Lewis Hamilton is one of the best Formula 1 drivers ever. This success was not taken for granted in the life of the young Briton, despite his astronomical talent. This was certainly not least because of the color of his skin, which looks as weird as that in 2021; Hamilton was the first black driver and remains, to date, in Formula 1 racing. This isolated state gives Hamilton a reason to fight for him: “There must be a greater reason to be here.”
Hamilton entered Formula 1 like a whirlwind after signing a contract with McLaren. The first nine races during his debut season in 2007 resulted in a podium finish for the then 22-year-old Briton. In Canada, he managed to score the first victory of his still early career. He continued to tie the podiums together (he was only on the podium for five races, editor) and two more wins followed Hamilton. The very young Hamilton, with no hair on his face, was at the top of the standings. But even though Hamilton seemed clear and untouchable at the time, even the best beginners make the mistakes of the novices.
In the penultimate race of the season in China, Hamilton started on pole position with a chance to win the world title. The main objective was simply to finish the match against teammate Fernando Alonso and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen. The race started wet, but a dry spell was coming. The tires started to suffer around lap 30 as the track continued to dry out. Hamilton went too far on lap 31 after the team suggested he stick to the original plan, after which Raikkonen met him. McLaren decided to bring it here and that’s where it went wrong. Hamilton made it to the start of the pit lane, but the still wet track and worn tires prevented him from turning and he shot straight into the gravel box.
It was solid. It is forbidden to ask the team to pay a little. He wasn’t able to secure the world title for this race, but this mistake seems to have bigger consequences. The McLaren driver was four points ahead of teammate Alonso and seven points behind Raikkonen ahead of the final race in Brazil. The Finn won the race ahead of teammate Felipe Massa and Alonso finished third. This means that Raikkonen has overtaken the Spaniard in the standings. As Räikkönen had more wins than Hamilton (six against four, editor), the Briton had to be at least fifth. Partly thanks to a broken gearbox, Hamilton finished seventh by one lap. Championship away.
Loneliness and lonely heights
With tremendous pressure and his childhood dream, Hamilton stood alone in a gravel pit in Shanghai. It’s a moment that doesn’t even appear in your worst nightmares, but for Hamilton it was a reality at the time. Now, fourteen years later, he has seven world titles, 101 main positions, 177 podiums and a hundred more wins. Even the sweetest dreams are a reality for Hamilton. But in a frank interview with The Wall Street Journal The Briton says he still has dreams, feels tremendous pressure and also suffers from the same loneliness. But now with that feeling it turns into an out-of-court battle.
Last year’s race in Mugello was particularly marked by the two red flags that flew during the race. These accidents did not take Hamilton out of focus and he won the race ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas. But this was a race that Hamilton said he should win. To protest police brutality against the black community in the United States, the Briton wore a special T-shirt made from the “arrested cops who killed Briona Taylor”. The race brought an additional burden to him. “I couldn’t finish second,” said Hamilton. The Wall Street Journal. “I had to reveal her name first.”
Fighting off the track is a battle for more variety. Formula 1 is full of white drivers, but also white employees. While Hamilton managed to become the best of the hybrid era, 56 drivers made their F1 debut. None of them are black. In addition, only one percent of all people currently in the field and in factories are black. “The selection procedure really went wrong,” says Hamilton. Formula 1 says it only looks at references, but it always picks people from the same universities. The only problem is that blacks don’t come, for example because they were kicked out of school earlier.
Hamilton suffered from the latter at the age of 16 when he was expelled from school after an altercation. It was only later revealed that Hamilton was not present at that fight at all. The young man lost heart and feared he would give up his place in McLaren’s development programme. Ron Dennis, former McLaren team principal, offered Hamilton a contract with the team three years ago and assured the young Briton that his place was safe. When Hamilton was allowed back into his car, the world and his goals became clear again.
right on target
It was difficult for Hamilton’s father and stepmother to fulfill his childhood dream, because the world of racing is all about money. His father worked three different jobs and drove him to every race he had to drive in a buggy, while his stepmother devoted all her savings to Louis’ dream. His father was also his coach and strategist. “When I got hit, and it was always by a guy named Nikki, my dad would always take me to the racetrack for the next race. We would drive to a point and stop there. My dad made me brake there. Then when I took a turn in the race, it was a magical feeling. This feeling made me invincible.
But these magical moments are sometimes overshadowed by persistent stereotypes. “My dad and I were the only black people on the tracks. Sometimes we get soft whispers and it hurts. However, not only did Hamilton stand out because of the color of his skin, he was also the fastest boy on the track. Dennis also noted it. “When Ron knocked Dennis,” Hamilton recalls. Our door to discuss a place at McLaren, I didn’t think about it.’ I left it to my parents and stepmother, because I didn’t understand what it all meant anyway. I immediately went upstairs and went to see pictures of Ayrton Senna. But now that all my dreams of a Senna have come true. My childhood, I sometimes wonder why I was able to do this.Why am I the only black driver? I should be here for a bigger reason.
This realization came in part from looking at other black people in the sports world. Hamilton drew inspiration from the likes of Tiger Woods and the sisters Serena and Venus Williams. “We have to do this too,” Hamilton told his dad. I looked at these stars and was completely amazed. I immediately felt that I could also do something for my sport. With this in mind, Hamilton launched Mission 44 last summer, and this foundation aims to give children from marginalized groups the opportunity to land a career in science, technology or mathematics. He hopes that Formula 1 will become more inclusive. Hamilton himself donated £20 million (about €23.7 million, editor).
Hamilton is no longer just a Formula 1 driver. Hamilton is a world star and this stellar charisma brings a lot of accountability to the press. In 2017, Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda worried that Hamilton was flying everywhere and nowhere between weekends at the Grand Prix. “I was concerned about these comments, but Toto Wolff assured me that nothing was wrong,” said Hamilton. “He said we all work differently and we shouldn’t put people in boxes. Nobody can hurt me if I keep winning. Only if I lose every time will people see that I’m a loser.”
It remains to be seen if Hamilton will come out on top again this season in the next five races. Currently, Max Verstappen is between Hamilton and his eighth world record-breaking title. But one wonders if that goal is the most important thing for Hamilton at the moment, as he has already shown himself to be one of the best goals ever. The onboard radio Hamilton after winning the championship at the Turkish Grand Prix last year says a lot about the goal Hamilton still has in his life. This is for all the kids who dream about the impossible! You can do that too!’
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