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GP Week : Issue 224
OPINION mIKe DooDSon the publicists at silverstone used to boast about their circuit's tendency to produce uncannily close finishes, and boy did the old place live up to its reputation on sunday. From the upsets triggered by an over-optimistic Daniel Ricciardo at the first corner which eliminated both Lotuses and one McLaren (David Coulthard amusingly described it on the BBC as "expensive ping-pong"), to Lewis Hamilton's inspired decision to pit for wet intermediate Pirellis at exactly the right moment, this was a race which will live in the memory forever. Nobody could have been happier, of course, than Hamilton himself, whose visionary call had enabled him to lay his hands on the Royal Automobile Club's magnificent Perpetual Trophy, now officially his all-time favourite, for the third time in his career. He was still clutching it in the broadcasters' pen after wards when he came down from the post- race press conference to do the TV interviews. As this column revealed last year, a bureaucratic slip almost cost Lewis his rendezvous with the RAC's bauble after winning the same race in 2014. Instead, at least to begin with, he had to make do with a sorry- looking plastic thing which race sponsor Santander had ill-advisedly commissioned in a competition for art students in Spain and Britain. It fell apart in the grip of the unhappy recipient, who immediately called for the real McCoy, in gold, which has been given to the winner of the British GP ever since the first race to be run as such, at Silverstone in 1948. Regular readers will know that 12 months ago someone, whose name I know, had been personally tasked with ensuring that both the plastic and the gold trophies were on hand for the podium ceremony. Alas, he forgot. Cue loud whingeing from Mr Hamilton while our anonymous scatter-brain dashed off to grab it from the security of his nearby office. Man and trophy were duly reunited, although the chance to get them together on the podium was denied to the photographers. Lewis's beef about trophies, which I happen to share, is that the old-fashioned cups and rose-bowls beloved of him and me are being replaced by objects which may say something about the sponsors who pay for them but which too often look terrible. Just because the sponsors and race promoters happen to be shovelling millions into the pockets of Bernie Ecclestone's ravenous employer, they are not exempt from the duty to provide trophies of a size and design which reflect the significance of the race itself. "We just need to make better trophies – it's shocking how bad the trophies are," Hamilton told pressmen in the week before Silverstone. "The trophies are as good as ... well, at kart level, it was really bad. In Formula Renault it was just little boxes with a car in the middle. Formula 3 was good, and at the beginning of my Formula 1 career the trophies were really good. But now they are just terrible, man. They are so bad. I told Bernie and he got the trophy guy in the room and I just said, 'you know'." Well, yes, we probably do know. Just to remind ourselves, though, let me say that back in the days of traditional metal trophies at F1 events, the lack of imagination of their designers was to be revealed all too often. I wish I had a quid for every time I've seen a driver loft his award only for the base to fall off it on to his foot. For sheer idiocy, though, it would be hard to beat the impressive silver chalice which was handed to a very sweaty Nigel Mansell in Rio de Janeiro in 1989, scene of his totally unexpected first-time-out victory with a fragile Ferrari in 1989. The body of the cup was decorated with dozens of winged curlicues made from razor-sharp slivers of metal. OK, this was a situation which could have been created specifically for the notoriously injury-prone Englishman, whose hands were slashed all over as he juggled the pot. He'd just risked his life for almost two hours on the track only to find himself seeking medical assistance for the very nasty wounds he'd picked up on the podium ... For whatever reason, this year's British GP went ahead without a naming sponsor. Thus the RAC Perpetual Trophy would take pride of place when the top three came up to receive their awards. It's an interesting bit of ironmongery (not solid gold as I suggested last year, but gold-plated silver) whose origins seem to have been lost in the mists of time. In fact it's been hanging around the RAC's London HQ since long before it made that appearance at Silverstone in 1948. One theory is that it may have been awarded more than 100 years ago as first prize in the RAC's annual snooker competition, restricted to club members. Yet another yarn associates the cup with Charles (C S) Rolls (1877- 1910), an engineer whose partnership with fellow motoring pioneer Henry Royce almost certainly began when they met at the Automobile Club in London, before the establishment received the Royal seal of approval. There is a Latin inscription on the base of the trophy which reads "Floreat Etona" ("May Eton flourish"), the link being that Rolls had been a pupil at Eton school. Something else which I have discovered from my knowledgeable sources at Silverstone is that Lewis Hamilton is not the only latter-day racing driver with a soft spot for the famous trophy. Former Red Bull heroes Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, both of whom have won the race, were not too happy about having to return their prize after one year in their care. So they got together and commissioned a silversmith who made two 75percent copies for them to put on their mantelpieces. Come to think of it, I should have mentioned that to Lewis after the race. Knowing him, he'll plead poverty and persuade those nice Mercedes people to pay for him to have his own copy. 17 GPWEEK.com // 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: OPINION lewis And the trophies – pArt ii