Magazine article The Spectator

Last Chance for Victory

Magazine article The Spectator

Last Chance for Victory

Article excerpt

OCCASIONALLY you meet impressive, strong-minded characters, the sort of people who can watch Play Misty for Me all the way through. Others of the more usual sort, myself amongst them, are overcome by an irresistible urge to switch the movie off and walk away as they see a nightmare slowly materialising before them. Why put yourself through it? It all started so well, and you can see that it will end badly. The only question left is the actual form of the horror.

It is for this reason that I will not be watching the climax of the Formula One season in Japan on Sunday. Damon Hill needs to win a single point - that is, to finish in the first six - to win the world drivers' championship. And I know that even if he gets it, the struggle will be unbearable.

This is not a question of narrow patriotism. It is, if you like, the jingoism of the entire race of ordinary people. Hill's qualities of ordinariness and decency are the best things about him, and the ones most likely to cost him the championship. I have met him on a couple of occasions; the first at some length, when he first joined the Williams team and was therefore to be regarded as world-championship calibre. The questions raised that day are still to be answered.

Now it needs to be pointed out that Formula One drivers tend to be utterly bizarre people. They are filled with a god-like selfimportance, they are suffused with the paranoia of Idi Amin. Their self-belief makes them compelling, terrifying, odious. They are a race of perfectly impossible men.

But not Hill. He is a man who has lived in the real world, who has a proper sense of a sane man's life. There is no side to him. He is driving for all those people who believe that being a thoroughly decent sort is something that deserves some kind of reward. It may do, but deserving and getting are different things. Especially in sport, of course. …

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