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Last Updated: Friday, 29 June 2007, 07:05 GMT 08:05 UK
Hamilton's changing world

By Bryn Palmer

Lewis Hamilton attends a promotional event in London last week
Hamilton was centre of attention at a promotional event in London
"Glory Boys". "Rule Britannia". "Lewis and Becks true Brit heroes".

So screamed the back-page headlines 12 days ago, after Britain's new Formula One sensation Lewis Hamilton won his second straight Grand Prix on the same day David Beckham finally won some silverware before leaving Real Madrid.

It may have been coincidence, but it might come to be seen as appropriate that Hamilton shared equal billing with Britain's biggest sports star.

His victories in Montreal and Indianapolis confirmed the 22-year-old from Stevenage as the real deal already in his debut season, a supreme talent.

The last fortnight has offered him a glimpse of the world he now inhabits, one where he is recognised everywhere he goes and is lauded as sport's next global phenomenon.

"It is something I have to get used to, but I am definitely not used to it yet," he told the BBC as the Hamilton bandwagon rolled into Magny-Cours this weekend for the French GP.

Three days after his US GP triumph, Hamilton, together with England cricketer Kevin Pietersen, attended a promotional event in London for Vodafone, his McLaren team's main sponsor.

The media circus that surrounded Hamilton as he took his old go-kart, which has just fetched 42,100 for charity after it was auctioned on eBay, for a spin around a temporary track in Brunswick Square was a sign of things to come.

I am sure for Lewis it is all about doing what he loves doing, which he does damn well

England Rugby World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson
Amid the PR blitz, Hamilton acknowledged the change he is already having to come to terms with in his personal life.

"Simple things like going out for dinner, to the cinema or driving to the petrol station are not the same anymore," he noted.

"I get more and more people coming up to me. It is crazy but I'm trying to keep my feet on the ground."

And his head screwed on, he might have added.

But if he is the nervous type, Hamilton doesn't show it.

He looks happy, for the time being, in the glare of publicity, his infectious enthusiasm matched by the impressive composure that has marked his startling progress to date.

Jonny Wilkinson, far from comfortable with the red carpet treatment that followed him kicking England to victory at the last Rugby World Cup, described Hamilton this week as "a very humble guy, a real role model and someone that seems to be very interested in adding to his sport".

Was named after Carl Lewis, the American athlete
Was the youngest karting champion in Britain, aged 10
Has an intermediate black belt in karate
Played in the same school football team as Aston Villa striker Ashley Young
He could have been talking about himself, and Wilkinson hinted that retaining the joy of his day job, amid the hullabaloo that will accompany his every move, will be key to Hamilton's success.

"It is going to be an interesting experience for him, and I am sure for Lewis it is all about doing what he loves doing, which he does damn well," Wilkinson told the BBC.

"It is fantastic the way he represents his sport and, having good people around him as he will have, I am sure he will deal with everything that comes his way and maintain the enjoyment of what he does."

Remarkably, for someone talked about in such terms, Hamilton does not even have an agent as such.

His father Anthony, a ubiquitous presence in Formula One's pit-lane these days, currently acts as his manager, although several leading sports agencies are unsurprisingly keen to relieve him of that burden.

Anthony Hamilton has reportedly already held talks with three different management groups, and invited proposals from others, but he is in no rush to capitalise on his son's seemingly inevitable rise into the megastar bracket.

Lewis Hamilton with his father Anthony at the US Grand Prix
Anthony Hamilton (left) currently looks after his son's affairs
"Maybe next season, maybe later down the line," Anthony Hamilton was quoted on the subject. "Everything is being done for Lewis's benefit and we know what we're doing."

Hamilton has been closely guided for the last nine years by McLaren chief Ron Dennis.

He may not feel his young prodigy needs an agent but will surely have to give him a pay rise soon, given the huge disparity between his reported 340,000-a-year salary and the 10.8m team-mate Fernando Alonso is reputedly earning.

Already it has been suggested Hamilton may move to Monaco, a place to where many F1 drivers and sports stars gravitate.

That might disappoint Hamilton's British fans, who were out in force for his first public appearance since his recent exploits at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend.

Lewis Hamilton drives his McLaren at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, watched by fans holding umbrellas
Thousands turned up in the rain to greet Hamilton at Goodwood
Around 50,000 hardy souls braved horrendous weather to salute Hamilton, many among them young children eager for a glimpse of their new hero.

Hamilton arrived by helicopter, signed a mass of autographs, did wheel spins in his McLaren on a 'lap of honour' and stood on the balcony of Goodwood House looking out at a sea of umbrellas and waving fans.

"There were all these people. It was incredible, amazing," he said, adding he felt "privileged" to be in a position to inspire youngsters, as well as brush shoulders with racing legends such as Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart.

"I'm enjoying it," he said. "It's a taste of what to expect at Silverstone, where it is going to be double. But I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be great racing at my home track."

Such is the interest in Hamilton's eagerly-awaited British Grand Prix debut on 8 July, the race will be broadcast directly to 30 Vue multiplex cinemas across the UK.

But he is not just big news in Britain.

Hamilton could be the Tiger Woods of motor racing

Former F1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi
After winning the US Grand Prix in Indianapolis, he appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times and appears to have captured the imagination of the American public.

"He is already being talked about as being Tiger Woods with horse power," Derek Daly, an F1 commentator in the States and former Grand Prix driver himself, told the BBC.

"He has got Tiger's disarmingly easy manner with the public and people are talking about him as potentially being bigger than Tiger - can you imagine that?!

Lewis Hamilton's appearances as a youngster on BBC TV
"Lewis Hamilton has brought a sense of intrigue to Formula One. Television is all about the human drama story and America loves something different."

Further afield, Emerson Fittipaldi, McLaren's first world champion in 1974, was fielding calls from Brazilian news magazines for the lowdown on Lewis.

"Everyone wants to know about Hamilton," Fittipaldi said. "He could be the new Tiger Woods of motor racing. I think he is going to make awareness of it global."

With the F1 circus apparently poised to roar into New Delhi, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and South Korea in the next few years, that is a distinct possibility.

Already, though, those who knew Hamilton on a more local level are having to adapt to his elevated status.

McLaren have put a tight ring around him

Sports journalist Andrew Franzak
Andrew Franzak has covered the 22-year-old's exploits for the past decade as sports editor of the Hertfordshire Mercury newspaper.

He admits it is "manna from heaven" having Hamilton on his home patch, given the last sports star to emerge from Tewin, where Hamilton's family lives, was Jo Goode, who won a badminton bronze medal for Britain at the Sydney Olympics.

But with everyone now wanting a piece of the fresh-faced prodigy, Hamilton's words and movements are restricted.

"This time last year when Lewis was racing in GP2 I just picked up the phone and he would be there on the end of the line," Franzak told BBC Sport.

"There is very little chance of that happening now, even having established a rapport with Lewis and his dad Anthony.

"That's the major difference; everything has to go through McLaren now. They've put a tight ring around him."

As Hamilton's fame grows, so the circle of those able to get close to him decreases.

Such is the life of a global sporting superstar. Welcome to Hamilton's new world.

The word on Lewis
18 Jun 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton - I can hold off Alonso
21 Jun 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton 'could save British GP'
19 Jun 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton's kart sells for 42,100
19 Jun 07 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Hamilton shocked by early success
18 Jun 07 |  Formula One
Superb Hamilton takes US victory
17 Jun 07 |  Formula One
Sky's the limit for Hamilton
10 Jun 07 |  Formula One
Hamilton takes maiden F1 victory
10 Jun 07 |  Formula One


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