Buxton’s blog: Reflections on F1’s title contenders

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Having been GP2 press officer from the series’ inception in 2005, and then witnessing as first Nico Rosberg (2005) and Lewis Hamilton (2006) captured the series’ first two championships, NBCSN F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton is well versed on the growth, maturation and development of Mercedes’ two drivers as they battle for the World Championship in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

In what we’d say are must-reads, Buxton has penned some personal, long-form stories chronicling each driver’s successive rise from that point to now.

Of Nico, here’s a brief excerpt:

Nico was the most savvy driver I ever worked with. Stepping down from the podium after winning the GP2 title, he spoke to the awaiting press in turn, each in their own language. I’d only ever seen him in individual language press briefings, and to see him utilise such cool and calm intelligence so soon after the elation of what was at the time the most meaningful moment of his career left me astounded.

But therein lies the deepest issue with Nico Rosberg. He isn’t just smart. He’s the sort of smart that makes the rest of us question if we’re quite as clever as we thought we were. And at times it can be his undoing.

Of Lewis, here’s a slightly longer excerpt:

Very often this season, Hamilton has spoken about his desire for the title. He has stated time and again that for him 2014 feels like his first run in for a championship, so different a person is he to the driver who took the plaudits in 2008. And in so many aspects I can see why. The Lewis Hamilton of 2014 is so different to the man who ran in for his first title in 2007 and took the crown in 2008. In public, he is every bit the megastar. He has his own private jet, lives in Monaco and LA with his popstar girlfriend. He can call Will Smith when he’s in town to have dinner with the Fresh Prince.

We laughed about this earlier in the year. About the insanity of life, where the sport had taken him and what lay before him in his career and his ultimate destiny. It wasn’t real. He knew that. And because of it, he wanted to make the most of it all. Because beyond everything that you see, beyond the big pimpin, diamante encrusted bling wearing magazine cover star lies that very same kid I first met at a cold and windy Ricard, surrounded by his family. When I sat down to interview him last in a one-on-one situation in Hockenheim, his first question was not for me, my crew, what we were filming or why… it was for Sophie, my daughter; how she was doing, how old she was now, how school was going and his own desire for a family one day.

That’s the man he is. Thoughtful. Sincere. Genuine.

Of the two on the whole, from Lewis’ piece, here’s a quick synopsis:

Hamilton Vs Rosberg has been billed as Senna Vs Prost II. But it’s not. These two drivers are completely unique and should take their own billing. Yes, there are shared similarities in personality and perceived strengths, but it isn’t as simple as all that. And yet, in simplifying it so much, the general opinion has been formed that Rosberg, as the Prost character, was always the more likely to prosper under the 2014 regulations. His superior intellect, so everyone had been led to believe, would carry him. His incredible mind would allow him to work with the complex cars, use the brakes, the energy harvesting, look after the tyres and moderate his fuel usage.

In The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey’s character Verbal Kint comes out with the immortal line: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” I think of this line every time I hear somebody tell me that Hamilton isn’t as intelligent as Rosberg, or doesn’t have the capability to understand the cars.

Because, for me, the greatest trick that Lewis Hamilton ever pulled, was convincing the world that he wasn’t smart.

You’ll likely read a lot in the run-up to Abu Dhabi this weekend, but reading the personal touch that Buxton writes in both pieces make his must-read material. They’re linked above in the intro to each synopsis.