The title deciding week started out in Dallas in the sunshine. Believe it or not there was some sun around in Texas last week, we just used it all up in one day.
Johnny Herbert and I decided that for once, we would do the tourist thing and have a look around, rather than flying in, going to the track and flying straight back out again. Sometimes in life you have to take it all in, remember how lucky you are to be doing what you do and appreciate life.
So that’s how we ended up on the ‘Grassy Knoll’ and on a trolley bus with a man called Mike giving us a legendary education of just what happened on November 22nd 1963. Mike knew a lot and, as it transpired, was a bit of a motor racing aficionado, as were a couple of F1 fans who got the shock of their lives to see JH on the bus with them!
Wednesday, and it was time to head down to Austin on the back roads. Time to appreciate life again and with Infiniti lending us the biggest car I’ve ever seen, we climbed into the QX80 and set off.
A few hours later we stumbled across the Hamilton county line, not literally, we just didn’t know it was there.
Surely it was fate that we just happened to be in Hamilton, a place where they were bound to be as excited as little puppies about the forthcoming Grand Prix.
Sadly not. It seems that Texas still has a bit of a PR job on its hands when it comes to F1 and that there are places in the USA where the reigning champion is still something of an unknown.
But we did go to Billy the Kid’s grave, right across the street from lunch surprisingly. We did visit ‘Ding Dong’ (real place but bit quiet). We did float down the river as I tried my hands at Paddle Boarding with Alex Rossi and, it has to be said, we did enjoy some brilliant Texan hospitality wherever we went. Big thumbs up to the Buffalo Butt Beer, now there’s a brew!!
Did it feel like a title deciding week? Probably not, to be honest. Of course we were aware that Lewis could win a 3rd title on Sunday, but the week lacked the tension and anticipation of some of the classic finales we’ve witnessed over the years. Hardly a surprise with four races to go and, as Lewis talked on Thursday, it seemed he too was playing down the situation.
And then it rained. And rained. And rained. And quite frankly it didn’t stop. From Thursday, right the way though to post qualifying on Sunday, Austin and Texas were covered in a blanket of cloud. I took this photo in the paddock on Saturday afternoon. If you thought that the cars could possibly have gone out onto the track, then think again. I’ve seen it wet at Silverstone and I know you’ve all experienced the wet at Silverstone, but this was something else.
So qualifying was settled on Sunday morning and only then, as I went to the commentary box for the second time that day, did it really feel like this could be the title decider. It felt like after all the bad weather and frustration of Friday and Saturday that what we all really deserved was a brilliant race to make life better.
Which is what we got, F1 at its very best. The lead changing hands, crashes, over takes, and uncertainty from start to finish. Brilliant drives, Verstappen, Button and Sainz in particular should be very pleased with their efforts. And controversy as Lewis edged Nico out rather aggressively at Turn 1. Paddy Lowe at Mercedes said it was rather a hard move to pull out on a team mate, Alex Wurz told me that whilst it was on the limit, Nico left himself open to it by going to the outside. Some say fair, others cry foul, clearly at the end Nico hadn’t forgotten nor forgiven. But it wasn’t what settled matters in the end.
What settled matters was that the man who had taken 11 poles and with now three races to go, chalked up 10 wins, was the first to the chequered flag. The man who has dominated this season was on top once again and although he’d struggled for large parts of the race, when handed the lead as Nico made a mistake, was on hand to take advantage.
For the last 5 laps or so it felt like the title decider. Even as Seb closed in on a second place that he needed but couldn’t reach, it felt like Lewis wasn’t going to let the lead slip again.
A crazy, exceptional race and, for the man raised in a council house in a Hertfordshire town, the crazy notion that he’d now emulated his great hero. I’m not comparing Lewis to Ayrton Senna, neither, it has to be said, is the man himself. But the fact remains that he now has the same number of titles as the driver he’d idolised as a boy, and that for me is a moment to stand back, take a moment and appreciate life.
Now, as he stood with his team, drinking in the moment – and possibly a gallon of champagne sprayed by his crew – was what we all want life to be about. Success, reward for the hard graft and utter jubilation. It only comes to a lucky few – Hamilton is only the 10th driver in the history of the sport to win 3 or more titles – but you never begrudge anyone moments like this.
We may have been missing the pre-race tension, but for 56 laps we got the full drama and for Lewis Hamilton, well he got the title he always cherished. Maybe as a result, if he ever pays a trip to Hamilton, the boys we met might nod a “well done” and buy him a Buffalo Butt to celebrate.
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