James Lawton: Hamilton's genius shines brightest of all on a gloomy day for McLaren

The Briton overcame the handicap of a team that seems to be in deepening disarray

No, we didn't get an exactly contrite Lewis Hamilton, give or take a few platitudes.

These came when he larded some distinctly acerbic exchanges over the team radio with the concession that at least, and at last, he had been given a car a little more worthy of his ability to drive it with exceptional flair and spirit.

The fact is that if we had wanted to find a world-class sportsman possessing any less in-built humility than the 2008 world champion we would have had to send out the tracker dogs at dawn without any guarantee of success. And this was despite the presence at Silverstone of Ian Poulter, the highly ranked English golfer who not so long ago declared that he was the most likely man to separate Tiger Woods from sole possession of the mountain top.

Hamilton even cracked that he now has a platinum card priority pass for his routine attendance at stewards' inquiries, though no one was suggesting that his late collision with recent critic Felipe Massa was anything more than a "racing incident". Furthermore, it came at the end of one of those duels which make the endless politics and arcane engineering controversies of Formula One an almost acceptable price for such sure-fire surges of the blood.

This, indeed, was the best of Hamilton. He may not have the most embraceable manner, in either triumph or defeat, but no one ever said he wasn't a superb natural born racer.

Yesterday his triumph was to turn back a tide of reproach, and even the suspicion that his temperament was simply not up the inevitable frustrations of a business where sheer driving talent is so often thrust into the margins of winning and losing, and produce a supreme example of why he has long been considered worth all the trouble and exasperation.

He drove with trademarked self-belief and adventure away from the ignominy of 10th place on the grid after McLaren's potentially catastrophic miscalculations in Saturday's qualifying and yesterday's fuel load.

It was a performance of such excellent nerve and fine judgment that it was hardly surprising he took such a dim view of the team advice that he was in danger of running out of gas.

Certainly his demand for more precise information seemed entirely reasonable, rather than another burst of pique, as Massa made a swarming challenge for a hard-won fourth place going into the last lap.

Hamilton hung on in a way that his father Anthony now advises him to do at McLaren despite increasingly strained relations.

"I believe there can be a happy ending," says the man who urges his son to recall that it was the former McLaren chief Ron Dennis who provided the vital support when the sheer weight of family financial pressure made the brilliant boy's ambitions so tenuous.

With Ferrari re-emerging from a quiet corner of the pit-lane with Fernando Alonso's brilliantly managed victory yesterday, and Red Bull tightening their grip on the constructors' championship with the second and third places of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, Hamilton Senior's belief in a significant McLaren revival any time soon may be something of a stretch on his son's patience.

Certainly the sense of a team in deepening disarray was hardly deflected by the confusion over Hamilton's ability to charge without restraint at the end of the race and the disaster of Jenson Button's elimination when he was allowed to drive out of the pit minus a right front wheel-nut.

Button, who earlier had contributed one of the finest moments of a tumultuous afternoon when he completed a take-over move on Massa which was graced not only by impeccable judgment but the purity of competitive spirit displayed by the duellists, was as glum as you might have expected. He believed that McLaren had shown some stirrings and that it had not been unreasonable to believe that both he and Hamilton had made serious attempts at reaching the podium.

What we were left with in all the circumstances of half-wet, half-dry track and the need for so many hair-trigger decisions, was fresh evidence of the fine line driven between success and failure by the elite racers.

Vettel might easily have been celebrating still another victory but for his own pit-lane calamity, one that left him stalled as Alonso so faultlessly seized his moment, and what was the difference for Webber between the success his pole position promised and another place in the wake of his commanding team-mate? It was the order of his team chief Christian Horner that he should hold his position – or, if you like, stop racing at the climax of some quite relentless effort.

Horner was utterly unrepentant, saying: "We can't afford to give anything away. Ferrari was quick today but second and third was a strong team effort. We didn't want our drivers both finishing up in the fence. How silly would that have looked? We would have been made to look like idiots."

Webber's expression seemed to say that the alternative was not so brilliant. It was that the imperatives of the team, the ratcheting up of established power, had once again in Formula One come at the cost of an old-fashioned idea that the sport's greatest appeal will always be the brilliance of its drivers – and their freedom to go to the limits of their nerve and their judgment.

The former champion Jacques Villeneuve once said: "The reason you risk so much is that there is nothing in your life quite like the sensation of going to the edge. You always want to be in that place, you always want to be going for it."

Yesterday two of Formula One's most gifted performers were drawn back from such coursing of their blood. One was told to hold his position, another to go easy on the fuel. This is not to say that after all the talk of exhaust diffusers the British Grand Prix didn't provide much exhilarating action – only that on this occasion at least Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber, not to mention Jenson Button, were maybe entitled to a passing sulk.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
Sport
Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse come together
football
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The beat is on: Alfred Doda, Gjevat Kelmendi and Orli Shuka in ‘Hyena’
filmReview: Hyena takes corruption and sleaziness to a truly epic level
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life