Sep 16, 2008

The Ruthless edge

After the last couple of races (ya, this is primarily an F1 post), some people have called Lewis Hamilton 'unsporting' and a 'cheat'. I understand how they feel, and agree that Lewis may have crossed a few grey lines, but I have another point to make. True Champions - the ones that go down in history as the greats - always have a ruthless, somewhat-unsporting edge. This is what enables them to distinguish themselves from the also-rans. 

Let's face it. Cut-throat competition is a reality of life, and sport is no different. The ones who become 'great', begin with setting themselves lofty targets that border on the impossible. To achieve these targets, they have to try as hard as they can, and there is no room for sympathy towards their competitors. Roger Federer isn't expected to give away a few games or sets if he's playing against less-skilled players. He's thrashed people like Andy Roddick so bad, they've lost some faith in their own abilities. Sachin Tendulkar is expected to play big, destructive innings against Zimbabwe. Not to 'respect upcoming talent'. And in soccer - even the greatest players dive, pretend they didn't get the last touch, pretend the ball did not cross the side line... It's all means to an end, and no quarter's to be given. 

If you are competing at the highest level, you can not expect other people to 'be nice'. You have to be tough. Along with skill and self-belief, you need a touch of ruthlessness. Otherwise you simply don't belong at the top. All you need to ensure is that you stay within the letter of the law (and not the so-called spirit. If people were going to respect the so-called spirit, the law wouldn't be needed in the first place)

Even in Formula 1, two drivers are considered to be the greatest ever - with opinion divided evenly - Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher. Both were notorious for being tough on competitors and flirting with the law of the game. Senna took out Prost at Suzuka '90 and was penalized. What happened? Senna qualified on pole and Prost was 2. But, the pole and odd positions were marked on the dirty side of the track, and 2nd and evens had an advantage, starting on the clean side. Senna thought it was unfair, and as Prost came alongside at turn 1, Senna crashed him. And all the Ferrari fans would know about Schumacher's behaviour at Adelaide '94 and  Jerez '97 - both times Schumacher crashed his car into a rival's in a bid to retain the Championship lead he had before each race. Lewis may be an unpleasant bully on the track, but hasn't done anything as grave as the greats before him had done. Nakajima can be hated for recklessness and a misplaced will to dominate. But Lewis has the skill and the self-belief to command on the track. He IS superior to all his competitors, and I see no reason he should not try and crush whatever stands between him and the Championship - and greatness.

History - will remember how many championships were won - and the gaps by which competition was beaten. Not who was upset along the way...

1 comment:

  1. Sure. Be ruthless, but also accept the consequences instead of throwing your hands up in righteous indignation when canned for transgressions.

    If everyone decided to be a go-getter no cars would finish the race.

    F1 stewards are a trigger-happy lot in my opinion but that acts as a balance against drivers like Hamilton and Coulthard who seem to have forsaken gentlemanly behavior in their efforts to win championships (Lewis) or salvage ego (David).