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The maturing of F1 champion Lewis Hamilton

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Roar Guru
4th August, 2020
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Lewis Hamilton’s seventh win at the British Grand Prix stretched the defending champ’s overall lead to 30 points in the driver’s championship.

Hamilton’s win though did not come without drama as he suffered a last lap puncture which turned his Mercedes into a three-wheeler.

Hamilton’s latest win was the 87th of his career which places him only four short of Ferrari legend Michael Schumacher. “I have definitely never experienced anything like that on the last lap,” said Hamilton as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished second while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was third.

Hamilton’s latest victory continues a career that was seemingly destined to be as a Formula 1 driver from the time a precocious nine-year old introduced himself to McLaren team boss Ron Dennis at an award ceremony in 1995.

“Hi I’m Lewis Hamilton. I won the British championship and one day I want to be racing your cars.”

This success though has not always been met with admiration. Hamilton continues to divide fans.

Throughout his career Hamilton has courted controversy through both his active social media presence to driving incidents both on and off the track.

Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolf believes this polarisation is something that works in Hamilton’s favour, saying, “for me many of the best sports stars in the world, they polarise. You will have heard similar comments about Serena Williams.”

These comments followed Hamilton’s Britishness coming under question during a press conference at the British Grand Prix in 2019.

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This divide has not affected Hamilton and the success he continues to experience though, ”Every day is an opportunity to elevate and to shine and to do something new. My mum’s white, my dad’s black. I’ve got the best of both worlds. I’ve got supporters from all religions.”

Lewis Hamilton

Formula One is a constant source of innovation. (Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Hamilton’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement has again created controversy. Hamilton’s Mercedes team have publicly backed his stance and have been honest in their own appraisal of the lack of diversity within its team, revealing only three percent of their workforce comes from a minority ethnic group – while just 12 percent are female.

Hamilton, who is the only black driver in Formula 1, believes more needs to be done from the top – and should be led by the FIA president Jean Todt.

“There are nine other teams and only one that I have spoken to are working on this in the background, there is no other team I know of that hold themselves accountable.”

Hamilton has also been critical of his fellow drivers but does concede he does not want to force any of his rivals into action that they do not feel excited about.

“I want people to think that while they are fortunate not to have experienced racism, they can try to understand what it feels like and that they don’t want people to feel that way and want to be part of change so in the future our kids can lead a better quality life.”

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Comments made by F1 legends Maria Andretti and Sir Jackie Stewart which accused Hamilton of becoming a “militant” and that there were no diversity issues in F1 have highlighted the importance of Hamilton using his privileged position in challenging the very institution he is employed by.

Hamilton responded to these comments by stating he had respect for both men but urged them to educate themselves. He said “this is disappointing but unfortunately a reality that some of the older generation who still have a voice today cannot get out of their own way and acknowledge there is a problem.”

Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone also weighed in on Hamilton’s championing for equality within the sport by calling Hamilton a “little special” and what he was doing for black people as wonderful.

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This though was overshadowed by Ecclestone’s claim that in fact black people were in a lot of cases more racist than white people, and that incentives such as the Hamilton Commission will have little effect on the changing nature of F1 and sport.

Lewis Hamilton may divide and polarise fans but his push for equality within F1 showcases an athlete who is aware of his privileged standing and acknowledges the importance of stepping outside of his own comfort zone to support and drive change.

Hamilton’s unwavering support for the Black Lives Matter movement has created an uncomfortable reality check for F1 which they need to acknowledge before they are able to move forward as a sport and organisation.

The issue of kneeling in support of the Black Lives Movement has come to the fore recently in F1 but also sport as a whole, with seven drivers at Silverstone refusing to kneel – with some citing political reasons.

Politics and sport do not operate separately. Individuals such as Hamilton are utilising their sporting prowess to not only achieve remarkable feats within their chosen sport but also to highlight important and societal conversations that for too long have been pushed to the side.

Hamilton is already a world champion on the track but it may be his latest endeavour to unite and lead real change within F1 against racism that could be his most significant win.

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