The Lewis Hamilton camp was obviously the most disappointed at the chequered flag of Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix; the championship-deciding final race of the tumultuous 2007 season in Formula One.
The odds-on favourite British rookie, who only needed to finish fifth under the smog-filled skies just outside of Sao Paulo, stumped back to McLaren’s ramshackle circuit building after crossing the line a lap down and seventh — a miracle for some pre-race punters who got an unlikely 20-1 at the bookmakers for a Kimi Raikkonen title triumph.
But above the astounded pit lane celebrations of the Finn’s Ferrari crew, and the blank-faced McLaren boss Ron Dennis who spoke in shock to reporters, British journalists in a hot and squeezy media box expressed the most intense emotion of the day — frustration compounded by panic.
They had spent not only the past four days planning 22-year-old Hamilton’s coronation in print, but several weeks — he would have easily wrapped it up at a stroll at the previous race in China if he hadn’t beached his silver racer in the only gravel trap for a pit lane entry anywhere on the entire F1 calendar.
In Brazil just hours ago, Hamilton’s nervous driving errors played out on the first lap, as he tumbled down the grid despite knowing he only needed to protect a respectively four and seven point advantage over his fellow contenders Alonso and Raikkonen.
The remaining wads of pre-packaged British journalistic congratulations smashed into the media box bin when his gearbox temporarily cut out a few laps later. To paraphrase their famous compatriot, they were not amused.
“Hamilton blows drivers’ championship in Brazil”, the Daily Mail mourned, not 24 hours after miserably reporting that England had lost the Rugby World Cup to South Africa.
“Hamilton dream crushed”, London’s Evening Standard added.
“Dream over as Raikkonen lands title”, said The Guardian.
Sympathy, though, is not an abundant commodity in the ego-fueled Formula One paddock, especially when a no-nonsense, near-mute introvert such as the Raikkonen finally joins the ranks of racing immortals like Senna or Schumacher at his seventh attempt.
Some members of the F1 establishment had recoiled at the concept of a rookie-like Hamilton, the first ever black driver, winning a championship barely after shedding his junior racing training wheels. With unusual venom, for example, he was attacked on Saturday by a veteran of the French newspaper L’Equipe for holding up Raikkonen on a qualifying lap. “Are you a sportsman?”, the reporter thundered.
They — mostly greying European men in their late 50s — were suspicious of his apparently boyish innocence, wound up by his increasingly aggressive driving tactics, and dismissive of his meteoric rise to glory as the unprecedented product of mere million-dollar mentoring.
Others will remember Hamilton’s meteoric first season as a win after all — a rookie who outstandingly served his time. The last two races have taught him that achieving excellence at the pinnacle of any field is also about understanding your weaknesses and coming back stronger.
“One thing’s for sure — Lewis Hamilton is here to stay,” his father Anthony said definitively on Sunday.