A weird feeling.
“THAT’S GLOCK! GLOCK, GLOCK, GLOCK, YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!”
I was in Belfast on that November day Lewis Hamilton dramatically won his first world championship in Brazil in 2008. It’s amazing how in moment you can go from utter dispair to utter triumph the next in sport. The last time I could honestly I’ve felt that moment before the world championship decider in Brazil was the 1999 Champions League final and how for mostly 90 minutes, I was in desperate despair until Sheringham and Soleskjar got the two goals that won us the cup.
Let me try and put this another way. Since 1997, I’ve been a Formula One fan. I remember turning the channels over when I seen cars going round and round when the first moment I saw was a car crashing into the other. What that moment actually was turned out to be the 1997 finale and that moment was Michael Schumacher turning into Jacques Villeneuve, only for Schumacher to come out worst.
Since then, I’ve been a fan of the sport. And more specifically, I’ve been a fan of teams rather than drivers, so if anything, I’ve been a McLaren fan since 1997 (or really, 1998 when I started investing myself into the sport). I’ve seen drivers come and leave the team. But the only driver I’ve really supported was Mika Hakkinen. The two-time world champion was the only driver I properly ever supported, even if he was a McLaren driver since I started watching the sport up until he retired in 2001.
Since then, I’ve supported the team only. Coulthard, Montoya, Raikkonen, Wruz, De La Rosa and Kovalinen have all come and gone. And I haven’t felt a thing. And eventually, Jenson – as much as I like the guy from his appearances and his racing – will be gone too. And I won’t care.
So it’s a bit odd when I say I am going to miss Lewis Hamilton now that he’s off to Mercedes from 2013. Maybe because he’s been with McLaren for the better part of 14 years since – as the story goes – he walked to now former McLaren boss Ron Dennis and said he wanted to drive for him. And maybe because he’s been with McLaren since the beginning of his F1 career in 2007.
When the story broke that he was about to head off to Mercedes, I figured it was a forgone conclusion considering how unhappy he seemed to be at the team, but I also figured that money had a part to play. In fact, by the time the announcement was made, that last factor grew ever larger in my head along with a mix of a lack of loyalty for a team that gave him his chance.
When the announcement was made – I was in London at the time during the Eurogamer Expo – I tweeted something among the lines of “don’t let the door hit you on the way out”. And that was it, really. I didn’t feel anything, or if I did, it was a sense of betrayal to an extent. As far as I was concerned, that was the matter closed. And then, last weekend during the Japanese Grand Prix, the BBC decides to do this.
Yeah. That happened. The BBC are basically the master of F1 montages, but even I didn’t expect it to invoke such memories.
The memories of screaming noooo at the top of my lungs at 8am in the morning after he beached his car in the gravel trap during the 2007 Chinese Grand Prix, where if he had won, he would have taken the championship in his first year. The memories of disappointment after that Brazilian GP when he didn’t do it. The memories of both joy and despair after a dramatic win in Belgium in 2008, only to have it stripped afterwards. The memories of that following year’s Brazilian GP and that last lap where I was shouting and jumping out of sheer ecstasy. The memories of him taking that cunt Vettel on the inside during last year’s Chinese Grand Prix.
I watched that video – and watched it multiple times since – and I’ve come to realise that, in the same way I missed Mika Hakkinen when he retired, I’m going to miss Lewis Hamilton at McLaren. Sure, he’s off to Mercedes and he’ll still be in the sport. But that’s where the connection ends. He won’t be a driver I’ll be supporting. He’ll be driving a silver car next year, but it won’t be in the silver and red of McLaren. And beginning next year, I’ll still be supporting the same team, but with the old of Jenson Button and the new of Sergio Perez.
Yet, there’s a part of me that hopes he comes back some day if to finish his career there. And I will still be supporting him (and JB) up for a hopeful championship for either of them until the end of the year come the final lap at Interlargos.
So goodbye, Lewis. I hope that, in some strange way, our paths may cross again. And thanks for the memories. Brazil 2008 will live long in the memory.