Voice of the #F1 fans: Lewis Hamilton – The Pioneer – Part II

Editor’s note: TJ13 began with a desire to offer a ‘fans’ perspective’ of this glorious sport of ours; warts and all. There are no agenda’s behind the articles and certainly no censorship from corporate interests. As a growing community, many articles are written by passionate fans and we’d like to encourage more debate and more doodles and muses from you all.

A new feature has recently been introduced called simply – “Voice of the Fans”. It will feature anyone who chooses to share their views. If you have something to say, please send your words through the usual ‘Contact Us’ and we will put them into our new feature.

Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Still I surprise

(If you missed part I read it here)

 3) Lewis and ‘The Lord’

Does a vocal expression of religious belief by a competitor and their sport mix?

Well in terms of F1, we are now faced with this question. In modern times and for many F1 fans, this question has not been asked by other drivers.

I cannot recall another driver so outwardly religious before. This is yet another shade of Lewis which confronts us and of all the aspects of Lewis’ life, this is the one now appears to evoke the most negative feelings within me personally.

I find the ‘use’ of religious idioms in sport disingenuous.

Is petitioning God for help or thanking him for granting a personal divine intervention really appropriate where the sport is all about the individual’s skill and focus?

However, many fans appreciate Lewis’ religious comment and again we are forced by Lewis to confront the uncomfortable.

Perhaps Ayrton Senna had a similar effect. He was accused of being dangerous because his religious view appeared to represent a “when you’re time’s up – it’s up” philosophy. It’s not difficult to understand the associated dangers with a world view where your own death is an abdicated responsibility for another to explain.

Senna though existed in an era and from a country where religion was a daily part of daily life.

In the modern incrementally secularised world, in this sense, Lewis is again an F1 pioneer.

Lewis' "Still I Rise" tattoo

Lewis’ “Still I Rise” tattoo

4) Lewis the Driver Born at the Will of a Corporation

I think the final challenge that Lewis presents us, that evokes the extreme emotions, is that he was in many ways the first professionally tailored junior talent to rise through the ranks.

Hamilton enjoyed, and made the most of a fully funded path to greatness, whilst being sculpted into a McLaren icon. He was the first to ride the long term wave of a big teams desire to ‘breed’ a driver of unparalleled pedigree, which has primarily been achieved. His 2007 season was the proof of this, as Lewis was adept in interviews at proclaiming the corporate line.

Some feel that this makes him an ‘entitled’ individual and his rhetoric of an underprivileged heritage then reeks of hypocrisy. This being a given, Lewis’ comments on the privilege of Nico Rosberg’s upbringing may not have been the wisest

Yet again, Lewis is unlike any previous Formula One world champion driver. No other before him made this kind of entrance into the sport. None had been plucked from their childhood – age 13 – and ‘developed’ in such a way.

Now this route into top level Formula One is becoming more normative. but Lewis was the pioneer as the first from a corporate driven generation.

The guiding hand of McLaren and Ron Dennis

The guiding hand of McLaren and Ron Dennis

Still I ponder

Whatever Lewis is, whatever his personal stance, whatever his underlying motivations, whatever his lifestyle choices are, one thing is for sure; he challenges us. Not least because he is a pioneer in all the aspects I have already discussed, but he forces us to consider religion, race and celebrity status as one.

Hamilton arrests our paradigms, long established by the rich history of the sport, which inevitably evokes extreme feelings. That makes some of us uncomfortable, angry, resentful, inspired, courageous or identify with him – and strangely for a select few, myself included, all of them at once.

In the end, Lewis Hamilton is good for Formula One.

To me, Hamilton is a symbol of an evolving world, and an evolving sport, that at times exists between the archaic and modernity.

Lewis is the proof that we have a world becoming more tolerant, not only to race, but religion, celebrity and alternative lifestyles.

The pace of evolution may be slow at times, but it is indeed a sign we are moving in the right direction.

Do I support Hamilton? No I don’t.

Do I like him as a person, from the public snippets of what we see and hear? Not overly.

Do I want Lewis in F1? Absolutely. Because Lewis is one of the best drivers in the world and he tests us all.

On reflection

I see the effects of Lewis’ pioneering career as a mirror, with us looking into it, for those wise enough we see the best and worst of ourselves. We see the most desired traits we may want and the least desired traits we dare not admit we have.

Lewis Hamilton is unprecedented in Formula One, which when acknowledged, one can see WHY he evokes such extreme views. It is why some will defend him with their last breath and why some will want to pin him to a metaphorical cross.

In particular, what challenges me is nothing to do with his race, or colour. Nor his entrance into Formula One or even his celebrity lifestyle cross over.

For me the challenge is Lewis’ outspoken religious beliefs and more specifically the way that ‘the lord’ is somehow implied to care about sport and in particular Lewis’ performance over and above other drivers.

Of course Hamilton’s emotional flippancy and his sullenness when he feels maligned or loses, grates on me. Where I come from, when you lose, you say ‘good game’, move on and focus the pure pain of the loss into a furnace within yourself.  You create a pure energy so as to unleash it in every training session up until the next game or race where you will see if you were good enough again. And you do it with a smile.

What do I love about Lewis?

His amazing, incredible appetite for driving. His unprecedented impact on F1. His presence as a symbol or proof that we are moving forward in our sport and on this planet, even if this progression is only in rather a small manner.

32 responses to “Voice of the #F1 fans: Lewis Hamilton – The Pioneer – Part II

  1. Wow!! I’m beyond surprised, I honestly thought that when you pleaded to write an article about him, you would’ve nailed him to the metaphorical cross, but you haven’t. You have produced a balanced, thought provoking and compelling piece of work and I commend you for that.

    Your views on race for me is probably the most compelling piece, because it’s an issue that many refuse to acknowledge and refrained from discussing, despite it being, I believe the most important aspect of the treatment he’s sometimes subjected to, particular from a certain ‘John’…..ha ha not you, but Mr Watson. Lewis isn’t perfect and I think many expect him to be, given that he is the minority in a sport that has always been for the upper echelons of white society. We saw the same thing happen to other pioneering black athletes such as, the Williams sisters at the beginning of their careers as well as Tiger Woods.

    So again, that was a well balanced piece of work and I look forward to your next piece on Jenson Button.

    • Thanks for the comment Fortis.

      Race is definitely part of it. It accounts for some of the amplification of feelings surrounding Lewis, for and against. For you, it’s for, and that “extra positive feeling” comes from race maybe. Maybe you identify somehow? I don’t know.

      But that’s not the case for all. Not all are racist, nor do all care if he’s black or white or yellow or green. Frankly I don’t… at all. But I appreciate he is symbolic of change and that’s good. I can’t tell yet if he truly acknowledges that inherited and perhaps unfair responsibility.

      Some however are elitists and/or suffered or benefited from such elitism and therefore point 4 for them is more resonating. It evokes their own strong feelings for and against. They may not know it but are resentful or admire that fact. Which is why the Nico comments were unwise maybe.

      Some also may not care a jot but are more tabloid fans and see the trappings of sporting superstardom as per point 2 Celeb crossover and that (positively or negatively) resonates with them.

      Some all four. Some not.

      I think race is part of it, yes, but I also thinks it’s unwise if someone thinks all Lewis’s extreme critiques that he gets, over and above others, is down to race. I think the other three points are equally valid and may be playing at the mind of the critic more than race.

      Again, thanks for the comment.

      • I think it was John Donne, who said that a man should be no more aware of his nationality than a healthy man of his bones.

        One can apply that to race, at least as a ideal. But it is a highly conscious factor, and maybe even one better conscious than subconscious, because I would rather anything of possible concern to not be affecting me subconsciously. I genuinely do not think as a boy, that race played any part of my thinking at all, my prep school was a mini UN in a coastal retirement town that had seen better days, and I was in the minority as a white English boy, whereas the town itself was snow white, skin and hair. Just never can remember it being a factor. Now, religion… i’ll skip that though, because funny as my anecdotes are, they could be taken the wrong way. My co conspirator in business latterly is mixed race American, and grew up when racial tension was high, grew up through the worst of the Chicago riots. With my friend, race is a palpable consciousness, because he is quick to spot both kinds of racism, from both sides of the “fence”, or however you see it. It’s interesting to learn how a black man, my friend’s mixed race is not apparent in him, he’s a black dude. We both like Hamilton, but Ham’s “maybe because I’m black” went down rather poorly here. My friend and I both get p***ed if it’s raised as a issue at all. Positive discrimination is our next pet hate. Racism however also get mixed with religion, at least where I am living, and I see discrimination on what I perceive as religious separatist grounds defended by inverse racialism often enough I realized I had filtered out such experiences.

        There’s something about the Dennis photo above, next to a much younger Lewis, which I don’t like, strokes a discord with me.

        I think it easy to forget, though, that Lewis grew up very protected, and I don’t mean he was isolated in a ivory tower, free form hard work and dedication, but I mean by virtue of his focus on his work, he had blinkers on. The expression in that photo with Ron, speaks volumes to me how much he’s grown up, and moreover grown up in a environment where he remained insulated.

        How many chances has he had to learn about his life, for real? I think rather few, very few not dominated by his professional position, which again highlights his status as the only black man in a sport. His new management may actually have expanded his horizons, but I think they may have been a part of confirming in him a protective faith.

        When you are very talented, and very lucky, in life, and first see sight of what the world can be, you are presented with a great deal which you cannot correlate with other experience and I believe you can become exaggerated in reaction both in terms of stance, how you project yourself, in terms of retreat form the unknown, manifest in religious affinity, in terms of declaration and identity, which can be most simply manifest in dress and style.

        I may be speaking right out of my backside, but I lived a very protected and mostly lucky early life, and was actively kept apart form “the real world” by my business partners who, much older, played a kind of management role for me. So I have a little clue, of my own, and I have gone through phases of more pronounced reflex, including (privately) asserting religion, my appearance, and tendency to be provocative outside of my usual “remit”. I have also a good stack of cringe worthy memories, as a result of comparative isolation, that can file under “John was a jerk …”(I am saving up compiling those without any plausible excuse for a whole other exercise)

        I honestly just think we’re seeing the man grow up, and as rich as he may be materially, I don’t think his environment is as rich as he would like it to be. Combine that with the expectation of limited lifetime as a sportsman, pressure to perform and a highly secluded relationship between man and machine expressed through intense relationships in his team, and , well, think Lewis is doing mighty fine, all considered.

        I think I see why he may don a protective mantle of identity, through his race “may e because I’m black”, when he is visually half caste, and his religious exclamations, which belie just now technical one must be to compete, and the fact he is not known by me to disregard his team support.

        I don’t know now why I started this comment as I did, except to say that race doesn’t matter, unless, if raised, you uncover bigotry, and over a decade or so I’ve come to appreciate how my friend spots bigoted behavior…

        What I do not think is that any of this qualifies for stating Lewis is a pioneer. That rather assumes, to my view, that he intentionally raises the debate. Now, to some extent, as the first and only black man in the sport, raising the issue may be important, paving the way even. But I don’t think Lewis I a pioneer by intent, and I think instead that what is being observed here is very normal, comparatively banal, protective behavior, comparable to anyone else in a similar situation, that does not demand being identified as pioneering. I think, whilst it is a interesting conjecture, for debate, the label of a pioneer may misunderstand the human being.

        • I agree, he’s not a pioneer by intent. The “intent” on point 4, in a way, was on McLaren’s side. The intent on point 1 is via default though he still had those challenges. On point 2 and 3, it is debatable on intent but irrelevant.

          But his impact on all points is new to us. In that alone he’s a pioneer, but I did state, perhaps he’s a pioneer unwittingly. Doesn’t change “our” collective positive or negative intensity about him, which is what the article was about, and that’s the effect pioneers have. But it certainly does change the fact Lewis is not an intentional “wall breaker”.

          The article was intended to ponder us as fans and his impact on us, more than Lewis. In that, Lewis is a symbol of these points I state. No more, no less. Does he deserve “credit” for all I said, no I don’t think so. But the effect on us is the same.

          I definitely take your point here JoJ. The article required veiw points from both sides in the commentary aftermath.

  2. you are not quite correct in your assessment that no other driver was as outwardly religious as lewis. i think it doesn’t get more outwardly religious than ayrton senna. what differentiates him from hamilton is that he was a much more charismatic and philosophical figur than hamilton. this gave him an almost prophet like aura, and his religious comments a different quality. prost said that senna was dangerous because he believed that “he can’t kill himself” because of his belief in god. i don’t think you can say the same thing about hamilton. yet, senna, like hamilton was a highly polarizing driver, and for him too, religion might have been an aspect that rubbed some fans the wrong way.

    • Good comment, and your very right, Senna was indeed very religious, which was quite controversial then too. But as I said in the article, Lewis is contextually pioneering this aspect as he isn’t from a place with an intense and outward religious culture. In this sense he is challenging those home supporters and home media, which being British is the archetypical F1 crowd.

      Some love it, some don’t. But it adds to the first two points I discussed yesterday, (Race / Celeb cross over) and the last point (corporate training) that combines to polarise views, over and above what perhaps the other drivers enjoy or suffer

      And in that combination, he’s a pioneer. Maybe unwittingly. Maybe not.

      • by the way, i understand that hamiltons religious antics might be off putting, but i never considered them to be primarily about belief or spirituality. the cross he has tattood on his back is more or less the same as the one worn by rapper tupac shakur, reportedly one of his favorite artists:


        all of hamiltons tattos and jewelry, including the cross, resemble those popular among rap stars, a trend which was started by tupac shakur.

        still i rise, while originally a poem by maya angelou, is also the title of a tupac song, so given the context i believe the latter is the more probable inspiration. tupac, like hamilton, was a controversial figure, who felt misunderstood, haunted by his celebrity and harassed by the media and general public. he also served as a role model for countless teenagers and young adults, especially those with a minority background, because he spoke out against oppression, defiantly refused to “behave” and stylized himself as somewhat of a revolutionary. therefore, i always dismissed hamiltons newfound religion as the adolescent emulation of two of his idols, senna and shakur, rooted in his struggles with celebrity and constant criticism.

  3. Once again can I congratulate you on a fantastic read. A great piece of writing. I reply as Hamilton fan, one of those who will defend him to the ends of the earth, but I come to that position primarily because of his driving, he excites me like no other driver. He is breathtaking. And all the other things you mention in your article serve to make him the unique and interesting character that he is . Like you, I am not religious and I struggle with that aspect more than any other aspect you mention, but I differ from you when considering Lewis and religion. I don’t believe he thinks God will look over him, help him etc more than any other driver. I think he believes what will be will be as ordained byGod, and I think that helps him accept and move on from the bad times. I think he is similar to Senna with this. It isn’t something he’s chosen for effect, he believes deeply and has grown up a Roman Catholic attending Roman Catholic schools.
    Once again thanks for the great read and may Lewis continue Ye to enthral and entertain us for many years.

    • Hi Racechick. Interesting perspective. Perhaps you are right in that view. It’s only my personal perception of course. But I suppose that’s the point, isn’t it? He forces us to consider it. How we cope and perceive it’s impact on him and then maybe us. It’s polarising.

      How many other F1 drivers do that, in any way, for anything? None. He’s pioneering it, as least in the modern sense. And thus it creates the intensity of love and hate. Of challenging our paradigms.

      Also your kind words really humble me. Thank you for reading and responding. Oh and I love the moniker by the way. Pretty cool. 😉


    • I agree with you that Lewis appears to have a deterministic world view…. But that is clearly not joined up thinking when you are striving to be the best at something… C’est la vie 😉

      • The other thing about Lewis is that he just wants to race and win, which clouds his judgement and causes him upset when things don’t go his way. He’s not like Alonso who is calculating and always thinking about what points he needs to secure if he can’t win to give him a better shot at the title (though not much point given Ferrari is a headless chicken at the moment). And tbh Lewis being deterministic is not the problem. He’s clearly not been focused on F1 like he was in 2007 and 2008 due to various distractions in his personal life. He seemed to have gotten things on track earlier in the season but for whatever reason things have gone pearshaped again. I do wonder if certain rumors about him are true and that’s the root of the problem. Though having knowledge of libel laws, it’s probably a subject left well alone.

        I think the disconnect between his PR image and the flashes of the real Lewis we get is probably one of the things that winds people up about him.

  4. Good one again!
    I share your sentiment about religion – and the corporateness of Lewis.
    But I wonder if Christian Klien was in fact the first attempt?

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Verstappen. As for Klein, that’s an interesting point. I am aware of his career progression but was unaware that he indeed was part of a focused corporate jnr career tailoring program. I have done some research and whilst he was picked up at a certain stage and contracted prior to F1, like a few drivers were before Lewis, I can’t see the “from karting to F1” paved career outlay. I can’t see in Klein the methodology and science McLaren put behind Lewis’s incubation, and what Red Bull do now. Maybe you can add a link or two if it’s the case?

      • I heard about Klien writing a letter to Dieter Mateschnitz for sponsoring and then rose through the ranks to become an F1 driver. I have no sources other then my memorie, I guess it was mentioned when he first appeared.
        – writing to Dieter
        – going to Ron
        .. I see at least a similarity
        Maybe Austrian readers can enlight us?

  5. I was pleasantly surprised by these articles SIS. Not the Lewis bashing article i thought you were going to come up with.

    Lewis will continue to be questioned over his actions by the critics due to his heart on sleeve personality, but it’s part of the intrigue that is Lewis Hamilton and not just another clone of the corporate driver personalities and in the end this can only be good for Formula One.

    Personally I mostly love the way he shows his emotions and yes, that will get him into trouble sometimes and may even show up weaknesses, but for a lot of fans it is something that they can perhaps relate to as they realise, yeah you know what everyone has bad days and outbursts and in the end he’s just like us. That is one of the reasons why I think other drivers may not have as such a big fanbase. For example, Nico Rosberg doesn’t really display the sort of emotional spectrum, for want of a better word, that Lewis does and naturally i think fans are drawn into that emotional display by lewis as it just clicks with them and connects the fans with him in a different way to other drivers.

    Maybe i’m just driveling on, but that’s just my 2 penny’s worth and just one aspect out of many on why Lewis causes such debate among people and is extremely popular with some and not with others. 🙂

    • Hi Formula. Thanks for the comment. Your right about the fan base part. The heart-on-the-sleeve style is attractive to many and results in bigger fan bases in most sports. The price to this though is the “hater base”, for want of a better word, is comparatively increased too as those types can alienate too. I personally like heart-on-the-sleeve types but also paradoxically don’t like sore and ungracious losers. But that’s just me. I suppose we can’t it both ways.

  6. great article, again

    balanced, analytical, without being heavy

    and I do stand your comment about religion in BR, pointed out above

    also it’s used as shield by many false, cynical people, to hide their flaws and scams
    in brazilian societies, much like it happens in the american “bible belt”, if you say you’re an atheist, people despise and offend you

  7. I’d sincerely like to thank the The Judge and TJ13 team for giving me (and us) an opportunity to contribute. Thanks in particular to Adam for editing and polishing my article up. It went from amateur to something fit for consumption. Thank you to John for managing the publication. Thanks to anyone who bothered to read it and and took time to comment on it. Cheers, SiS.

  8. When anyone writes an article such as this they will invariably come down on one side or the other – it’s human nature – and the resulting comments will usually reflect this and, as such, are rather a waste of time, in my view…
    But you haven’t come down at all… You’re still up there, over-viewing all, and for that I take my hat off to you.
    And do you notice the extremely polarised comments are also missing.
    Well done, for introducing a new dimension to intelligent debate.

    • Thanks BJF, and good to see you are out of mourning. Great Australian that Jack was.

      Anyhow to your comment. It’s clear Lewis is most definitely a hugely polarising figure in F1. The purpose of the article was to ponder why. In pondering this I realised he was a first in many things. A pioneer. And in that analysis I encourage the reader to see if one or more of the four pioneering reasons I mention could be why for you, the reader, he evokes such intensity. Do one or more of the points substantially increase your positivity or negativity about Lewis Hamilton, beyond his driving exploits?

      For me personally the answer was yes. The next step was to encourage the use of the article to act as a mirror to guide some introspection and see that if indeed that answer is yes, then it begins to speak about you the reader and us collectively the F1 audience. In an indirect way, the pioneering effect of Lewis tells us something small about ourselves individually, but again only if the answer is yes.

      Now with all that being said and to your comment specifically. The comments are equally important in this process. It was important to use the comments to quickly clarify the finer intended points and guide the discussion so we keep it on track, the track being what Lewis means to you, what the points mean to you, and maybe, just maybe taking a small step toward further enlightenment of one self. I am not interested as much in pushing my view or agenda as I am in having everyone ask themselves the relevant questions. In a way, the article moves beyond being about Lewis.

      Hah, F1 Buddhism at its finest. Come Spa, don’t worry, I’ll be a cheeky bugger once again. The bane of the “Hamilfosi”. 😀

      • As an apologist, you write very well. However, the catalogue of analysis of Lewis Hamilton is creating a mythological figure who does not exist…

        I wonder how many figures of history have benefitted from a similar exaltation above their actual state…

        • That’s because only his fans are responding in the main and it seems that way. I have not actually made apologies for Hamilton. I had hoped for a bit more from the non-supporters, as I said, it was written to go either way with the introspection easily for and against.

          Put it this way, the article on Jensen Button will be less open and perhaps more may want to “question” it’s contents. In short, it’s going to be a blood bath of sorts. In particular 2011 will be discussed, and personally there are no if’s and’s or but’s about that being Lewis’s anus horribilus. But it will mainly be a JB discussion.

          Working Title: Jensen Button – fake it till you make it…

          • I was using the term ‘apologetic’ in the literary sense: a defence, justification of….

            My understanding of Lewis from my own experience and opinion of those who have worked closely with him is that.. “What you see is what you get”

            No deep thinking, impulsive behaviour…

        • And as I have said to JoJ above, I think I should have made it a little clearer I didn’t think Lewis was intentional in this pioneering. In a way it’s all very unwitting. But the purpose of this article was, and stated in part 1, to ponder his impact on us. Why we act as we do re: Hamilton.

          The fans have “exalted” him as you say. And that’s the point isn’t it. They did as I pondered. Why would we anticipate less? We just know why now. I am curious as where the rest went?

          The title re-worked may have been, “Lewis the unwitting pioneer”… But a pioneer nonetheless.

  9. Yeah, late here but I’ll chuck in my few bob…
    His fans, not Hamilton, are the issue for me. There’s a rabid sub-section there that just can’t hear or respond to any critcism of the guy at all – no matter how justified. Endless ‘facts’ and what-ifs do not make an argument they just show that you’re incapable of seeing broader issues or accepting he’s human and screws up occasionally.
    And I think that most of SIS’s comment on Hamilton here is directed at the fans, not the man -it’s called trolling. Fun for a while then boring, tbh.
    As for Hamilton himself, I reckon he’s just immature as a result of being raised in a McLaren-branded cage, as explained by someonein a comment above. I’ve always thought the dumb comments he’s come up with sounded like the rubbish you come up with when you’re shooting the breeze wit yo bruvva’s. “Because I’m black” and “Nico’s not German” fit the idea of the stupid themes, memes and running jokes that we are all a part of from time to time. They’re not for public consumption though, let alone for MSM broadcast. That’s dumb & immature, I’m afraid.
    It’s a sign of modern life for us to analyse everything to death, to see issues, parallels, deep stories in everything. Too much time on our hands, probably. I’m sure there are deep readings into the real meaning of the Teletubbies and the ways that toddlers respond as well. The toddlers grow up and move on…

    • “His fans, not Hamilton, are the issue for me.”

      The initial inspiration of this very article…

      “And I think that most of SIS’s comment on Hamilton here is directed at the fans, not the man – it’s called trolling”

      Bit unfair, trolling suggests I don’t actually believe what I write. In the main, I do. But you are correct in that the provocation level increases as the debate heats up. 😀

      Anyway, I painted myself into some “anti-Hamilton” corner and I wanted to set the record straight. Anti-Hamilfosi… perhaps. 😉

      Ahhh it’s all fun and games in the end, isn’t it? What a wonderful sport.

      • Well “trolling” was perhaps unfair in the initial instance – “deliberately provocative” perhaps – but admitting that you have painted yourself into a corner suggests that your “anti-Hamilton” comments have now strayed too far from you own opinion to be sustainable / logical. So now you’re a reformed or prodigal troll?
        It was funny that the Hamiltonians were surprised at your moderate tone in the article but still don’t seem to realise that they’ve been pwnd over and over again by your good self in recent months. Funny.
        Your article ended up being something of a summary of the cult of celebrity as it pertains to a particular individual. The antidote to this lizard-brain tendency is self-awareness and the ability to self-reflect. I’m figuring the Lewisites who hang around here are pretty young and are yet to develop the necessary perspective to see these often marketing-driven audience-aggregations for what they are. Some will never ‘get it’ though.
        Onwards to Spa…

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