Happy Monday folks!
The F1 break is at an end, and in a few days we will be at one of the world’s greatest racing tracks to reconvene the 2015 Formula 1 World Championship.
It’s been a much needed and hugely enjoyable few weeks off. I’ve tried to resist looking at the papers or the twitter, but it’s fairly tough these days. However I made myself a promise that for as long as the teams were on an enforced break, I should do the same. Tweets to a minimum. No writing.
On returning to the keyboard, I was going to write a piece about how much I’m enjoying Lewis Hamilton’s 2015 instagram adventures, but apparently I’ve been well beaten to the punch on that one. It seems his Barbados exploits split opinion down the middle, from those like me who seemed to enjoy seeing him so at ease, to those aghast that he should dare to let his hair down, have a drink and dance with girls.
I landed in Barbados a few days before Lewis, for I imagine precisely the same reason as the world champion. The island is, as far as I’m concerned, the most relaxed and welcoming place on earth. And it was a happy coincidence that the weekend of arrival should fall not just over the island’s Emancipation Day celebration, but of Kadooment and the Crop Over street parade to celebrate the end of the sugar harvest, a tradition which extends back to the 1700s.
If you don’t have a plastic goblet in your hand filled high with either Mount Gay rum punch or the local Banks beer, and if you’re not jumping around to the Soca music blasting out of the lorries, I’d hazard you’re possibly not human. It’s impossible not to have a good time. That Lewis took a pasting in some elements of the press for inappropriately dancing with numerous women on the parade merely shows the preposterous levels some will stoop in order to have a dig. Taking a look at photos sent in by paps from the comfort of your London desk, it must be very easy to write a story. But if a picture can paint a thousand words, it can also be true that every one of those words is rubbish.
I can vouch first hand that as a man on Crop Over you have zero choice over being danced with. The Carribbean gave the world a dance known as the “Whine” or “Wine”, which I guess today we’d call “twerking.” Standing road side and watching the parade, women in grand costumes just run up to you and start jiggling away. An awkward glance across to your girlfriend, see that she’s in hysterics over the whole thing, and the wiggly woman in question has already danced off up the road.
It’s just a bit of fun. Some people really do need to calm down and find something a bit more important to write about.
Perhaps its merely a reflection of the fame of Lewis Hamilton that so much of what he does should be poured over not just by the sports editors but now by the society columns and The Daily Mail’s celebrity pages. Hanging out with his newest breed of celebrity friends does, however, seem to have shifted his social media strategy. He is far more engaged and being far more open, something of which the younger generation of celebrity seems to be at far greater ease than those, dare I say it, of Hamilton’s age.
The Gigi Hadid’s and Cara Delevingne’s of this world are almost a decade Lewis Hamilton’s junior, and are perhaps acutely aware that in today’s throw away society, Andy Warhol’s idiom that everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes has perhaps never been so true. It seems to me that fame, for today’s famous, has never been more fleeting. Making the most of it while you’ve got it and thrusting every element of your life into public view appears from the outside to be the manner by which these young celebs attempt to extend their tenure in high society.
Lewis Hamilton does not need to do this. His sporting prowess and success will more than account for his fame and ensure his longevity. However as a public figure, brand ambassador… celebrity… these are the people against whom he has to fight for column inches and shards of the spotlight.
If there is indeed a strategy behind his social media, it’s a smart one. And it is working.
Sitting on a little boat in Barbados with some other guests from the hotel we were staying at, en route to a bit of snorkelling, a British lad no more than 10 years old pulled my arm and pointed at a stunning house on the coast, no more than 100 metres up the beach from where we’d left.
“Lewis Hamilton’s staying there,” he grinned, apropos of nothing. He had no idea I worked in F1. Why would he?
“Wow, that’s so cool!” I smiled.
“Yeah. I can’t believe he’s so close. He’s amazing.”
Later in the week, two Jamaican women on holiday started talking to us about a photo of Lewis they’d seen on instagram and did we know he was staying around the corner. Again, apropos of nothing.
It really gives resonance to Bernie’s comments about Lewis Hamilton being the world champion that Formula 1 needs. He is a true global megastar.
There were also a few times in Barbados that some lovely folks came over to talk F1. I hadn’t realised it, but many Bajans get their F1 fix through NBCSN. It made me tremendously proud that their first words were ones of thanks to the entire crew for bringing them coverage of the sport they love.
And, with Lewis Hamilton probably off on a paddleboard with Roscoe and Coco, it reminded me once again how incredibly fortunate I am to call this sport, and my passion, a job. And how, from within the bubble of the paddock we can pour over the minutiae and pull the sport apart over what we think it should or shouldn’t be, but that outside the narrow confines and narrow mindsets of we, the “insiders,” the sport still resonates, it still excites. It stirs passion. It thrills. As it always has and always will.
So yeah, I’m gutted the holidays are over. But I cannot wait to get back to work. Because it’s the greatest job and the greatest sport in the world.