I became a Formula 1 fanatic after the first GP I went to, the 1966 British GP in 1966. I went with my father. He liked motor racing in general, but wandering around the Paddock, seeing the drivers I had only read about, actually talking with a couple it was a whole different level of enjoyment.
My father chatted to John Cooper, who was less than complimentary about the Maserati engine grafted, but only just, onto the back of his light chassis. I heard Rindt discussing matters with someone I presumed was his engineer. I saw Jim Clark leave his Lotus on the foot of a photographer who would not get out of the way.
There was noise, there was bustle, there was even a mock fire for the filming of Grand Prix. And then there was the racing. Cars going around Brands Hatch at speeds that were awesome in those days, as fast as they are now in all but outright speed, acceleration and braking.
Drivers would drift their cars through Clearways, a little opposite lock often being required. Flimsy cars, with high octane fuel around the cockpit, would battle wheel to wheel, how close they were to spinning off being apparent by the number of times they span off.
I’ve followed it closely since then, not missing one televised race unless I was there, right up until Senna and Ratzenburger died at the same event. Things changed a bit then for me. It lost a bit of its sparkle. But I still followed it, even up to last Sunday, for the final race of the 2016 season.
The forums were full of criticism of Hamilton for his, what they labelled, unsportsmanlike driving. It seems odd as not so long ago a British driver would have been supported against a German regardless of what he did. But Hamilton seems to have generated a faction that takes great pleasure in criticising him for his every action, both on and off the track.
Many referred to the ‘old days’ when drivers were courteous to one another and treated their competition with respect on the track. I wonder where I was when those races were taking place. I was certainly not at the circuits or watching the GP on the TV.
From what I saw of the Abu Dhabi race, it was business as usual, apart from Wolff and Paddy trying to stop their man, the one they pay an incredible amount of money to race a car for them, to race. What did they expect?
Hamilton is a racer, one of the best three on the grid, and in many people’s eyes, the best. If anything he drove with consideration for Rosberg, and certainly more restrained that many drivers would have in the ‘old days’.
I am bemused. It was racing. A race seems the best place for it.
The one who should be criticised is Vettel. He had the speed to overtake Rosberg, or at least try, but chose not to. It is the only explanation I can see for his lap times. We had a racer choosing not to race. But there are few mentions of that on the forums.
It was a motor race. Hamilton was racing for the World Drivers’ Championship. He did his best to win. He drove fairly, cleanly and ultimately failed to deliver, despite all but handing second place to Vettel.
It’s not so long ago that some WDCs would have been much firmer in their methods to ensure a victory.