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Formula One: Hamilton back on track with his father and ready to face Button in British Grand Prix


Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton

“If Lewis does make it into Formula One next year, I really don't expect to be going to many races,” Anthony Hamilton said back in Hungary during one of those lazy conversations you tend to have now and then over a coffee in the paddock. “And I'm not sure it would be right for me to continue as his manager.”

Back then Hamilton, still only 21-years-old, was fighting for the GP2 Championship.

McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh had made it very clear that to stand any chance of being considered for the F1 team in 2007, he had to win the GP2 title that season, so the pressure was on.

But it was early August, and the Hamiltons were a week or so away from the news they were desperate to hear, that the team really were going to give Lewis the big break.

Strangely, given what was to come, nobody, even in the F1 paddock, really knew much about Lewis Hamilton, let alone Anthony.

The maelstrom that would sweep them both to international prominence — the son doing his great things on the track as the father stood nervously in the pits willing him on — had yet to gather the momentum that would be such a feature of the rookie year in 2007. And 2008 when the 23-year-old became champion of the world.

Of course, Anthony changed his mind about attending races. It was the races he missed that were remarkable for his absence.

And then came March 2010, and the news that Anthony Hamilton would no longer be managing his son's career, nor coming to races.

At the time, Hamilton Jnr said: “A long time ago my father and I discussed this, that he would always be my dad but that at some point it would no longer be right for him to be my manager. We just never knew when that would happen.”

Anthony had been there since Lewis started karting at the age of eight.

“He's always been there for me,” Hamilton said. “Other managers do it for money or other things, but dad did it for love and all the right reasons. There is no sense that we've outgrown each other. He is building his sports management business, he is very focused on GP Preparation, his new venture. And he is looking after young Nick de Fries, an extremely talented karter who could be the next to follow in my wheeltracks. Our goal was to get to F1, and he's done his job.”

Back in March, he added: “Anthony has always done things for me for the right reasons, to protect and to guide. I still have that support from him as my dad now, rather than as my manager.”

It sounded convincing, but behind the scenes there were stories of a dramatic falling out over Lewis's relationship with singer Nicole Sherzinger. Hamilton Jnr remained tight-lipped, beyond reconfirming later in the season that he would look for new management.

This weekend, Anthony Hamilton is his son's guest. Yesterday morning he and his wife Linda, Hamilton's stepmother, visited the grandly titled McLaren Brand Centre for the first time this season, bringing Anthony into contact with John Button at a race for the first time since their offspring became team-mates.

Ironically, it was Button Jnr who won that race in Hungary when Anthony was suggesting abstinence from race attendance.

Rather like the impending duel between Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher in 1994 much was expected, before the Hamiltons' split, of the manner in which each of the fathers handle the other.

There could be no greater contrast between the two. Anthony, 50 now, is tightly wound, ambitious, the man who worked two jobs to keep his boy karting before his suggestion that Lewis introduce himself to McLaren chief Ron Dennis as the Autosport Awards in 1995 led, indirectly, to the sponsorship and mentorship from the race team that would eventually take him all the way down the yellow brick road.

John Button, meanwhile, past 60, is a jack-the-lad, salt-of-the-earth fellow.

The parents' bond, however, is knowing how it feels like to spend your last dollar just to keep your son racing.

In the end, though, the psychological battle, Anthony versus John, like Senna versus Schumacher, was something that the F1 world would be denied. And undoubtedly that has helped Lewis and Jenson to maintain their cordial partnership.

Belfast Telegraph