• May 28, 2018
    Last updated 15 minutes ago

abu dhabi grand prix

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel could not be more different — apart from on the track

One’s a lively party boy, the other a dedicated family man ... but when it comes to their profession, they’re both top-notch

Ted Macauley, Special to Gulf News
16:46 April 20, 2017

The multiple benefits that accrue so rewardingly when a star sports show hits the highest levels of accomplishment off the back of equally matched and spectacularly rivalling front men are immeasurable.

But they can be assessed by soaring attendance figures at the live events and by an increased welter of switch-ons by TV audiences worldwide. And that, I guarantee, is on the brink of happening as grand prix racing glorifies in what looks sure to be a season-long duel between Formula One foes Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

They are centre stage, spotlighted by their own formidable gifts of supreme mastery, unbounded talent and determination and all underpinned by a firm commitment to recapture recently lost recognition as a world champion.

The crown, held by both of them — four times for Vettel, three for Hamilton — is up for grabs in a championship countdown to be so closely contested that I would wager it will go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi in a finale to remember after a season of memorable thrills.

That is, of course, dependant on them both steering clear of a freak mishap that is none of their fault, a result of the interference of a mindless also-ran not looking where he is going as the main men bear down, wheel-to-wheel in confrontational fearlessness.

That, and as has happened to both of them already with only three GPs gone, costly errors of judgement by the backup team and the guiding lights, the mastermind planners, on the pit wall.

They both made their debuts a decade ago. Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton, for McLaren, in Melbourne in the Australian season opener and he finished an impressive third.

Sebastian Vettel’s first F1 outing was in the USA, round seven, in a BMW Sauber — and he was eighth.

Since those promising halcyon starters Hamilton, now 32, has won 54 times from 191 races and clinched three world crowns. He has been on the podium 107 times with 63 pole placings and 33 fastest laps. Vettel, 29, four times the world champion, has raced in 181 GPs, been the winner 44 times with 89 podiums, 46 poles and 28 fastest laps.

Nowadays, after the Mercedes title take-over with Hamilton and Nico Rosberg adding even more prestige to the German geniuses, and with Ferrari suffering rare setbacks to frustrate their masses of faithful supporters and Vettel, too, the scene is set for a ding-dong, nail-biter of a campaign with, right now, nothing to pick between the sport’s two most legendary teams.

The cars are, to my mind, looking pretty equal, a development dead-heat, with management back-ups and massive financial support, that will only certify their readiness to give it their all in the fascinating chase down the grand prix glory road.

But the two heroes — the driver could hardly be more different in their lifestyle, attitude and outlook ... only their downright determination and towering talent links them as they squat behind their respective steering wheels waiting for the lights over the startline arch to douse to signal their opportunity to demonstrate who is the better, the champion in the making again.

Multi-tattooed bachelor boy Hamilton revels in a life of bling, encircled by Hollywood celebrities, dishing out hideously pricey and rare bubbly to glamour girls galore as he parties aboard his pink private jet commuting between his Monaco dwelling and his American mansions with invitations by the hundreds to mingle with VIPs and hotshots at fetes and flashy receptions around the world.

Vettel, in stark contrast and by his own choice, retreats shyly, anonymously, post-race as quickly as he can — or is allowed by demanding sponsors — to the cosy fireside of his remote, countryside family home near Zurich with his wife Hannah, whom he met when they were at school, and their two young daughters and their pet dog.

Between them, despite their blatant differences, there exists a mutual admiration society. Each regards the other with a respect that is genuine and neither finds the need to criticise or comment on the other’s way of living. Wild and wayward in Hamilton’s case. Domestic and docile in Vettel’s.

Red Bull’s Christian Horner, who was behind all four of Vettel’s world titles at Red Bull, is an unashamed fan of both drivers and he says: ”Seb is old fashioned, one fantastic person. A family man through and through. He sees F1 as his job — and only wants anonymity and privacy away from the track.

“Lewis is a different guy altogether. They are chalk and cheese. He loves life and living it up and gets on with his fame and relies on his enormous talent. And it makes him a really fantastic driver.

“As for their comparative driving styles Seb is painstakingly analytical and he makes a study of all the data available around a race, whereas Lewis depends on his vast natural talent and goes for it.”

So there you have it: an awesome twosome all set to reawaken whatever faltering faith may have overshadowed the series in the light of the Mercedes monopoly.