Damon Hill — the last Brit to win Formula 1 championship. That was in 1996. OMG you had to be watching F1, because it was heart in your mouth stuff. Lewis Hamilton becomes the world Champion and the youngest ever. That was my blog from Sunday November 2nd 2008.
The last lap was awesome. Winning and losing the title with 18 seconds to spare. I have a few mates who will recall the fortunes of the last Brit winner, Damon Hill.
For my own little story in 1999 working at Channel 4 News, Super Car tester Kevin Haggarthy [ here we’re testing the Ferrari 599 GTB] wanted to introduce me to a young boy and his dad- a daring go kart racer.
I shopped the idea around to commissioners as much as I could about the boy racer, but no TV exec would listen. That young lad was Lewis Hamilton. Ah well some you win, some you lose.
This week the British Grand Prix racetrack Silverstone named its Pit straight the Hamilton Straight in honour of the seven-time Formula One world champion. Lewis Hamilton was visibly shocked when told and said he is “very humbled”.
Other F1 events that rate up there, if you’r an F1 fan include:
- 1986 Nigel Mansell’s tyre burst in Adelaide.
- Schumacer’s shunt on Damon Hill
- Mika Hakkinen’s tears at Imola in 1999.
Two years later, I couldn’t make the same mistake. Team Lennox Lewis asked if I’d join their camp for Lennox’ fight with Tyson. I was the only journalist let into the circle to witness and document the build up and fight up close and personal.
In a week when Anthony Joshua floored Kubrat Pulev to unify the heavyweight titles with a big box office draw against Tyson Fury, memories of my time with the Lennox camp came flooding back.
Soon after joining the camp, one afternoon in the hotel, having just completed a morning shoot, ringside, I dared uttered the statement: “If Lennox Lewis wins…..”.
Kofi, one of Lenox’s right hand men, literally flew of his chair in mild rage
“What do you mean, ‘if’, says Kofi, “David, there are no ifs here. You disappoint me”.
He had reason to. Many outfits and journalists had requested to be part of the inner sanctum of one of the most anticipated fights in contemporary boxing history: Lennox Lewis vs Mike Tyson, and I had ring side seats.
And now I was about to blow it.
Over the days watching Lennox train though something happened, I found myself in conversation with a journalist and to my own amazement was chastising him for very comments I had made earlier.
I had turned. No longer an objective bystander, I was now a believer. It was extraordinary. The evangelical belief inside Lewis’ camp had an intoxicating affect and I was drunk.
I learnt a few things from the experience. Before the big fight Lennox takes a cat nap. He is a figure of serenity. And then with minutes to spare he walks through his tactic: jab, jab, punch. The biggest stage was set for an explosive fight, but in many ways the fight had already been won in the head of Lewis’ camp. The mind conquers all.
I know that might not mean much by today’s standards but at the time, and I’ll talk about this is my next post it was awesome. Truly magnificent! Lewis Hamilton OBE and Anthony Joshua OBE next!