Hamilton stays hungry as he plays the fame game

March 19th, 2009 - 7:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Hamburg, March 19 (DPA) Lewis Hamilton is living the dream. At 24, the youngest champion in Formula One history has the sort of celebrity lifestyle which harks from a now distant era in Formula One.
A popstar girlfriend, millions in his bank account, a villa in Switzerland and - most recently - an MBE from the Queen have all been accrued with success on the track in just two seasons.

Not that Hamilton can be confused with the playboy racing drivers that were once a regular feature of the paddock.

His relationship with Nicole Scherzinger, lead singer of The Pussycat Dolls, is a long-term one, and he frankly admitted to being overawed at his Buckingham Palace meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.

Hamilton appears to enjoy the glitz and glamour which goes with being a highly photogenic and marketable champion, yet there are little signs of danger that fame could ever go to his head.

The grandson of Caribbean immigrants, Hamilton has risen from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of his sport by giving every impression of a man focused on just one thing - winning races.

That has ruffled one or two feathers in Formula One where rivalries and jealousies are rife, while the celebrity trappings and Swiss tax-exile lifestyle have perhaps not brought him the adoration outside the paddock his abilities deserve.

Although by nature polite and good-humoured, Hamilton’s obvious self-belief and a smooth persona have opened him to occasional accusations of being too smart for his own good.

In his first year, team-mate Fernando Alonso was perhaps the first to realise the young rookie alongside him was about to become his major rival for the F1 crown already won twice by the Spaniard.

Last season, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen also saw first-hand that Hamilton lacks for nothing in self-assurance and audacity when he was brilliantly overtaken in Spa - only for the British driver to be stripped of victory after race stewards ruled he cut a chicane.

Ever since he approached McLaren boss Ron Dennis as a 10-year-old, Hamilton has been single-mindedly set on racing at the very top.

Although his career has been nurtured by the team, Hamilton is by no means a manufactured product. After considerable success in junior series and a GP2 title victory in 2006, he enjoyed a sensational F1 debut season in 2007, missing out on the title by one point.

Hamilton paid the price for lack of experience that year but proved he was a quick learner by taking a more tactical approach on the circuit in 2008 to earn a title victory in the last race.

Now that he has already amply demonstrated that he can put the distractions aside and also cope with massive pressure, what remains?

First of all to prove to himself that he can do it all over again. The commitment and hunger is as strong as ever.

“To be honest, I don’t really think of myself as world champion yet - I think that will finally sink in when I get to Melbourne for the first race - so I don’t put any extra pressure on myself to live up to that,” he said in a recent interview with formulaone.com.

The thrilling climax to last season when Hamilton clinched the title by one point over Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, thanks to a nerve-wracking fifth place clinched on the final lap in Sao Paulo, is now history as far as Hamilton is concerned.

“I’m not approaching this year as champion. I want to go in with a similar approach to the start of last year. I want to have more wins, fewer mistakes and I want to blow people away,” he said.

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