Awestruck Hamilton ready to match the 'original gangster'

With each record he is set to match or break, Lewis Hamilton finds some new means of expressing pride.

Published: 03rd September 2016 07:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd September 2016 07:58 AM   |  A+A-


Juan Manuel Fangio. | AFP

With each record he is set to match or break, Lewis Hamilton finds some new means of expressing pride.

Juan Manuel Fangio, one of the most famous names in the history of motor racing, becomes the OG, the 'original gangster' to Hamilton, or simply the godfather to most Formula One fanatics.

Hamilton often struggles to fathom his place in the record books, but he was beaming at even being mentioned in the same sentence as Fangio, the legendary Argentine who won five championships in the 1950s. It was in these early days of Formula One that Fangio won three races at Monza in a row, and he remains the only person to manage such a feat.

Hamilton has triumphed here the last two years and is perfectly placed to join this club of one. It would be his 50th career win too, if the prospect of standing on the top step of the famous Monza podium was not already enough to whet the appetite.

"It is pretty frickin' crazy when you mention Fangio," he said last night ahead of the Italian Grand Prix. "Jeez, I really never thought I would be in a similar sentence to Fangio."

That mid-Atlantic twang may not be to everyone's taste but Hamilton's words were sincere. Although he spends his life trotting around the globe, Hamilton constantly reminds himself - and the world - of his humble beginnings in Stevenage.

The three-time champion said: "I have to pinch myself every day that I even have the job that I have, get to travel, do the great things that I get to see and experience, and then I arrive and drive and do what I love. I don't know how, but it just happens. I don't know why in the world things happen the way they do and I am just grateful for the

position I am in.

"What a privilege to be in the same sentence as Fangio. For me growing up, Ayrton Senna was the guy I wanted to be like, but Fangio is up there and is really the OG above him."

It would take someone far more au fait with this part of the urban dictionary to know what this makes Hamilton, arguably the greatest driver of this generation, like Fangio and Senna were of theirs, but it can be confidently said that the omens are mightily good for the 31-year-old tomorrow.

He climbed from 21st to third last Sunday in Spa, limiting the damage of a raft of engine penalties. Nico Rosberg had a straightforward weekend but still trails by nine points. Even with eight races to go, this one feels pivotal for Rosberg's chances. If anything, unless Hamilton has a shocking weekend and Rosberg summons some new speed, the spice has gone out of this championship narrative for now.

The paddock has instead been busily focusing its attention on the precocious talent of Max Verstappen, the teenager likely to be star of the post-Hamilton era. The 18-year-old's aggressive style has earned him a stinging rebuke from his fellow drivers, and what Red Bull described as a "gentle warning" from Charlie Whiting, the experienced race director. His tactics were again a subject for debate in the drivers' briefing at Monza last night.

Hamilton knows what it is like to have the rest of the sport try to put you in a box and believes F1 should let Verstappen get on with it.

"He is 18," Hamilton added. "Firstly, give the guy a break, he is 18 years old. What the frickin heck were any of us doing at 18? He has won a frickin' grand prix. The pressure on his young shoulders is something most people will not be able to comprehend.

"He is just young and he is learning. I don't know what I would have been like at 18 on track, but I would have made lots of mistakes. I would have been quick. I don't take any notice. I just see a young, talented kid who just seems to have an enormous amount of raw talent.

"At 18, the maturity hasn't caught up with your ability and that might go faster with some people or

slower. Only time will tell."

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