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GP Week : Issue 205
22 GPWEEK.com // 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: It looked like a conspiracy. Here we were at silverstone, the circuit where the very first race of the modern-times FIA World Championship was held in 1950, but up there at the podium ceremony afterwards there was clearly something missing. Where the hell, we old-timers wanted to know, was the Royal Automobile Club's magnificent Perpetual Trophy, the curlicued solid gold cup which has been proudly lofted by the winners of the British GP since 1948? Lewis Hamilton was just as anxious as we were about the fate of the handsome relic. He had a personal interest. After all, it had been presented to him on the occasion of his only previous Silverstone win, back in 2008. He had been well on the way to picking it up again last year, too, only for a tyre failure to eliminate him from the race and allow his team mate Nico Rosberg to raise it instead. This year it was Rosberg whose fortunes failed him, and Lewis who benefited. There on the podium, though, the thing being pressed into his hand by some senior politician to mark his achievement was a horribly plastic device shaped like the trademark of Santander, the sometimes controversial Spanish bank which sponsors the race. "Where's the gold trophy, man?" demanded the hero of the day to podium inter viewer David Coulthard. "This thing's falling to pieces, look!" He wasn't wrong, either. The millions watching on TV around the world could actually see bits of it wobbling around. Soon after wards, there was relief around when Lewis arrived for the post- race press conference clutching the familiar gold trophy. Nor was he about to let it go lightly. After a brief tussle with the FIA press wallah he was permitted to plant it on the desk in front of him as he and placemen Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo vacantly answered the predictably routine questions. It was only when your correspondent asked Lewis about the trophy that his eyes lit up. He cuddled the thing like a 12 year-old with his first bicycle, delighting the photographers with his obvious joy: "The trophies that we have nowadays, whilst it's a real privilege being on top of the podium, my one fell to pieces!" he cooed as the cameras flashed. "The bottom fell off the one we just had. It's plastic, it must cost 10 pounds! It's so bad. "These trophies mean [so much] to me," he reflected. "I don't know how it is for the other drivers, but this is what we have to show for our lifetime achievements. I hope we can get some better ones moving for wards." Well, I have some news for you, Lewis. To begin with, I am assured that there was no conspiracy. The group of cynical hacks in the F1 media centre, of whom I am privileged to be one, had predictably leaped to the conclusion that someone, possibly even a mop-headed British billionaire in his eighties, had made some personally rewarding deal with Santander for the drivers all to brandish the bank's trademark symbol on the podium (as they all did). We assumed that for crassly commercial reasons we were witnessing the end of yet another treasured sporting tradition. My own research (courtesy of Dr Google) tended to confirm this theory. I discovered that Santander had promoted a competition among university students in Spain and the UK for the design of a trophy to be awarded at its two sponsored races in 2014. The plastic monstrosities were the result, and the young person responsible had been rewarded with a trip for two to Silverstone. However, I also learned from an apologetic bloke at the RAC that there had been no plan to retire the dear old golden cup, which is after all only on loan to the race winner for a year. The intention had been to present the gold cup at the ceremony and to give him the Santander trophy after wards, to remind him forever of July 6, 2014. The trouble was, I learned, that someone, name not vouchsafed to me, had momentarily forgotten to produce the Perpetual Trophy as programmed, which is why it wasn't on the podium. It also explains how it was hurriedly pushed into Lewis's hands en route to the post-race press conference. On behalf of all trophy traditionalists, I also extracted an assurance from the RAC person that nobody there will forget, deliberately or other wise, to make sure that next year's British GP winner gets his hands on gold, as usual. But not all the news, young Lewis, is good. The next GP, at Hockenheim in a couple of weeks, is also sponsored by Santander. And the sponsor's trophies there will be identical to the ones that were presented at Silverstone. The only consolation, my racing friend, is that if you win again in Germany, you will be able to enjoy watching the bloody things wobbling in unison on your mantelpiece. WHo Lost LeWis' goLd tropHy? OPINION OPINION MIKE DOODSON