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Please Stand Upon my Legend

FEATURE BY MAX NOBLE
20/10/2020

Back when papyrus was a neat new thing, the village beauty could be elevated to 'Most beautiful in the World' with minimal fear of contradiction. Circles of influence were modest, and the reach of local power was no further than one could drive a chariot between sunrise and assured sunset.

Across the known world one had the locals toiling under a warming Mediterranean sun, or the cool Northern reaches brooding sky. Legends were built, honoured and recalled at local level.

Skip forward a millennia or two, and one needs to live on the unfashionable side of Pluto - the lump of rock formally known as a planet, not the Disney dog - to avoid Twitter, Instagram, and the general chaos that passes for community discussion and knowledge in this echo-chamber dominated decade.

And yet... the highlight of the German, I mean Bavarian, I mean Nurburgring, I mean Eifel Grand Prix? Lewis' human and genuine reaction to receiving one of Michael Schumacher's racing helmets from his son Mick (named after the Australian motorcycle legend Michael 'Mick' Doohan, who as a further aside rode his way to five 500cc motorcycle world championships on Honda bikes).

In this crazy year of tortured humanity and the ego-monkeys taking over the asylum it was a rare, genuine moment of a literal passing of the baton from one giant, legend of the sport to another. And Mick and Lewis both knew it.

Mick as a son forced to face his legendary father's humanity through living with the aftermath of Michael's horrid ski injury, and Lewis because he is a man of heart, hard work, intelligence, and visible emotion. If we can freeze one sporting moment from the curious case of life in 2020, I recommend it is that moment as Mick passes the helmet across, and states "records are made to be broken". In reply, Lewis mutters he does not know what to say, with the distant look of hard-earned knowledge and tough emotion clouding his eyes, misting them indeed, and in doing so says it all.

One hundred and eighty… two!!! Wins between Michael and Lewis. Frequent fastest laps. A plethora of poles. Countless heart in mouth overtakes, frequently dry, and yet even more memorably wet. And Lewis is still racing. Those numbers are true for another week or so at most.

In a few races it will be fourteen world championships between them... Fourteen! If one agrees we have completed seventy F1 championship seasons to savour across history, that means they have won 20% of the F1 world championships in all of racing history! Think on that. A fifth of all Drivers' Championships in all of history won by just these two legends.

The Tartan one can be, well, a tad tart on occasion. Leave well alone, which is what I'm sure his inner voice was screaming if he'd been listening at the time. For as he has noted previously, comparisons across time do not work.

The Spitfire was a mighty weapon in its day. Placed against a Eurofighter or a JSF however, it would be so much match wood while the modern strike aircraft was still many, many (unseen) miles away.

Gone with the Wind remains, when corrected for inflation, the most successful box office film of all time, implying someone liked it when it came out. Now it has, well... issues.

The pre-World War One Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost (debut 1907) remains a legend... producing a mighty 37Kw from a monster 7.0L straight six. At Brooklands it clocked an impressive 78 mph (125 kph). All figures cheerfully quashed by a base Toyota Corolla these days, let alone a Mercedes AMG.

Do not compare across time. Look for the similarities, not the clashing, confusing differences. Acknowledge the achievement within context and time. Smile, and learn from the past, before turning with a smile to the future.

In a time of great men and many dead drivers, Fangio stood tall. Senna was a spirit, an essence, of sporting authority. Prost a cool master. Mansell a PR delight (from a distance). Alonso 1.0 and 2.0 were exceptional under racing pressure, confusing off the track, and we are about to discover Alonso 3.0 as of next year.

Yet all world champions share that 'Look of Eagles'. The depth in their eyes that does not flinch when staring into anything, anything at all in their path, even, and most especially, when facing fear. Do they feel fear? Of course. But they master it and stride forward as only giants can.

And standing on towering legend above all these remarkable people in terms of the sporting statistics are Michael and Lewis. Two men who did not race in the days of countless on track deaths. That did not race on wire wheels, with drum brakes, riding mechanics, and no seat belts.

They come after the Tartan one, and race in their own eras. Eras where, with similar machinery, under the same rules, with the same weather and the same levels of safety, they proceeded to make all the remarkable giants racing alongside them in the sport look like weekend hacks in borrowed go-karts. On track Lewis and Michael have been peerless when in their prime.

Mick could look at Lewis as a man worthy of continuing the legend his father took from those before him, and so the story of legends is alive. Lewis could look at Mick, wonder at the legend that was Mick's father, and possibly in small part wonder if in the years to come another younger racer might be handing Mick one of Lewis' own helmets as a mark of honour and achievement. The men build it, before passing, and yet the legend remains.

Each driver behind the wheel. Each starting grid hopeful who gives their all. Each hero who died on track. Each elated race winner. Each worthy world champion. The 'Look of Eagles' staring down fear, and mastering the edge of the possible, dancing in turn with Miss Physics, and Death, it unites them all.

And the spirit, the essence, the true power and humanity of that look passed between Lewis and Mick with honour and respect on that Sunday. Michael for your part in the legend, thank you. Lewis for yours, total gratitude, may you continue in a state of grace. Mick, keep that 'Look of Eagles' locked on your destiny.

Dear reader. Celebrate that you live in such an age when legends of the sport place their lives on the line for us, and produce such racing, such humanity, and such legend.

Mark it well. For time will rush ever onward and in the blink of a dozing steward's eye this season will pass into the pages of history. Dust will commence settling on this latest mighty chapter, and we must look to the rising of the sun, and it's glinting in the eyes of the next driver to step forward with that 'Look of Eagles' in their eyes. The newly minted potential giant of the sport, filled with respect, capability, and a grasp of the history, one of them will continue the legend.

Max Noble

Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Spindoctor, 09/11/2020 15:20

"@MaxNoble - Thanks for the kind words.
You nailed it when you highlighted "leadership" & contrast it with "manager of accounts". Simply being the 'boss' does not a Leader make.
To compliment that, I hear from someone who met Lewis & Toto in connection with the Mulberry Schools STEM initiative (see article on Pitpass) that they saw & felt a strong bond between the two. This person is not an F1 fan (or maybe wasn't one before) but is an excellent judge of character."

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2. Posted by Max Noble, 25/10/2020 1:12

"@Spindoctor - My thanks for “getting” the article. While I delight in 99% of feedback, even some of the more ‘robust’ or ‘curious’ ones, it is always pleasing when readers grasp the core message that was actually intended...! Watching the moment on TV it struck me as profound, and when they briefly panned over to Toto’s face you could see as huge world of emotion, retrospect and profound feelings swirling in that most intellectual of leaders (and I say leader deliberately, as Toto is a leader of humans, not a manager of accounts...). That was a moment in the sport to treasure as solid gold for all the “tin foil moments” that can be served on occasion!

Sigh, JS.... yes he can shoot from the hip with phraseology that does not serve him well. I’m sure face to face over a chilled mineral water he could place it within more sensible context... but it did not come over well."

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3. Posted by Spindoctor, 22/10/2020 10:42

"@Max Noble.
Thanks for a really excellent exposition of the reasons why we can celebrate and admire our heroes without invidiously comparing them to others from different eras.
You identified a moment at which not only has Lewis' place in the pantheon been assured, but in which Michael Schumacher's was fully realised. It was a sincere & dignified moment in a sport not renowned for those virtues, and a suitable ripost to JS's odd comments."

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4. Posted by RomeoPapaKilo, 21/10/2020 19:49

"What an excellent and coherent read. Thank you."

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5. Posted by Max Noble, 20/10/2020 23:37

"@Tardis40 - Short... Being less flippant... I’m honouring every driver who has ever sat behind the wheel, past, present, future, and especially two remarkable record holders... and that’s “blasphemy”. Ok...

@Superbird70 - Quite so! Each generation tends to think they are thinking outside the bounds, when they reference everything in their own immediate terms (please think of something you cannot imagine...). I agree that the passage of time will render Lewis’ achievements more clearly in the FIA tablets of stone. And rightly so. "

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6. Posted by Superbird70, 20/10/2020 22:38

"@Max Noble,
Well said. The risk of death or injury may have been reduced but not eliminated, (Miss Physics has seen to that.) Each successive record that is broken ( created) takes place in a new era where risk is minimized ever more, engines (PU) are more reliable ,drivers fitter. That doesn't diminish the old records but makes them something to appreciated even more. 20 or 30 years from now when Lewis is surpassed people will wonder he could have achieved the record in such an archaic death trap. They would b right to wonder."

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7. Posted by Tardis40, 20/10/2020 18:56

"Blasphemy "

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