(This is a work of fiction and an attempt to write from Lewis Hamilton’s perspective. None of this has been said or reported by Hamilton himself.)
“It all happened so fast”
You know that line is the old cliché people use when they describe a wild and surreal experience, right? Well, wild and surreal was really what happened with me at Imola. It all happened so fast.
One second, I am trying to get back into the front. The next thing I know, I have spun out of control and crashed nose-first into the barrier.
I didn’t know what to think. On one hand, I was frustrated, because it was only the second race of the season, and I was already staring at a massive gap between myself and Max. On the other hand, I was dejected. If this had been the first mistake I had made in the race, it was still not as big a setback as this one was.
But, it wasn’t the first mistake I had made in the race. A few laps earlier, Max and I were battling for P1. I don’t know what happened or how it happened, but to use the overused cliché again, it all happened so fast. At a corner, I had a momentary lapse in concentration, and Max raced ahead of me. It was a massive blunder on my end, and it resulted in me damaging my car’s wing. It only got worse from there.
Minutes later, I was having a staring contest with the barrier I had crashed into. While I was going off-track, my mind was on autopilot. After the crash, when I saw the other drivers cruising past me, all I could think of was the massive points gap staring me in the face. It was literally dancing in front of me, a cruel mistress, taunting me with Title Number 8.
I had half a mind to just turn the car off and get it over with. I felt absolutely angry, upset, gutted, every negative emotion you can think of. It had been some very frustrating laps, and I really felt like calling it a day. The team on radio was divided. I learned that the damaged wing and it had been costing me precious five, six tenths of a second every lap.
The logical thing to do would have been to stop racing. With my disadvantage in pace, it would be an uphill battle to even get out of my current position, let alone fighting for a podium.
But I don’t know what happened. Perhaps it was a moment of hope, or perhaps it was divine intervention. Again, it all happened so fast. That’s the last time, promise.
Suddenly, I refused to believe the race was done. I refused to believe a damaged wing and a crash could stop me from crossing the chequered flag. I had fought more unbelievable odds before. I was the driver who finished P1 with three tyres.
I was the driver who as recently as last race in Bahrain fended off Max and his late DRS to keep P1. The way I saw it, it was better to take some points with me as damage control than accept a DNF.
And so, that’s what I did. I regrouped and started the process of getting the car back on track. Even though it may have looked simple on TV, it took what felt like years to pick up from where I left off.
I had only been back a few laps when the race was red-flagged because of Valtteri and George‘s crash. I was relieved to see they were okay. It was yet another reminder that although F1 is competition, we race with our lives on the line.
The red flag resulted in all of us heading back to the dugouts. Everybody was speaking – team engineers, technicians, Toto, everyone. In that noise, I could hear nothing. In that noise, all I was doing was gathering the resolve to fight for a better standing.
Thankfully, I had some luck come my way, with the red flag meaning I restarted the race in the lead lap. It was an opportunity I had been handed out of nowhere, and I was determined to take full advantage of it, my pace, and my now-repaired car. That’s the thing with life, isn’t it? Fortune knocks when you least expect it.
A series of fiery laps, blistering pace and clutch overtakes later, I was celebrating an unbelievable P2, a fastest lap, and a still-alive bid for #8. I hope you will believe me when I say I don’t remember the details. It all happened so fast.