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Sunday January 6, 2008

Not so cool with words



By Mark Hughes  

Publisher: Icon Books 

ISBN: 978-184046937-0 



Publisher: HarperCollins  



THERE is no doubt about Lewis Hamilton’s racing ability and pedigree when he is behind the wheel of that powerful McLaren-Mercedes Formula One car. No one had expected him to make such a spectacular impact in his F1 debut season.  

Hamilton only lost the World Championship title in the last race by a single point. Maybe it was just not meant to be or it was just sheer bad luck, but he is definitely one to look out for in the future. His racing ability and love for the sport has raised comparisons of him with former world champions Aryton Senna and Michael Schumacher. 

These are not nonsensical suggestions, but he will have to prove it in the coming years in my humble opinion. So with time on his side, why does he have to come out with a ghostwritten autobiography – My Story – so quickly after the conclusion of his first season in F1?  

He might have achieved a lot in his karting days, but there is still the business of winning F1. This seems to me the same scenario as the glut of English footballers (Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard, to name a few) who came up with commissioned autobiographies just after England’s failure in the 2006 FIFA World Cup.  

Maybe the businessman in Hamilton (or in his father) is telling him to take advantage of the situation and make a whole load of money (like he doesn’t have enough).  

Fair enough if that’s the case, but the book is poorly written anyway. There is no proper sequence to the events and everything seems to be all over the place. He seems to jump from one subject to another. He tends to repeat himself and sometimes even contradicts himself. In one chapter, he says that his father is his biggest fan; in another chapter, his biggest fan is his stepbrother, Nicholas.  

The writing is uninspiring, with the word “cool” being overused all the time. Winning a race is cool. Meeting rap stars is cool. I really got fed up with this word. In one chapter, he says, “Kuala Lumpur is a really cool city. It is modern with a lot of interesting old districts, and the atmosphere, the food and the weather are all just great.” 

Well, Kuala Lumpur might be a cool city but what does old districts mean? It’s just that Hamilton doesn’t explain himself.  

I think it would be better if he left the writing to the professionals. To get a better understanding of Hamilton and his journey, then maybe it’s best if you invested in his biography Lewis Hamilton – The Full Story written by F1’s top journalist Mark Hughes (not the football manager). 

Although I don’t agree with the title, the book does put into perspective how Hamilton progressed from his karting days to the dizzying heights of his F1 days. The writing is clear and chronicles delightfully what Hamilton went through from Hughes’ expert observations, newspaper reports and media interviews.  

What I particularly liked was input from Hamilton’s friends, colleagues, teammates, rivals and engineers. It is through the anecdotal evidence and observations of these people on the ground, that you learn how talented and humble Hamilton really is. You will understand the tough business of racing and the ruthlessness required to survive, displayed by Anthony Hamilton, Lewis’s father. This can be seen especially in Anthony’s dealings with McLaren boss, Ron Dennis.  

When talking about Hamilton’s first F1 season, Hughes explains every incident in detail, from Hamilton’s first race in Australia, the controversial qualifying incident in Hungary to his rivalry with teammate, Fernando Alonso. With an amazing simplicity, Hughes puts into context each incident’s bearing on what could be said was the most exciting F1 season in a long time.  

This book would also excite the racing fan because it educates on the technicalities and terms of F1 that you have heard of but don’t understand. How pit-stop strategies and different tyres make a huge difference in finishing first and second. I even learnt what graining and fuel-burn is. This book is really hard to put down and I recommend it to everyone, even the hardcore supporters of Ferrari.  

If there were a downside, it would be that Hamilton’s input comes mainly from media reports.  

Which brings us to the official autobiography. It might not be such a good read but it could prove inspiring for that youngster who dreams of making it big like Hamilton. However, if you’re interested in knowing why Hamilton’s that good and way above the rest, accelerate towards The Full Story. 


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