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Column: How Hamilton proved he's still F1's kingpin

  • Published on 13 Jul 2020 10:57
  • comments 9
  • By: Fergal Walsh

Lewis Hamilton has long proven himself as a commander of speed in Formula 1, and the reputation he has built up in recent years has slowly snowballed into talks of him being one of the all-time greats, rather than just superior on the current field.

In 2020, he goes in chase of Michael Schumacher's record of seven drivers' titles, a feat that years ago, some would've thought was impossible to match.

Hamilton's run of success makes it seem as though he not only has a chance to match Schumacher's record, but also to beat it and set the new standard of what it means to be the best in F1.

The Briton's win at the Styrian Grand Prix upholds his record as the only driver to have won a race in every F1 season they've competed in - a run that stretches back 14 championships.

But Hamilton is taking up another fight this year, as he enforces his stance against racism, taking clear leadership on the matter as the only black driver on the grid.

Any suggestions that Hamilton's activism is a distraction to him were demolished last weekend, with a worryingly dominant performance over the rest of the field throughout the weekend.

Coming off the back of what he described as a “psychologically challenging” opening round in Austria where he was pestered by penalties involving rivals Red Bull, he responded with a faultless weekend the second time around.

The tight margins that we are used to seeing in F1 these days compared to the wide gaps of decades gone by were obliterated on Saturday, as in the wet, Hamilton dazzled to place his car on pole position by over 1.2 seconds. 

Hamilton described the weather situation as “probably the worst conditions we could probably get these cars around in” but he nevertheless “felt pretty much at home in the rain”.

In vastly different conditions on Sunday, Hamilton took advantage of the clear track in front of him at the start, controlled his gap to Max Verstappen behind, and cruised to his 85th career race win.

It was a typical, unsurprising display from Hamilton, and yet his performances are just as admirable as when he entered the sport as a fresh-faced rookie in 2007, taking the challenge to two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.

But it only reflects the high standard to which Hamilton has always performed. And even if Mercedes' advantage over the field limits Hamilton's competition en route to another championship, the Stevenage-born racer is driving while fighting another battle this year.

His outspoken manner on social media and push for equality has seen those who don't share his beliefs take to his posts and fire back at his activism. 

But the calls to “Leave politics out of sport” and “Stick to driving” will only fall on deaf ears - Hamilton's relentless focus to achieve his goals has been clear all through his career and the new pressure he finds himself under will not deter him if history is anything to go by.

Hamilton revealed that some drivers felt the stance it took last week before the Austrian Grand Prix was enough, to which Hamilton asserted that the fight to achieve equality will not be done and over with after one single minute of solitude. 

Speaking following the Styrian Grand Prix, Hamilton said: “Some felt like one [stance] was enough last week and I just had to encourage them that racism is here, going to be here for probably longer than our time here and people of colour who are subject to racism don’t have time to take a moment to protest and that be it.

“We’ve got to continue to push for equality and really to raise awareness of it so I don’t really know what else we can do moving forward but for me to have Valtteri and my team also lining and acknowledging and kneeling before the start of the race I think was really huge and I’m incredibly grateful for their understanding and this contribution to it.”

Hamilton has undoubtedly rallied the support of his fellow F1 drivers, even if some are unwilling to take a knee. But it seems the highest level of support comes from Mercedes, who has pledged to launch a diversity programme while also painting its car black for the new season..

“For me, as a team, we’re keeping the car black all year long so,” Hamilton said. “We’re going to be fighting and pushing for it all year and me personally, I think this is going to be a lifelong thing for me.”

With respect to Hamilton, he has more years behind him than ahead of him in F1, but his career path beyond his racing life is starting to take a little more shape.

Replies (9)

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  • Did Lewis Hamilton ghost write this one? Haha wow.

    I'm totally in support of a certain kind of activism in defense of equality. But I don't tolerate Lewis criticizing the silence of others while he remained silenced for 13 years of celebrity in F1. Suddenly, he acts like he's been Mohammad Ali all along.

    Also, I have a problem with the idea that a group that is called black lives matter only cares about black lives when they are being abused by white people. Meanwhile, the largest genocide since the holocaust is taking place in Darfur and nobody cares. I wish attention was brought to that, where it's not isolated events of racism, but daily risk of death

    • + 2
    • Jul 13 2020 - 16:53
    • 2GRX7

      Posts: 108

      LOL, annnnd once again, you're trying to change the narrative. He discussed racism in the beginning of his career when confronted in Barcelona, 97',08'.

      With regards to BLM, once again, you're CHOOSING to change the narrative. Of course ALL lives matter, but until Black/brown people are treated with the same respect/equality as whites, the US will stay in a constant struggle with itself. If you don't want to read up on what BLM stands for and continuously try to berate us on this website for your own edification, well then you'll just stay apart of the problem-and you'll be corrected.

      With the way you choose to negatively comment on topics regarding race (never a sincere question), tells me you're fine with the status quo.

      • + 0
      • Jul 13 2020 - 22:10
    • 2GRX7

      Posts: 108

      That's 07 and 08 Barcelona.

      • + 0
      • Jul 13 2020 - 22:13
    • @2GRX7 Hello again.

      Once again you extrapolate my words and take offense after doing so. I made three very simple points:

      1. Lewis didn't take an active role in fighting for equality prior to the most recent movement. He merely reacted to some horrific events as you correctly mentioned. But he never took a stance as he is doing today (which I applaud). How could you possibly suggest he took an active role before when Lewis himself has admitted to flaking out on the Colin Kaepernick protest (kneeling during the national anthem). Lewis wanted to, he was advised against it, and he was to afraid to do it. He regrets it now

      2. My criticism of Lewis is only of the hypocrisy of calling other people out for not acting immediately when it clearly took him several years to muster the courage to ACT. Not merely say something

      3. BLM does not explicitly 'care' about the plight of black people in Darfur. Explicitly meaning taking action. You know that's true, not sure why you're arguing with me about BLM. I didn't criticize what they are doing for black people in America. I criticize that they are not doing for the black people that need it the most

      If you disagree with me that's fine, but basically implying that I'm a racist by asserting that I'm "fine with the status quo" is not appropriate. I am discussing ideas in a civilized fashion. Why would you then make personal attacks?

      • + 1
      • Jul 14 2020 - 00:24
    • 2GRX7

      Posts: 108

      Extrapolate? More so, dissect!

      1. He did take a stance in 07-08 Barcelona!!! You're glossing over that FACT! And quite frankly, who are you to decide when enough is enough for a person of color? Cell phones with cameras can have a profound effect on when one "chooses" to explode!

      2. Now, you're changing your words from, "silence", to an, "active" role! Yes, he called out team heads'. Remember, F1 is a marketing business, and Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari, Alfa, Renualt want EVERYONES' money-just like Nike and FedEx (Washington Redtails?!!)! Damned sure you better let every potential buyer know where you stand.

      With regards to the competitors he's PREVIOUSLY talked to on this subject, they were being hypocritical. I sure as hell wouldn't allow them to talk about this in a supportive manner in private, then dummy-up publicly-you're not a friend, and I wouldn't have discussed the topic with you in the first place, so you'd get "checked"! Those drivers he'd had those conversations with even mentioned they were uncomfortable, and didn't know how to address it-eventually, they did though. OOH, and taking a knee in Austria was VETTEL's call to action-not Hamiltons'.

      And what's up with you and Darfur? It's yet another civil war taking place that includes genocides and dark forces behind the scenes (Yemen). Genocide's happening in China, India, Myanmar, as well. OH, Turkey's at it again (Armenia-3m DEAD, early 20th century). By your logic, YOU, AJP, should be talking about that in the same sentence as Darfur!

      We in this, so called, 1st world (Yes, UK, Netherlands, France have skin in this game too) are still dealing with our civil war that's been in effect since 1619 and gaining our equality and equity are paramount! Once we've truly ended this war, we'll turn our attention to other people of color that, because they're black, are going through their own civil war.

      • + 0
      • Jul 14 2020 - 05:55
  • 2GRX7

    Posts: 108

    These are your words, "I didn't criticize what they are doing for black people in America. I criticize that they are not doing for the black people that need it the most" That statement reeks of implicit bias! It reinforces status quo!

    Also, I'm not sure what, exactly, you're trying to say, "Also, I have a problem with the idea that a group that is called black lives matter only cares about black lives when they are being abused by white people"

    • + 0
    • Jul 14 2020 - 06:01
  • Lewis may not have been brave enough to do it before but he's done it now and that's what matters for me. How must it feel to believe you are alone and a solitary voice, that your companions and peers don't feel the way you do - at what point is enough enough? I think Lewis reached that point. So no AJP - I don't think he's been hypocritical at all - he's taken stand and used his position to encourage and persuade others to do the same, no shame in that.

    • + 0
    • Jul 14 2020 - 18:51
    • I agree when the operating words are 'persuading' and 'encouraging' I wholeheartedly agree. I disagree when the modus operandi is 'shaming' I have a problem with it. Maybe it's a difference of interpretation. I felt that Lewis was shaming F1 into some sort of grand gesture with regards to BLM. That' s all.

      • + 0
      • Jul 14 2020 - 19:08
  • f1ski

    Posts: 726

    One great issue here is with the emotional attack against AJpenny by 2GRX7 when the narrative goes counter to what he/she wants to be heard. Racism exists lets get past that. Did racism stop lewis from getting into F1 no it did not. In our world today performance matters. In sport it matters most. When diversity matters more than performance that is racist as it choses one above the other by basis of race. By providing opportunity as opposed to forcing quotas and measuring performance without racial bias will end racism faster. By looking at everything from a racial filter just perpetuates racism.

    • + 0
    • Aug 5 2020 - 02:05

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