Why Hamilton’s superb drive left a sickening taste in the mouth


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Lewis Hamilton produced one of the most extraordinary drives of the Formula One season so far when he claimed victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

It was boys' own stuff. Qualifying had been a disaster: he decided to cut short his final qualifying lap, and ended up sixth on the grid. Team-mate Nico Rosberg grabbed pole, and the German seemed certain to extend his 29-point lead in the standings.

Hamilton had other ideas, however, cutting through the field, riding his luck to avoid the collisions which marred the race, and eventually dragging himself up to second before Rosberg's imploding gearbox put him on course for a victory.

It was a brilliant piece of driving by a brilliantly fast driver. And then he went and spoiled it all - because my god, that boy has got some cheek.

Why? Because no sooner had he claimed his memorable win than he started playing the patriotism card.

"En-ger-land!" he chanted on the radio, before appearing on the podium trying to milk the home crowd by wearing a Union Jack hat.

The fans lapped it up, chanting "Lewis! Lewis!" back at the finest homegrown talent for a generation.

But then of course they did: this is a Britain which has seen a summer in which every single sporting hope of the year has been dashed.

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Andy Murray went out of Wimbledon in the quarter-finals, the English football team went out of the World Cup at the group stage, the cricket team was whitewashed in the Ashes, the rugby team lost all their matches against the All Blacks, Mark Cavendish crashed out of the Tour de France on the first stage…. Even Rory McIlroy broke up with Caroline Wozniacki, for goodness sakes.

Good news for British sports fans has been non-existent for months on end, and all those golden memories of 2012 seem a loooong long way away.

But will we accept Lewis Hamilton as the man to give Britain something to cheer about? We will not. And that's because he turned his back on Britain years ago.

At the end of his very first season in F1, with a glittering career stretching out ahead of him, Hamilton decided to up stick and move to Switzerland. Not because he loves Toblerone, or trains that run in perfect synchronisation with the nation's exquisite timepieces, but because it's a tax haven.

He didn't stay in Britain for a year or two, even; it was right at the end of that 2007 season, one of the finest debut years ever seen in the sport, he knew he was quids in - and he didn't want anybody other than his nearest and dearest to share the spoils.

Now, don't get Motorhead wrong: everything Hamilton has done has been well within the tax laws. There is nothing wrong with it on any level. Nothing shady or shonky or sneaky. Hundreds of wealthy people do it every year - and we can even understand why. It's easy to empathise with those who spend much of their lives travelling on business, placing no burden on the state, finding it galling to pay tax to a country where they are only nominally based.

But we're talking about a young man who knew he had a winning lottery ticket - knew, without doubt, that he was guaranteed a long career at the top of one of the most lucrative sports in the world.

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That isn't a situation which means you need to protect your income - Hamilton was never going to collect a grand total of £2 million, say, and have to live carefully off it for the rest of the days as a Championship footballer might. We're talking about a man certain of earning tens of millions of pounds every year, for at least a decade.

Hundreds of millions of pounds in total, in fact.

More money than anyone could ever spend in their entire life. Far more.

Motorhead doesn't begrudge that cash to Hamilton. People at the top of any given profession get paid vast amounts of money.

And on top of that, there are a lot of people even richer doing far worse things to cut their tax bills. Take high street tycoon Philip Green, for example: the BHS and TopShop CEO should be worth billions, but he has almost everything in his Monaco-resident wife's name, while the UK-resident Green himself is paid only a very modest salary. The family save millions in tax that way.

Hamilton is no worse than that. It's unrealistic to expect every multi-millionaire to take a leaf out of Harry Potter writer JK Rowling's book, vowing to stay in the UK because she was happy to give something back to the state which helped her out while she was a struggling single mum.

We're not asking him to be a saint. But what Motorhead cannot, and will not tolerate is Hamilton acting like the returning hero as he pretends to skydive into Silverstone with a Union Jack parachute, then flying the flag and chanting all weekend as if he had the St George's Cross tattooed on his heart and happily did his bit to help out a nation that, right from the start of his career, has been on its knees financially.

So Lewis, we'll salute you for your brilliant driving. And even wish you luck in the title race.

But as for all those Union Jacks? Next time, leave them at home. By which we mean your mansion in Lake Geneva - not the house where you grew up in Stevenage.

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