Lewis Hamilton can be the greatest, says F1 chief Chase Carey

We'll come to Lewis Hamilton
and his record-breaking potential in a minute. But first the serious stuff. The moustache.
For, if there is one thing that the wider world knows about Chase Carey, the otherwise enigmatic chief executive of Formula One, it is the twirled white hedge below his nose.
'I've had it for too long to remember,' he said, when I asked him in the Silverstone paddock on Friday how it came about, one theory being that it was to hide a scar he incurred in a road accident. Not so.
'In my younger years to make life interesting I ended up with an array of facial growth that evolved into this. I liked it more than the other styles.
'When I asked my wife and kids about cutting it off, they were horrified at the thought.'
So it was hirsute that Carey arrived in Formula One at the Singapore Grand Prix of 2016, when the media conglomerate Liberty Media, owned by mogul John Malone, began their £6.4billion buyout of the sport. 
A few months later Carey, an American television executive whom Rupert Murdoch once tipped as his successor, delivered the news to Bernie Ecclestone that his 40-year Svengali grip was over.
Up until that point, Ecclestone, 5ft 2in and then 86, was throwing grenades out of his Knightsbridge penthouse. Armed combat is not Carey's style. He says he prefers to act before he talks. That is not always true. 
Sometimes he talks before he acts (for example, promising to take the sport to destination cities in America). Sometimes he acts and then doesn't talk (declining on Friday to elaborate on the deal that keeps the British Grand Prix at Silverstone).
Those who work with Carey at Formula One's plush St James's Market headquarters say he is friendly and efficient. A details man. He does not expect cap-doffing from staff. He replies to queries fast. An email is often answered by a call, old school.
On Friday in the dark paddock battle bus that Ecclestone had designed for himself but which has now been slightly remodelled for its new inhabitants, Carey arrived with a cardboard coffee cup. He gets through eight or 10 a day, usually starting with a skinny latte.
'It gives me something to do with my hands, like smoking.'
A glass of wine, red or white, awaits when the day's done.
Carey splits his time, when he is not on the road meeting race promoters from Silverstone to Melbourne, between houses in London and New York — the Hamptons it is thought. But this married father of two grown-up children says as little as possible about his private life. Journalistic inquisitions are as welcome as drowning.
He is not one for outlandish statements. I ask if he would throw himself in front of Vladimir Putin to save the Russian president from a bullet, as Ecclestone said this week.
'I worry about F1,' says Carey, laughing. 'The broader world is others' challenge. (Putin) is well looked after. He is a good partner. We are proud of our race there. We are proud of the relationship. Bernie can be the secret service agent. I offered Bernie the job of chairman emeritus. Bernie and I are different people with different views. It doesn't mean one way is right or wrong. I have complete respect for what he created.
'But it would be honest to say in the last five or 10 years Formula One was not doing some things it needed to do to take care of its opportunities. Credit to him for creating one of the sport's great franchises. I talk to Bernie with some regularity.'
If Ecclestone is the little giant he wanted out of the boardroom, not least to migrate coverage from free-to-air TV on to the digital channels, Hamilton is the other high achiever he needs to keep in the fold. Carey knows the debt of gratitude he owes the quintuple champion, the ace racer who is packing them into the aerodrome here in Northamptonshire this weekend.
The place is looking great this year. Even the car park grass this morning was verdant, smooth enough for croquet. Hamilton, who was second in practice behind his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, is possessed by a character-defining need to win.
That is perhaps the chief reason why, aged 34 and at an increasingly long peak, he will pass Jim Clark and Alain Prost as the most successful racer in British Grand Prix history should he win on Sunday: six times.
Carey, a Yankees baseball and Giants NFL fan, does not claim to know his brake ducts from his end plates, though he says he is genuinely enjoying the racing the more he gets into it. But he knows a star when he sees one.
'Lewis is a great champion,' said Carey, in his rat-a-tat delivery. 'He is certainly headed to be the all-time championship leader. He has been a representative of Formula One. Sport is built on heroes and he is second to none.
'There are great drivers on the way up, too. Charles Leclerc at Ferrari and Max Verstappen at Red Bull. I like Lando Norris and George Russell is a wonderful personality.
The big paddock dispute of the time is over the new rules and regulations for season 2021 and beyond. It is a chance to reshape the sport, making the racing keener and more open. To this end, Hamilton attended a meeting in Paris last month to put his suggestions forward.
'It was great he was there,' said Carey. 'We had tried, but not hard enough, to get driver input. They know some of the issues better than anyone. So we want to reach out.'
It is believed that Carey's contract is due for renewal next year. Will this career fix-it man move on when Formula One's 2021 future is resolved — a possibility over which Hamilton's boss Toto Wolff, among others, is salivating.
'What, just retire?' asked Carey. This is one where the enigma may well act before he talks.
 
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