Mark Reason: Lewis Hamilton show is reality TV with motorcars
OPINION: One by one my family came into the room to watch screaming Formula One cars.
Can you imagine how unlikely that is? It's about as probable as Richie McCaw giving a poetry recital to a gathering of pastry chefs.
But who can resist a prat? Who can resist the bangle-burbling of Lewis Hamilton's jewellery and the jangle of his mouth.
There was a time when we watched Formula One in the expectation of a crash. We were sad rubber-neckers horrified by our own ghoulishness.
But now that safety has improved so much, we watch Formula One for a different sort of car crash. We watch to see to what levels of vanity Hamilton can aspire. It is reality TV with motor cars.
There seem to be almost no limits. Here he was backing up his own team-mate in a desperate final fling to become world champion.
Hamilton had to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and Nico Rosberg had to finish no better than fourth for that to happen. But oil was leaking into the ointment. The Mercedes love child, half Teuton, half Finn, all Aryan, was lurking in second place.
Hamilton was going to have to back Rosberg into trouble. He doubted that the third place Sebastian Vettel would be much help.
He was bound to be a German collaborator. But behind him was Max Verstappen. If Mad Max could get close enough, then there could be carnage. Historically the Dutch are none too fond of the Germans.
And so Hamilton began to go slower and slower. And then team management appeared on the radio. On lap 47 a voice commanded, "Okay Lewis, this is an instruction. We need 45.1 for the win."
The order was imperiously ignored. And then another voice and another voice, scaling to the peak of the Mercedes hierarchy.
On lap 51; "This is Paddy, we need you to pick up the pace to win the race. That's the instruction."
Hamilton leaned back in the cockpit like a man who would have preferred a few tunes on the radio and said, "Paddy, I'm feeling quite comfortable right now."
And so pandemonium broke loose in the Mercedes garage. This was potential sabotage. And the Bavarian burgermeisters don't do insubordination.
Team boss Toto Wolff, a strange hybrid of Dorothy's little dog and something big and bad, said "Anarchy does not work in any team and any company."
No, but it works on television. Who would you rather watch? Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg? Nic Kyrgios or John Isner? There is something preposterously fascinating about these young adults whose growth spurt was entirely devoted to their egos.
There is a novel called the Mighty Walzer by Howard Jacobson about a young Jewish table tennis player. It won the 2010 Booker prize. In it the hero, Oliver Walzer, professes to be a devoted student of the "illness of winning."
He says, "I watch it day in and day out on television. I know the personalities – just like my grandfather did. Nastase, McEnroe, Navratilova, Coe, Christie, Lewis, Budd, Klinsmann, Cantona, every member of every Australian cricket team, Tyson, Eubank, Ballesteros, Norman, Hill, Schumacher, Curry, Cousins, Torvill, Dean. A roll call of the psychotic. It's like having television cameras rolling day and night in an asylum. Me me me me me me me me me me me me. And I am transfixed as anybody. I can't get enough. It's like seeing your own soul out there, your own pumping heart, blood-red like meat in a butcher's shop, charging around in shorts and running shoes."
Hamilton could have been the only name on the list if Walzer lived in later times.
In this kingdom of the mad, Hamilton is King. Even if Rosberg won the world championship, it didn't count. Hamilton said, "If he is labelled world champion, it doesn't necessarily mean that is the way it is labelled in my heart."
Mercedes took away Hamilton's engineers, they sabotaged his engine. It wasn't his fault. Not when you live in Kardashian world. Cos Lewis went to see Kanye at his house, "and he goes; 'You know, you're just like me, me and you are very much the same'."
Nice juxtaposition of 'me', Kanye, but flail me with scorpion tails, I interrupted you. And sorry, Lewis, it's your story, you carry on.
"Kanye said, 'I'm big in the music world but I'm trying to do what I love in fashion and people don't like it. You're big in your racing world but you love your music, and people will probably struggle to accept that. You need to do what you love and not give a f**k about what anyone thinks'.
"Ultimately, we shouldn't feel like we need to shrink ourselves for other people to feel comfortable. Kanye's outspoken, to say the least. I love that. He's electrifying in everything he does.
"I wish I could be that outspoken, I really do. But I'm signed to all these brands that have an idealistic image that they wish to be connected with, so I need to be careful. Don't talk to me about what I can and can't do. I define who I am, I'm not defined by what people say. I might be in ten different countries in a week, but I'll turn up at the track and kill it."
You see, you start writing about a Formula One race, and you end up talking about Lewis, the man who put the 'me' in team. He's the man who put the rat in prat. It's hard not to run into the room when Mr Me is revving at full throttle.
Oh, and by the way, Hamilton was quite within his racing and sporting rights to back Rosberg up. But that was never really the point. We just couldn't take our eyes off the Me Machine.