Empty chair for Lewis Hamilton as F1 hosts London Street Party and looks to future
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Lewis Hamilton
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Jul 2017   |  8:24 am GMT  |  446 comments

Wednesday night’s F1 Live London was a great success with thousands of fans lining the temporary track built along Whitehall with a loop in Trafalgar Square and a stage set up next to Nelson’s Column.

Cars did donuts, drivers met the crowds and well known bands played on stage. It was a blueprint for how to move F1 forward with city centre promotions.

It was a statement by the sport, but also by the city, which has been hit by savage terrorist attacks in recent months. These have clearly dented the appetite of some tourists to visit the UK’s capital. Live London passed off peacefully, having only been announced officially a few days before to minimise time for terrorists to plan an attack. But F1 insiders knew about it months ago as it needed some serious planning.

Live London F1

What was striking about walking around in the public areas was how many tourists were there from so many different countries. London is a very cosmopolitan city on any given day, with hundereds of different nationalities in the popular tourist areas and thus F1 Live London didn’t just capture the imagination of British F1 fans, but reached out to plenty of other nationals too.

If there were to be one small criticism it would be that F1 needs to remember that on a day like this that it’s important in front of a general audience to give context to who the drivers are when they go up on stage and not presume too much knowledge. A non F1 fan would not know that Fernando Alonso is a two time world champion and one of the greats, while Lance Stroll is a rookie with a single podium, from the way they were rolled out on stage.

The goal here is three fold; to reach non-F1 fans with the spectacle and fascination of this colourful and glamorous world, then to bring back the millions who have followed and even loved F1 in the past, but who have lost interest for whatever reason.

For the committed fans, days like Live London are designed to give a reason to stick with the sport, buy more services, products and tickets.

As well as the current drivers, F1 managed to bring world champions Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, Damon Hill and Mika Hakkinen to the event.

It is all about the drivers; Lewis Hamilton has his reasons for staying away and these will no doubt be explained today at Silverstone when he does his media appearances ahead of the British GP. He was the only one of the 20 Grand Prix stars not to attend the event and when they did the line up on stage with Valtteri Bottas alone in the middle, that was painfully obvious.

“Lewis feels that he is in such a tough championship fight that he needed the days off after Austria,” was the explanation given by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. There are some suggestions in the media that Hamilton is angered by rumours that Wolff is planning a future with Sebastian Vettel beyond Hamilton’s existing contract which expires at the end of 2018.

But it’s hard to see why – even if it were true – that would spill over into a no-show at the London event?

Hamilton clearly underestimated not only the scale of the event, but also the upbeat tone that it would strike, especially coming a day after the announcement that Silverstone has triggered a break clause in its contract meaning that 2019 will be the last race there unless a new agreement can be reached. That was no secret in F1 circles either.

So this was a day when Britain needed to put its best foot forward where F1 was concerned.

Another possible factor is that Liberty Media has asked the drivers to commit a number of ‘driver days’ to the sport itself for promotional activities. Already drivers have many of these days in their contracts with their teams, with days allocated to sponsors depending on how much investment the sponsor is making.

F1 drivers have not been contracted to the sport for promotional reasons before and it will be a tough one to get through without financial incentives. But events like Live London on a smaller scale, hosted a few months ahead of a Grand Prix in certain markets, will be a key pillar of a growth strategy to work with race promoters to make each event a success.

Added to an increased calendar of events, that starts to add up to a big workload for the drivers and team. But it’s how you grow the sport. Renault understood this well with old F1 Renault cars on display and adverts in the London Underground stations themed around F1, which were also seen by hundreds of thousands of commuters.

As F1’s biggest star, with by far the greatest cross-over appeal, a lot of the heavy lifting will fall on Hamilton’s shoulders.

Lewis Hamilton

‘I wish there was more time to see the fans,’ Hamilton said in an interview with David Tremayne which was ironically published in the Independent yesterday. ‘You see them at such a distance, it sucks.

‘The crowd-surfing (when he won Silverstone for the fourth time in 2016) was the greatest thing for me because it was the first time I really got to engage with them in a different way

‘Hopefully when I’m on the podium and I carry the flag, people will start to see my patriotism. Being British is something I’m very proud of and maybe that’s just going to take time to show.’

For F1 the London event was a capability showcase. They have made it clear that having a British Grand Prix on the calendar is important to them, even if they were annoyed that Silverstone chose to make its announcement the day before Live London. But it didn’t put a dampener on proceedings.

“We are going to put our shoulder into making Silverstone one of the greatest races on the racing circuit over the next three years and we will see where we go from there,” F1 commercial boss Sean Bratches said yesterday. “But from a Formula One standpoint we are very committed to a British Grand Prix going forward.”

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said that he would be interested in discussing the idea of a race on the streets of London, but that there were some hurdles. Who would pay for it would be the first, security would be another and also the message of petrol engined cars racing on the streets isn’t what he wants for a city which needs to get significantly greener as its air quality is at dangerous levels.

“Our expectation is to go to large cities and have races on more street circuits,” said Bratches in an interview with Associated Press yesterday.

“We are going to add street circuits. The majority will probably be traditional tracks. But our expectation is to try to go to city centres and activate large fan bases with our brand on a going forward basis.”

Since I’ve been here, probably 30 countries, municipalities, principalities have reached out to me about interest in bringing Formula One to their cities, their countries,” Sean Bratches, F1’s managing director for commercial operations, told The Associated Press.

“So we are in a unique spot. We have an abundance of opportunities and we are going to have to figure out where we go and again at the centre of that decision is, ‘What is the best thing for our fans?'”

What did you make of the Live London event and the points raised in this post? Leave your comments in the section below

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1

Nice one Lewis. How to win friends and influence people.

2

What if none of the drivers had appeared. Or all three germans hadn’t. How many drivers can stay away till FIA considers a penalty?
I bet there would have been consequences if it hadn’t been only Lewis.

3
Beentheredonethat

Lewis knows, concerning the Baku fiasco, if it was the other way around and he was found guilty of what vettel did, he would have been disqualified with a 10 place grid penalty at Austria, would most likely be now 3rd in the championship.
Why waste time with a promo run in London when the beneficiary is the fia.
I would probably do tbe same.
You guys better deal with it and move on, it’s probably his last season.

4

He made a mistake, he should have gone. A strange decision for Lewis, especially as none of the drivers do as much with the fans as he does. Im sure he has his reasons, but this was an error of judgement.

5

Maybe he’s not happy with the Vettel decision? Anyway who cares as it gives us all something to defend/get upset about.

It’s all about what happens on track. These other things are just noise. But one things for sure. Lewis needs to win this year. Losing 2 championships in a row and in the best car will be bad,……….. very bad, (Trump impression)

6

Hello, yep, would agree with that.

7

@James

Who owns/runs the BRDC and are they good friends of Lewis Hamilton?

8

I will try to explain the Hamilton problem as best I can. I accept that he has fans, that there are people who exercise their freedom to like him. However if you don’t like him or support him, if you support a different driver or team then he is nauseating. Because he is British it seems that reporters, especially the BBC and Sky, have this need to make him and F1 synonymous. He is not F1. He is smaller than the sport. So we are constantly bombarded by stuff that relates to him. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to follow him. He is forced on us by reporters who seemingly want to bear his children. If you don’t want to see his pouting gangster look on Instagram then tough. It’s served up. And served up again. The more he is forced on us the more we dislike him. The more I am called a racist because I support a different team the more I see LH fan boys as purine idiots with fluff for brain matter. If reporting was more balanced then you would see fewer comments here because we wouldn’t have the need too find a way to fight back.

9
The Grape Unwashed

If reporting was more balanced then you would see fewer comments here because we wouldn’t have the need too find a way to fight back.

Fight back? How silly. People like Andrew Benson, Mark Hughes and Giles Richards do rate Hamilton very very highly — but that’s simply because they rate his talent as exceptional. It has nothing to do with his being British, these journalists have been round the block too many times to confuse a driver’s talent with his nationality — they also rate Verstappen massively. They are excited by Hamilton because of his talent, not his birthplace. If Hamilton gets more column inches it’s because he’s considered more newsworthy, really it’s that simple.

Meanwhile you invent conspiracy theories about unfair press bias, rail against Hamilton’s personality flaws and castigate his misguided fans. Are you so sure it’s not you who has the problem?

10

That’s terrible form from HAM, obviously doesn’t care about the fans. Is that beneath him or something?

11

“If anyone needed more evidence why Lewis is seen negatively by so many people this is just another great example.”

On the contrary, this is an evidence everyone needs to show how Lewis impacts on F1 as a sport. 19 great drivers obviously do not have the power to satisfy fans as this one person could do. So disappointed the F1 followers are by the absence of just this one single driver they have to go out there and condemn, criticise, and prove that he’s not worth grazing your TV screen. He’s so disliked, isn’t he? Surely the young Max is the future of F1. Surely Max alone could brighten your world? And what about the true future British champion like Palmer? And what about worshipping the blonde Button who is just so, so like British gentlemen we all want to see to represent Britain? Why can’t you use this absence of Lewis as evidence of star quality of the other drivers? Why mourn Lewis’ absence?

12

Finally, an opportunity for Hamilton bashing presents itself. Pheww! What a relief! Lately, efforts to do so had not been that effective no thanks to Vettel or Max. Surely this “shameful” act must be kept alive on the media as long as possible. Surely this could be used to show he is a very, very bad person after all – worse than Vettel’s conducts obviously! See – told you so. He should be condemned much, much more than Vettel or Max’s conducts ever be criticised. Long and in-depth analysis into his psyche, his lifestyle, his relationship, his mindset must be written for pages and pages in as many forums as possible. Because how dare he (someone like Hamilton) be so liked by fans, so good in his driving, so chosen by top teams. How dare he! And how dare he not to always show he is grateful! How dare he to have a few days off to clear head space after disastrous couple of weeks. For a world which is supposedly more global, this appetite for Hamilton bashing is very telling indeed. Mature, objective followers of F1? aaah…

13

So Vettel who has a family, who knew that he may be booed, who had more stress the last two weeks from press and FIA was there…
Is there no penalty for disrespecting and damaging the sport in the rule book?

14

I was thinking last Sunday that may be Mercedes didn’t want to see Hamilton on podium because he could be booed by Austrians like last year. How ironic, he is now booed at home without his presence. A tough Sunday for Lewis!

15

Lewis is a natural behind the wheel, his ability to drive intuitively, is remarkable. Its when he decides to actually think is when things go very wrong for him.

16
The Grape Unwashed

Really surprised at all the sanctimony and vitriol: if you’re not a Hamilton fan, why would you give two hoots whether he turned up at the event or not?

Indeed the anti-fans are usually so strident I’d have thought they’d welcome an event where they didn’t have to ‘suffer’ his presence!

17

Funny old world isn’t it. For all the flack Mr. Hamilton has gotten from last years Japanese press conference, it seems Snapchat has sighed a deal with Formula one. I wonder if the two are somehow connected…

Yet, as expected, lewis’s no show at the fan expo is the talk of the town. What will you journalists do when Mr. Hamilton retires? Because Obviously, without him, it seems no news occurs in f1.

Then again, can you blame this site or any other, for as soon as Lewis is mentioned the viewership and comment count sky rockets. It’d be idiot not to cover the exploits of the sports biggest name.

Charity work, winning ESPN’s driver of the year are non issues which only paint lewis is a positive light. No no no, that won’t do. Oh wait, I know! We can cover what Vettel does in his spare time! No, nothing? How about Kimi…nada. Hulkenberg? Max then? Palmer??!? Oh wait, they don’t or have very little social media content. Much easier to criticize the guy that has more followers than the entire sport combined for missing a fan expo while ignoring all he has contributed over the years. Excellent journalism, keep it up.

18

I find it disingenuous that F1 promotes the sport with V8 engines and not the current engines that will be at the race on Sunday. If these engines are so amazing why not show them to these new fans so they can fall in love as well and not use those noisy engines and that horrible symphony orchestra notes that they make. It just shows that these new engines have no appeal when people have road bikes that are louder and sound better. Tough few weeks for Lewis and then he may or may have not previously planned to be in Greece and it coincided with this event making it seem a bigger issue. Being in London though one would imagine he would want to be there.

19

Does it matter that Hamilton didn’t attend.
Can you blame him.
I attended the last time f1 cars were in London and that was when we had screaming v10s.
Let him recharge and then when he destroys everyone on Sunday this will be a non story.

20

If the event had been in any other city than London I could see why Lewis might choose to give it a miss. However it is his home Grand Prix and I think it was an error not to attend.

I do think that Liberty’s idea of a 25 race season is far too much given the travelling involved across so many time zones. It is not comparable to Indy or NASCAR in this respect.

City events are important to build interest. Better to stick to 20 races a season, drop races that currently play to empty Grandstands and add races where full attendance is assured. There should then be room for more events like London.

Finally, I would definitely support Mark Webber’s suggestion that drivers should not be penalised for mechanical problems with their car. It’s heart breaking to see Alonso get yet another 5 place penalty and the even larger one handed out to Jenson Button in his only race of the season was even more ridiculous.

Deduct constructor’s championship points or fine the teams. The drivers are innocent so they should be allowed to race in the grid slot they earned in qualifying.

21

No mention of Lewis being loudly booed every tine hus nane was mentioned James?

All the other outlets are all over it…

22

Yep I was there and when Rosberg got on mic and asked who people wanted to win the race this weekend, leiws or seb. I thought people would boo seb but they didnt, he got loud cheer! Lewis did too but i wasnt expecting people to cheer for seb

23
Ahmed of Sydney

For a driver that claims to love his fans so much, it is absolute hypocrisy, immaturity and selfishness. And for all the excuses about a tough championship battle, he’s out partying and intentionally flipping the bird to basically the F1 public. All other current F1 drivers attend including Alonzo who has every right to be disheartened after years of being in a dud car, Kimi who apparently doesnt care about anything, and other drivers who are fighting for their next contracts/drives….All at his home race, another reason why Hamilton will always be jeered by F1 commmnity

24

One way of promoting F1 is for its drivers to make themselves accessible to the fans especially in significant events such as this. Considering that it is Lewis’ home race this weekend it would have been disappointing to his fans that he didn’t attend and participate in the event, especially when all other drivers did. In the absence of any viable excuse I think it was a mistake not to attend. Perhaps he might fully explain his reasons for not doing so in the drivers’ press conference this weekend.

If Wolff attended Vettel’s birthday bash as has been reported I can understand that Lewis might be somewhat peeved by this, if indeed he was. A little bit too close to the ‘enemy’ who you’re in direct competition with for the WDC and WCC.

25

I’m surprised this is such a huge issue. So he didn’t attend this one event. Marketing companies are not the standard to measure yourself against by their standards. Not everyone is constantly doing promotions. Attendance wasn’t mandatory. Lewis does quite a lot of promotion like many other drivers, save perhaps Kimi and Sebastien who, for example, have no social media presence at the moment. That’s their prerogative. We’re in modern times and we need to recognize diversity, even in marketing. Some drivers won’t do all the events. Some will. Some will participate in social media, some won’t. This uproar is absolute nonsense. If we can recognize the concerns of the marketers we should be able to recognize the concerns of the drivers and others.

26

Yeah no big deal just his home GP

27

people need to be realistic about this short notice thing.It was at least 10-15 people deep everywhere minimum.I bet the majority saw nothing. I remember the last effort over 10 years ago and decided to give it a miss this time.TV coverage was an unexpected bonus.
Drivers can only high five people in the first couple of rows. The rest of the squashed masses probably would have assumed Lewis was there without the constant snide commentary lol.

28
Torchwood Five

The Snapchat thing in Japan was promoting F1.

The Justin Beiber swigging champagne in Monaco – and naysayers must be crazy if they think that guy was getting so close to the Royal area on Lewis’ say-so alone. That would only have been possible with authority far higher than just a 3x WDC.

All the media shows that Lewis appears on, whichever country, brings awareness of F1 to a larger audience.

Not coming to London Live, as the only missing driver…not great, I grant you. Then again, but he does far more to promote the sport than any other individual driver to my knowledge.

29

Lewis was in LA last and went on the jimmy kimmel show. No one in tje audience knew anything abouy F1 and it will still be the same today if you went there and asked people what F1 is.

30

Well this will swing both way’s. Doesn’t attend make Lewis a dull boy or he has he’s reasons. I hope he has. Mercedes probably are looking for a post Lewis time, if they plan to be around.

31

What an irony: ‘Vettelgate’ was supposed to be the headlines this week at Silverstone, even Lewis himself was pouring more fuel into ‘fire’ through his online “likes” and interviews. But his miscalculated snub turns all drama upside down, now it’s all about ‘Lewisgate’.
Vettel looks like already a winner by Thursday))

32

I hope Ferrari announced Kimi as their latest and current only formula on drivers champion. Some respect warranted even from Mr. Marchionne if he respects Ferraris past and heritage.

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