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Hamilton remains the main man

STAR OF THE F1 SHOW: Lewis Hamilton

LEWIS HAMILTON has come in for heavy criticism this season but most observers have been stalwart in their assertion that the Briton is Formula One’s main attraction.

As the Formula One season embarks on a mid-season hiatus year break, the 2008 champion cannot claim the fastest car, nor is he universally popular, but the man with a Hollywood cameo under his belt and a pop star fiancée is the driver most onlookers would pay to watch.

This point was underlined at the recent German Grand Prix when Hamilton blended controlled aggression and a measure of prudence to claim one of his most authoritative, exciting victories.

The McLaren driver lost the lead on two occasions but regained it without recourse to rivals’ pit stops.

The exhilarating manner in which Hamilton went head to head with Mark Webber, pushing the Australian wide in a bold manoeuvre, demonstrated racing at its finest.

He then almost immediately overtook Fernando Alonso on the outside at turn two. It was vindication for the McLaren man and confirmed what most knew.

Although Hamilton was unable to replicate his Nurburgring performance at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, where a fourth-place finish put paid to his lingering title hopes, it is a far-cry from the debacles of Canada and Monaco where he collided with opponents and made some ill-advised comments, which he later apologised for.

A high-profile visit to Red Bull team manager Christian Horner fanned the media storm surrounding the Stevenage racer’s future as he and his hapless McLaren team appeared powerless to prevent Sebastian Vettel’s defence of his world championship.

Yet the subsequent indignity of witnessing a war of words between Hamilton and three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who claimed that the Briton’s driving would kill someone, faded when the 26-year-old reminded the world of his racing talent at Nurburgring.

Prior to June’s Spanish Grand Prix former driver Jonathan Palmer lauded this aspect of Hamilton’s armoury. “Lewis has done both the media and the public alike a huge favour. He is the sport’s top entertainer,” he said.

This was reflected in Hamilton’s entry to Simon Fuller’s XIX Entertainment stable last summer alongside fellow superstars David Beckham and Andy Murray.

CAT THAT'S GOT THE CREAM: Hamilton with partner Nicole are a high profile couple

Fuller replaced Lewis’ father Anthony as the racer’s manager, which led Hamilton to claim that Fuller his “someone who can progress who I am.”

Under Fuller’s guidance the McLaren driver is likely to boost his net wealth – listed as £50m in the Sunday Times Sports Rich List earlier this year –through revenue streams beyond the track.

Hamilton already enjoys lucrative sponsorship deals, including a contract with Reebok, who claimed the racer as one of their “global brand ambassadors” in 2008.

“Lewis appeals to both sexes, just like Beckham. Also he appeals to all races, partly because of his background – like Tiger Woods – and partly because he is articulate and good-looking,” said John Taylor, chairman of marketing company Sports Impact.

However, unlike the 14-time major winner, Hamilton is eyeing domestic bliss with former Pussycat Doll and American X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger. The couple announced their engagement last month after a four-year courtship.

Hamilton also made his Hollywood debut with a cameo in the animated Disney and Pixar hit Cars 2 and has been mentioned in relation to the role of British spy James Bond.

“I could do movies after I finish racing I suppose. I’d love to be the first black James Bond,” he told the Sun, whilst confirming that Miss Scherzinger would relish being a Bond girl.

All irrelevant to his racing perhaps, but an indication nonetheless that Hamilton’s profile exceeds his driving peers.

And when he matches it with glistening on-track deeds the Brit is untouchable.

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