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'Better Than Sex'
Alexander Wolff
June 18, 2007
That's how Formula One phenom Lewis Hamilton described winning his first pole. Imagine how F/1's first black driver felt about his historic win in Montreal last weekend
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June 18, 2007

'better Than Sex'

That's how Formula One phenom Lewis Hamilton described winning his first pole. Imagine how F/1's first black driver felt about his historic win in Montreal last weekend

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But Hamilton also struck a few defiant notes. "Maybe next time I might watch what I say, but I just said what I felt. I'm only human. Sometimes your feelings need to be [expressed]. You can't always just put a big smile on your face.

"Every weekend, when I'm matching [ Alonso's] times, I do as well if not better. I'm demonstrating that I can be world champion. I'd hate the situation Rubens was in," Hamilton said, referring to Rubens Barrichello, who led virtually the entire 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, only to let Michael Schumacher (long cast as Johnny Carson to Barrichello's Ed McMahon) slip past him 100 meters from the finish, at Ferrari's direction--and prompt the FIA to formally ban "team orders."

"If that was the case," Hamilton continued, "I wouldn't be here much longer."

After Hamilton beat his teammate while finishing second in Alonso's home race, the Spanish Grand Prix, on May 13, the British weekly Autosport ran a headline hinting at "civil war." And Alonso might be forgiven for worrying that McLaren favors the British driver who has been Dennis's prot�g� of long standing. Team personnel nonetheless describe a professional bonhomie, with the two engaging in good-natured bouts of NBA PlayStation in the team trailer. "We're committed to creating an environment where both can excel," says Dennis, who over nearly three decades had never before entrusted a McLaren car to a rookie. "It is difficult at the moment. In some instances, the media don't want the sporting answer. They want the human-interest answer. Right now, we're in a no-win situation."

Welcome to Woe-Is-We Grand Prix: Finish one-two, and find yourselves in a no-win situation.

"Wankers," former world champion Niki Lauda once called men who are drawn to the cockpit of a Formula One car to indulge the need for speed. In fact, Lauda insisted, "Any joy is from fascination with perfection, not from a thrill of driving fast."

If that's true, Hamilton would be relishing this season regardless of his record. In his fastidiousness, his eagerness to sponge up all he can from the more than 1,000 people marshaled in his support, and his imperturbability (that lapse before the press in Monaco excepted), he seems uncommonly well-equipped to pursue the perfect race.

Until last week, Hamilton had never driven Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, yet he grabbed the first pole position of his F/1 career in Saturday's qualifying. Afterward, asked if he found the feeling to be better than sex, he considered the question. "You know what?" he said. "I'd say it is better than sex."

By qualifying first, Hamilton could spend Sunday chasing perfection by outrunning imperfection all around him. Alonso missed the first turn of the race, nearly clipping Hamilton while reentering the track from a runout. Four times the yellow flag came out, once after a crash that sent BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica pinballing from barrier to barrier, and ultimately by helicopter to the hospital. (Doctors declared him to be in stable condition and conscious with a broken leg.) Almost half of the 22 drivers to start failed to finish, including two who were black-flagged for running a red light when leaving the pits. "That was lots of go-karting experience there," Anthony Hamilton said afterward. "You get that in karting, and you've got to keep your head straight."

What the father calls keeping your head straight, and the mentor describes as "confidence, devoid of arrogance," is a kind of balance that hints at perfection, and Dennis has known it to be there for a dozen years. Last weekend someone asked the McLaren boss if anything about Hamilton's rookie season so far has surprised him.

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