Formula 1 season kicks off: Kurt Molzer writes a letter to Lewis Hamilton
I am quite sure: It was the worst winter of your life. And believe me, I thought of you very often. I wondered what you were doing at the moment. Do you let your English bulldog »Roscoe« lick your cheeks for comfort? Are you boxing and imagining that the punching bag is the face of race director Michael Masi? Or rather that of Nicolas Latifi? The driver whose crash in the season finale in Abu Dhabi triggered the safety car and led to the unprecedented chaos on the last lap, caused by Masi, that robbed you of the eighth F1 world championship title that seemed so secure.
Sir Lewis (since you have been knighted, with good reason) - as everyone knows: Under normal circumstances, no one could have taken the victory from you in Abu Dhabi. You humiliated your opponents once again with your insane basic speed and your phenomenal racing intelligence. There was no way you weren’t going to win - even if everyone had gathered behind you like a pack of hyenas to tear you apart together: no chance! At my place the champagne was already on ice. But then the flying Dutchman finished you off with his fresh tires in the very last stint!
Does one have words for that? Of course, this young full-throttle beast from the land of RV drivers is a worthy world champion, there's no doubt about that, you said it yourself, but the circumstances that led to it, well…
After the chequered flag fell, you stayed in the car for a long time and left your helmet on - because you didn't want to believe it. I couldn't believe it either. Just a few minutes before, I saw you blissfully at the top of the eternal leaderboard with eight championships to your name. After all, you have more victories, more poles, more podium finishes, more leading kilometers and whatnot than Michael Schumacher. But not more world championship titles than the German, and that's what it's all about, isn't it? I was so upset after the race that I wanted to smash the TV with the champagne bottle. But I didn't, because it was a 2010 Dom Perignon for 538 euros. I am not as loaded as you, my dear Lewis, and the TV wasn't free either.
Do you know why I'm so crazy about you? Because you're the racing driver I've been waiting for for decades. In the mid-1980s, Bernie Ecclestone said: »Formula One is missing a black man and a woman.« As Brabham's team boss, he backed up his words with action in 1986. He invited African-American William Theodore Ribbs to Estoril for test drives. In 1987, he wanted to hire him. But the Italian sponsors insisted on Italian drivers, and Ribbs ultimately gave in. After all, he was the first black man on the Indy 500 grid in 1991. Ecclestone would have liked to try it with a woman, but he always said that it was physically impossible, that a woman could not muster the strength needed to control an F1 racing car. Oh, what am I rambling on about here, you know all that anyway.
Yes, I couldn't wait to see a black man in F1! Just like I couldn't wait to see an african american in the White House. And even as a kid, I always stood by the black people in Tarzan. If they tied the whites to their stakes and tortured them, that was just fine with me, because the whites were shooting guns at the poor antelope and lions and elephants and warthogs. And eventually, dear Lewis, you finally showed up - and how you did! You made it clear to the palefaces that from now on someone else plays first fiddle in the highest league of racing! Sensational! I have loved you from the very beginning. And I still love you very much. When I think of Copse Corner alone, Silverstone, last year. How you crashed into Verstappen on the inside in that 290 km/h right-hand bend - AY CARAMBA! Max took a nasty hit, you got a ten-second penalty, and you also got a good scolding, especially from Helmut Marko, Red Bull's head of motorsport. Marko, I have to say, is always nagging at you, he gets on my nerves, he always has to look for the fly in the ointment - he sees unfair tricks from you everywhere! After all he can't see that much, because he only has one eye. The left one was sadly lost by a stone kicked up by Emerson Fittipaldi's Lotus at the French Grand Prix in Clermont-Ferrand in 1972. Copse Corner, that is: Towards the end of the race, you did the exact same maneuver there again against Leclerc and took the win - DAMN BOY! I get it: Someone had to give way at Copse Corner.
Leclerc didn't complain with a single syllable. Unlike Max, he even claimed that, you were a fair opponent. By the way, I see it the same way. And I want to tell you something:
If Max had been in your position, he would have dived in just as hard.
Let's not fool ourselves there!
Dear Lewis, only now, towards the end, I am getting to the actual reason for my letter. It is unpleasant for me, and I have struggled for a long time to find the right words. Listen, I can imagine that you probably cannot yet imagine a life without racing - even though you will be 40 in three years. After the shock of Abu Dhabi, you must have thought differently for a while, but in the end you decided to carry on. Please don't think I'm presumptuous: But I don't know if it was the right decision. I'll also tell you the reason, and I'd have to be very wrong if you didn't suspect it: yes, that's right, George Russell, your new teammate!
I think your young compatriot is a talent of the century. Look what he was able to do in the Williams!
And remember Bahrain 2020: You had COVID-19. Russell took over your car as a substitute driver and didn't win the GP only because they put the wrong tires on him in the pits. Malicious tongues claim that you paid everyone in the pit crew a lot of money to make the stop go wrong. The giant Russell didn't even have enough room in the Mercedes. There was no time to redesign the cockpit to fit his dimensions. Which is why his performance can only be rated even higher. He made his teammate Valtteri Bottas look like a complete fool.
Lewis, to put it in a nutshell: I don't think you'll be able to hold your own against this gifted young hotshot at the age of 37. And I also think you're already having bad dreams: Russell with a sledgehammer in his hands. He stands in front of your bronze monument in your English birthplace of Stevenage and announces in a dark booming voice: »I came to destroy this!« Please rest assured, my hero: Never have I wished so deeply that I might be wrong.