfortable in his own skin, and I’m really pleased for him. His Sky Sports interview with retired French football ace Thierry Henry was a great case in point, where they compared their psyches – and found themselves admitting to each other how difficult they find/found it to operate within a team environment when they're such brilliant individuals.
The kid has finally grown up
He’s always been a nice enough kid, right from when I used to phone him on his home number in his karting days (pre-cellphones, remember those days?) at the start of my own journalistic career. And, of course, he’s always been surrounded by that fantastic family.
That driving talent, that blinding speed, that overtaking prowess – well, they haven’t changed. He’s still the same top racer that I saw through Formula Renault, F3 and GP2, before he burst onto the F1 scene in 2007.
It’s just the rest of his game, the being-an-adult part, finally seems to have caught up with his other talents.
And, whisper it, has that just trumped Nico Rosberg’s USP over him?