Hamilton: Navigating the Rumblestrip to the Top
Ask anyone in the world to name the best Formula One driver of all time and a few names will be banded about. Some will say Senna whose career was tragically snatched from him by an early death on the track; others will say Schumacher for his unprecedented and unmatched 7 world championships. But now a new name is quite rightly being given a hearing at the top of the sport’s all-time greats- Lewis Hamilton.
It doesn’t take a great deal of effort or time to realise just how immense an impact he has as an icon and an ambassador of an entire sport. He boasts over 7 million Instagram followers, 5 million Twitter followers and 4 million likes on Facebook, has a new signature collection with Tommy Hilfiger releasing this month and earns a whopping £40 million per annum. But it’s on the track that he lets his presence do the talking.
He has recorded more poles than anyone in history (78), more points than anyone ever, the only person to win a race in every season of their career, wins at the most amount of circuits (26). The longevity of his success has been immense too. Having won his first world championship in 2008 in only his second season, he is on course- touch wood- to win his fifth title a decade later. In what is arguably his hardest season to date in a car that is slower than the Ferrari of Vettel, he holds a 30-point lead in the title race with only seven races remaining. That would be a fourth crown in five years. Not quite Juventus level dominance but not far off it at all. Yet despite all his brilliance and the accolades that follow his genius, he hasn’t quite had the appreciation that he has well and truly merited. Andy Murray is the fourth best tennis player of his generation, yet he has received a knighthood. Yes, he has achieved world number one and picked up three grand slams, but his achievements are dwarfed in comparison to Lewis. The same argument could be made about many other sporting greats. Mary Peters won one Olympic medal, Kelly Holmes had one great year in 2004, John Walker has one Olympic gold, yet all of them received knighthood honours in the UK.
Hamilton has twice been beaten by Murray for Sports Personality of the year in years where he has won the world championship, not even among the top three in those years. His efforts have been largely overlooked by many, but this is farcical! His legacy will be huge. Not only is he the only black man to ever be world champion, he is the only black man to race in Formula One at all. Period. He is doing what no other non-white man has done before and shown that motorsports shouldn’t just be an arena of wealthy white men, it’s anyone’s game. In the same way that Susie Wolff (among others) has championed women’s participation in racing’s crown jewel, Hamilton has been a real figure and an inspiration to any young kids from an ethnic background to stand out and give it a go regardless of how hard or impossible it may seem. Lewis Hamilton is the ambassador that Formula One needs and the sportsman that deserves to take his seat at the top table.
The GOAT? It’s too early to say yet. But should he manage to match or beat Schumacher’s 7 then I have no doubt that Lewis Hamilton could- and should- go down as the greatest driver that graced a formula one track. He’s the best in this generation and slowly etching his name into the record books to be known for generations to come.