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F1 Previews: What the Sundays said

Maurice Hamilton March 9, 2015
Lewis Hamilton, unsurprisingly, dominated British press previews of the 2015 opener © Getty Images

The difficulty when writing a Sunday newspaper preview one week ahead of the first Grand Prix is finding a fresh angle while, at the same time, giving the reader a taster, no matter how brief, of the season ahead. Of the ten nationals carrying previews yesterday, only one, the Mail on Sunday, covered original and interesting ground.

It should be said straight away that this is not necessarily the fault of F1 correspondents answering to sports editors with scant knowledge of F1 and an obsession with 'personality'. Which immediately narrows any discussion to Lewis Hamilton, a no-brainer given that a) he's British, b) has just split with a glamorous girlfriend, c) is highly paid, d) is recognisable to sports fans - even the brainless few with a penchant for rushing onto a football pitch and biting their heroes. Oh, and e) a bloody quick driver with a good chance of winning the championship. No surprise that his familiar face appeared in almost all of the Sundays.

The days of exclusive one-to-ones have long since passed, journalists now restricted to a group interview that makes finding a unique angle totally impossible. Thus the theme of Hamilton's mental state, the effect of his break-up with Nicole Scherzinger, his negotiations for 2016 and his thoughts on back-to-back titles formed the core of every profile.

Putting a spin on this formula, the prolific Byron Young popped up in the Sunday People and the Sunday Mirror (both owned by the Trinity Mirror Group) pushing the line of how Lewis is 'reacting angrily' to claims he is attempting to cash in on his title during on-going contract discussions with Mercedes. Interestingly, Young was the only Sunday writer to pursue with some vigour the cause of Fernando Alonso's shunt rather than worrying about its concussive effect. The rest didn't mention the subject in any depth, possibly because their sister daily papers had already gone down that controversial road.

© Sutton Images

Given that almost all of the previews focussed on Lewis, observations are limited to very minor points, such as the Observer telling us that Max Verstappen will become the youngest-ever F1 driver in Melbourne 'when the lights go green' - an administrative change that, I must admit, had passed me by.

Allan McNish used a concise team-by-team guide to plug his Scottish mate, Paul Di Resta, as a driver who ought to be at Manor-Marussia, the Mail on Sunday's extensive and varied coverage being rounded off by a graphic of the steering wheel to be used by - yes, you've guessed, Lewis Hamilton; an informative piece even if it did mention one display showing 'speed' which, in the case of the Mercedes, probably says quite simply: 'Plenty fast enough'.

The only face to loom larger and, dare it be said, more menacing than the carefully manicured Hamilton was that of Bernard Ecclestone. It was here that Oliver Holt, chief sports writer for the Mail on Sunday, stole a considerable march on his rivals with a typically well-written and revealing interview with the man who, judging by the narrative, has absolutely no intention of standing down any time soon.

Ecclestone, for once, made pungent observations that were neither flippant nor forlorn when discussing F1's profligacy. Mind you, Bernie accusing teams of hypocrisy when they talk of cost saving while using 24 trucks to transport their motor homes is a bit rich (no pun intended) coming from the man with the use of a private jet and a couple of billion in the bank.

The Sunday Times chose a welcome and different tactic by profiling Daniel Ricciardo and also caused a surprise - among journalistic ranks, at least - by using the reliable and readable words of Bob McKenzie, supposedly retired and clearly much missed by the Sunday Express, alone among the national sports pages in not carrying a single word on F1.

The Independent on Sunday ran the best photo with a moody angle of our hero, although David Tremayne's thorough discussion was not backed up, as might reasonably be expected, by a either a team guide or F1 calendar - as carried by the Sunday Telegraph's neat graphic.

© Sutton Images
And neither was Tremayne well served by Michael Calvin, the paper's sports columnist using a brief and cheap comment that illustrated nothing more than a personal dislike of F1. That's Calvin's prerogative, of course, even though an explanation of the legitimacy of his opinion was the least one would expect from a flagship column that you might otherwise think was short of ideas.

The hope has to be that the forthcoming season changes Calvin's view even if the widespread conclusion among rival publications is a third title is Hamilton's for the asking. Notwithstanding, of course, worries about Nicole, the pressure of being erroneously reported as asking for a million quid a week, alleged flaky inner confidence and shaking off the 'flu - not to mention that nasty Nico Rosberg.

Maurice Hamilton writes for ESPN F1.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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A veteran journalist in the paddock, Maurice Hamilton has been part of the Formula One scene since 1977 and was the Observer's motor racing correspondent for 20 years. He has written several books as well as commentating on Formula One for BBC Radio 5 Live
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Maurice Hamilton writes for ESPN F1. A veteran journalist in the paddock, Maurice Hamilton has been part of the Formula One scene since 1977 and was the Observer's motor racing correspondent for 20 years. He has written several books as well as commentating on Formula One for BBC Radio 5 Live