Scrum down with Lewis Hamilton
06.11.07 | Graeme Neill
A good media scrum is one of the most fun things you can do as a journalist. You get to yell out questions, you're manhandled by security and other photographers as you jostle for position and you're blinded by flashbulbs. It's tremendous. Unfortunately, media scrums are a rarity in the usually well behaved world of publishing. But not on Monday.
This was because the man whose name is usually preceded by "Formula One sensation", Lewis Hamilton, was in town to promote his highly anticipated new autobiography through HarperCollins. The world's press and a bunch of fans congregated outside the Trafalgar Hotel in anticipation of Lewis' appearance.
The calm before the storm saw F1 fans anxiously grasping their copies of his autobiography, released earlier that day. They chatted with one eye on the hotel door. And then at once, chaos. Hamilton stepped out to a cacophony of shouting from photographers, flashes popping and fans shoving his book in front of him for that crucial autograph. He looked slightly bemused by the attention but did what the photographers asked of him.
The basement of the hotel hosted a round table of F1 journalists and daily and weekly hacks. Hamilton's softly spoken voice meant reporters were craning forward to hear his words. However, this quietness did not hide a confidence and, sorry for the woeful pun, driven personality.
Despite referring to himself in the third person, Hamilton lacked the mindnumbing cliches that most sportsmen, usually footballers, spout. There was a seemingly endless conversation on tyre types but Hamilton was engaging and funny. His response when asked if he would care if even F1 legend Michael Schumacher joined his team was a broad smile and "Cool. Go for it." He said that he was reading more and more to get away from a Playstation addiction and while he was given a copy of Jackie Stewart's autobiography, he hadn't yet read it. "It's quite a big book," he said to laughs from the press corps.
Over his debut season, he has cultivated the image of a playboy with celebrity buddies to glamourous girlfriends. However, Hamilton said that he had trouble getting used to his new found celebrity. "I still see myself as an onlooker."
That may be so but HarperCollins have great plans for his book. Despite his headline grabbing debut season, it is still his first and Hamilton has yet to win a F1 championship. Despite this, HC have made an ambitious initial print run of 225,000 copies in the UK alone. Several publishers have been burnt with misjudged sports biographies in recent years and it will be interesting to see what happens with Hamilton's book. However, the attention that the photocall received suggests that HC have little to worry about.