Two million pounds. That’s how much HarperCollins are believed to have paid for the rights to the Lewis Hamilton autobiography.
It should give them enormous clout when it comes to shifting copies and put “My Story” well ahead of the seven other Hamilton books going on sale before Christmas.
But is it actually any good?
Let’s start with the obvious point – many people who read F1 Fanatic had probably heard of Hamilton before he made his Formula 1 debut.
If HarperCollins really did pay that much for his story, and need to sell over 105,000 copies before they start making any money on it, then they need to sell the book to casual fans.
They enlisted Timothy Collings to do the ghostwriting – a man with several fine F1 titles to his name including “Team Schumacher”, “Eddie Jordan: The Biography” and “The Piranha Club”. But it’s clear Collings’ brief was to write a book with mass-market appeal, and not just for F1Fanatic-readers.
It’s less clear exactly how much time Collings spent interviewing Hamilton because much of the material has a very familiar ring. This is the third book on Hamilton I’ve read (the others being “A Dream Comes True” and “The Story So Far”) and this adds little new detail.
An interesting revelation which has already garnered some press attention is that the junior Hamilton was briefly expelled from school, apparently mistakenly, and his parents waged a campaign to have him reinstated which, eventually he was.
I thought the author might have made more of this because it suggested an obvious comparison with the investigation into McLaren over the Ferrari spy scandal this year – a crime which Hamilton apparently paid no part in and yet one his team suffered for.
This example illustrates a wider problem with the book – it doesn’t hang together at all, there are no themes, no ideas and there’s no passion. It’s just a sober, box-ticking re-telling of everything that’s happened to him from which the reader gleans virtually no deeper understanding of Hamilton.
This is an enormous let-down. Of all the interviews, opinion pieces and studies that created the saturation coverage of Lewis Hamilton, this book was the sole piece that might actually have told us something about him.
From outside the cockpit he looks dedicated, ruthless, fast, uncompromising. Where have these traits come from? Himself? McLaren? His idolisation of Ayrton Senna? His father?
The latter is a strange character within these pages – permanently on-hand in the opening chapters to buy Hamilton his next remote controlled car and, later, kart. But although Hamilton says of his podium finish at Melbourne, “There’s one thing I can do that makes my dad smile and this is it,” (on the face of it a deeply poignant line) it’s impossible to judge how far Hamilton’s phenomenal drive comes from within and how far Anthony has pushed him.
Hamilton does at least grasp the Fernando Alonso nettle and state what he claims he tried to do to thaw the frosty relations between the pair. Along with noting how repeatedly Ron Dennis urged him to make Alonso feel welcome, he gives some insight into the conversations between the pair – and how fruitless they were.
There is the inescapable air of the cynical cash-in about this book, as there inevitably will be about all the books about Hamilton that appear the shelves of book stores before. That the introduction warns “it is an account of my career to date rather than an autobiography of my life,” is the first warning, and the official F1-logo aping graphics, wide margins and large text ram the message home.
It’s not a complete waste of time. But it is a gigantic missed opportunity. And I can’t help but wonder that some of the other unofficial books on him yet to come might not actually give a greater insight into the phenom named Lewis Hamilton.
Lewis Hamilton with Timothy Collings