The Inside Line #102: In a rich man’s world

TILI Logo PrintSo it finally happened. Lewis Hamilton’s contract extension – was he ever really going anywhere else? – has had the British F1 press in a tizz for most of 2015; almost as soon as his three-year deal with Mercedes was announced last Wednesday, some elements of the redtop pack were already speculating IN FULL CAPS that he’ll be free to go to Ferrari – when he’s 34 – in 2018. That’s a story for another day, but in sensibly making the only decision that was worth making, Hamilton has put himself in the box seat to run roughshod over the rest of the field for the next few years. The biggest obstacle to that happening? Probably Hamilton himself. And that looks increasingly unlikely, even after Mercedes’ tactical howler that cost Hamilton the Monaco Grand Prix last Sunday.

Should Formula One’s rules stay as they are for the foreseeable future – at least next year – can anyone lay a glove on Hamilton and stop him making it four world titles? Mercedes clearly has the best car – it’s hard to see Sebastian Vettel’s win in Malaysia as anything other than a one-off, a car using its tyres better in Kuala Lumpur’s crazy heat and a driver who rarely drops the ball when given half a chance – and Hamilton looks to have Nico Rosberg’s measure after a large percentage of last season was so close. Hamilton’s uncharacteristically big-picture response in Monaco last Sunday was in line with the strange calmness to his demeanour this season, a demeanour that we haven’t before seen; perhaps turning 30 and having the weight of that long-overdue second title off his shoulders has seen him relax and become the driver he always threatened to be, off-track distractions that have derailed previous seasons be damned. Could he have four titles by the end of 2016? To answer one question with another, who or what stops him?

That’s for the future; what of Formula One’s past? It escaped most people two weeks ago that Formula One celebrated the 65th anniversary of its maiden world championship race at Silverstone on May 13 in 1950; the reason few people realised is that Formula One must be the only sport in the world where marketing and promotion remain dirty words, the controlling parties (a) being arrogant enough to think Formula One needs no promotion in an ever-crowded sporting calendar consumed by a time-poor populace (it does), and (b) being stuck in the dark ages when it comes to actually tapping into a market that might not wear Rolexes or be south of 65 years old. Can you imagine the date of the first Test cricket match, the first World Cup football final, the date of the first Olympic Games et al being completely ignored by those now in charge? No, me neither. There’s been so much talk about the future of Formula One in the past fortnight (with, amusingly, a lot of the ideas reverting to things F1 once did and had discarded), that it’s little wonder that the past is shunned. You can’t make any more money out of what has already happened, after all.

Speaking of money … the race around the world’s most picturesque tax haven took centre-stage last weekend, and a review of round six of the season on the Monte Carlo streets features on Episode 102 of The Inside Line this week; check your inexpensive timepiece and your program guides for when to watch in whatever tax-paying location you reside.

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