every sketchbook needs a race car

automuseum 1988 IndyCar March 011523 sm

On one of those many ridiculously rainy days in January we went down to the California Automobile Museum to look at the old cars. I only ended up drawing one of them this time, and of course it had to be a race car. The 1988 March, driven by Steve Saleen in the 1989 IndyCar world series, was a cool little vehicle I just had to sketch. What I really want to do is sketch a Formula One car. I am more than a little bit obsessed with Formula One, and have been into it since I was a kid, my dad would watch it, back in the days of Mansell, Prost, and of course Senna. I’ll never forget the weekend Senna died at Imola, because I was watching the Qualifying the day before when Roland Ratzenberger died, and it was pretty shocking. I couldn’t believe the Sunday race went ahead, but when the greatest driver himself then died also? I still feel shocked and stunned by it. I still followed Formula One through the 90s with Hakkinen, Hill, Villeneuve and the other great Schumacher, everyone’s favourite loveable villain, who after a glittering world-beating career on the track ended up suffering terrible injuries in a skiing accident and has not been in public since. He was a classic racer, extremely annoying and easy to dislike early on, but by his later career you couldn’t help but be in awe. Then there was Alonso, who somehow is back and has three podiums out of three this season already, and along came Lewis Hamilton, a real British superstar right from his rookie season. When he won his first title with McLaren in his second season, on that final race in Brazil, I was watching on a terrible feed with no sound on my TV in California, and while I was delighted for Lewis, I was very sad for Felipe Massa who thought he’d done enough to win it, but it wasn’t to be. Lewis of course won loads more with Mercedes, and though at the time it felt like a gamble to switch teams to the Mercs, it really paid off. In between though we had the Vettel dominance with Red Bull, when my son was very little and that cocky young’un Seb was his first sporting hero (followed by Luka Modric and Gareth Bale), and the 2012 season I remember as being one of the greatest. Back then he loved his toy cars and we would draw these huge race tracks on poster board, one for each F1 Grand Prix, and play with the cars on them. Then the years of Lewis becoming all powerful, and even though some years it felt easy for Mercedes (that’s the nature of the sport, a great driver needs a great car, it felt like that with Schumacher and Ferrari, it feels like that now with the Red Bull and Max, even when Hakkinen was winning that McLaren felt unstoppable) there were some high drama years and I watched as avidly as ever, and I’m a big big fan of Lewis, and I hope he still has another good challenge in him. I am still feeling gutted and angry about how the 2021 season ended, when he’d done so much to come back and lead the title, only to be stitched up by the FIA on the last couple of laps of that race. That had been an amazing and dramatic season, the Max v Lewis, Horner v Toto, Red Bull v Mercedes season. And then the cars changed, Mercedes created a dud, and Red Bull got it completely right, and with Max Verstappen steaming away at the front they look like they will be unstoppable for a few years. Our nickname for Max is ‘Waluigi’, he reminds us of that Mario Kart character. (Side note, I love Mario Kart, and it was my F1 obsession that led me to buy the original Super Mario Kart not long after it came out, as it was the greatest racing game, and me and my brother will still play the original version all these years later). I’m not particularly a fan of Max, I don’t like his character much, but I do have admiration for him as an unbelievably determined racer, and the lad’s got talent. He may well be another Schumacher, if this Red Bull keeps developing. I’ve not even mentioned Jenson Button, who was one of my favourite racers, and the season he unbelievably won the title in a Braun, that white car with the neon yellow bits on it that looked amazing, in a year that felt like Formula One was turning upside down a little bit during the global economic downturn (remember that), that was still one of my favourite seasons of all time. Now, a lot more people over here are getting into F1, thanks to the popularity of Drive to Survive, which has for me at least brought the less well-known racing battles into greater light, the midfield drama that we often overlook when focused solely on the podium places. Formula One has always been a soap opera for me, and unlike football, where I only really love Tottenham, mostly indifferent to everything else (though I’ll sometimes watch Serie A) except for the kits which I’m obsessed with, and of course the World Cup, which is enjoyable except when watching England when it’s agony, or Ireland when it’s 1994. I don’t support a particular team, or even a particular driver, I just like the sport and the characters and the drama, and I just want good racing, although I have always loved Lewis. Here’s my sketch after he won that first title back in 2008, right before Obama won the presidency. I’ve not watched a lot of IndyCar, to be honest, whenever I do it’s really just to watch the few former F1 drivers taking part (like when Alonso was involved for a bit), but that’s usually a lot of fun as well.

lewis hamilton