The Year in Review: Sport

Fast learner

It is clear now that if you cut Lewis Hamilton, there is little evidence of blood. He has a small intake of breath, flicks an invisible gear lever and drives on, a warm/glacial (take your pick) smile in place and a thousand certainties at hand. His father Anthony who at one early point in his son's astonishingly precocious rise to superstardom did three jobs to support his conviction that if he could get his son to the starting grid of Formula One, the rest would fall into place as inevitably as a sunrise certainly does not discourage this idea of implacable, almost surreally untouchable ambition.

At the French Grand Prix at Magny Cours in July, Hamilton Senior was first presented with the idea that the boy who had raced from nowhere, who had such titans of the sport as Sir Jackie Stewart and Sir Stirling Moss engaged in a battle of superlatives while discussing his potential, had yet to show us how he would deal with the bad days.

The question was timed well enough, because at the French track Ferrari were plainly back in competitive condition, while the McLaren-Mercedes cars of Hamilton and his restive team-mate and reigning world champion Fernando Alonso were performing relatively sluggishly. There was also a coming rite of passage the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Hamilton's father had a touch of indignation in his voice. "What some people don't understand," he said, "is that Lewis hasn't just appeared as some ready-made driving star. For 14 years, since he first got into a go-kart, Lewis has known what it is to lose as much as to win. For all those years, he has been winning and losing and going into all the grey areas in between. So I don't for a minute fear any inability by him to deal with setbacks. But then, to be honest, I also know they are not exactly on his agenda.

"He has never considered anything more than the odd reverse that he knows must come to any career any life."

Odd reverse? By season's end in Brazil, where he paid homage to the memory of the great Brazilian Ayrton Senna, they had accumulated almost as quickly as the wheezes and bangs of a misfiring engine. He didn't win in France, nor at Silverstone where the immaculate conception of his Formula One career was blemished by his first measurable mistake. Then, not once but twice, the historic prospect of a rookie winning the world title at his first attempt (Moss never landed the honour in his long and often breathtaking career) was blown away in the slipstream of Ferrari's nerveless Finn, Kimi Raikkonen. In Shanghai, there was a shredded tyre. In Sao Paulo, a rush of blood.

Hamilton's smile remained, though, an impenetrable mask; as it did when the huge audience at the lavishly staged BBC Sports Personality of the Year gasped when the award, against popular expectation, went to the ageing boxing champion Joe Calzaghe rather than the instant hero of the Top Gear culture.

If young Lewis was as startled as most of the rest of the audience, he was rather more composed than when, earlier, Michael Parkinson performed a small ambush when discussing the decision to escape the British paparazzi for a quieter life in Switzerland. Parky wondered if this might also have something to do with tax advantages. "Yes, that too," admitted the boy wonder in a rare moment of discomfort.

None of this, however, has disrupted seriously the idea that, like Michael Schumacher and Senna before him, Hamilton is a rough and cynical sport's man of destiny. While many found it outrageous that he and his team-mate Alonso should have kept their driver's championship points which would eventually leave Hamilton in second place in the title race despite his team's huge fine for industrial espionage against their rivals, Ferrari, the hero was again impervious to questioning voices: He said: "I have my job to do and I will continue to do it. McLaren is a team and I'm proud to be part of it."

What cannot be doubted is the extraordinary level of Hamilton's natural talent and a commitment that was evident from virtually his toddling days, a force that persuaded Ron Dennis, the head of the McLaren team, that the boy would almost certainly drive for him at some distant point in the future. Kees van de Grint, the chief engineer of Bridgestone, the sole tyre supplier for Formula One, is steeped in the sport and has been watching the development of Hamilton with much absorption. "Sometimes it is possible to make a mistake about a young driver," he says. "I remember very much believing a few years ago in an Italian kid, Gianfranco Pacchino, after seeing him win an F3 race in Monaco. 'This boy has everything,' I said, but it didn't prove so.

"Lewis Hamilton? So far he has been phenomenal, and quite frankly at the moment there is only one question in my mind: will he be better than Michael Schumacher? I have always considered Michael the greatest and most motivated driver of all. Of course, we cannot rush to judgment because Michael's career is done, all his achievements are laid out before us, and Lewis is just starting. I also accept that we see the best of someone when the going is hardest, and that was always when Schumacher pulled out the very best of himself.

"Will Lewis do the same next year? It is by far the biggest question in Formula One, and that is the mark of his achievement in just one season."

As for Hamilton himself, he says he cannot wait for a resumption of the charge. (French traffic cops would perhaps agree, having handed him a month's ban for clocking 120mph 40 over the limit.) "I've been happy with the way I have been able to handle the disappointment at the end of the season," he said. "It has only made me more determined to be champion of the world." Who really knows if there is a breath of uncertainty behind the unchanging mask of Lewis Hamilton? Only time, perhaps measured in fractions of seconds, will tell. Meanwhile, it can be said that no one who has finished second has ever made such a claim on a dazzling future.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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 appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas