Words by Tinashe Zvobgo
When I first joined my father on the couch on a Sunday to watch Formula One, I never imagined I would be witnessing history in my own living room in 2020. Like many, my father was a big Michael Schumacher fan, but I could never get engaged with F1. That is however, until a certain young Brit took Formula One by storm. Lewis Hamilton is the greatest Formula One driver of all time. Admittedly, that statement has some bias – I’ve grown up watching him after all – but not a lot. The statistics are firmly in my camp in this respect. Record after Record has tumbled beneath his hands. He currently stands as the joint holder of the most World Championship titles (along with the great Schumacher), a record that is surely to fall next year.
Hamilton had a less conventional start to motor-racing than many of his compatriots. The
money required to fund a burgeoning F1 driver often eliminates many regardless of talent.
Anthony Hamilton, Lewis’ father, was determined to ensure the talent he saw in his son was
allowed to fulfil itself, regardless of costs. The elder Hamilton worked 3 jobs to allow Lewis to
traverse the world of karting, often running up against people who had more money, but less
talent. It should also be pointed out that the Hamilton’s were also conspicuous amongst their
competitors for their ethnic background. Both father and son have discussed the unique
pressures presented by this difference, but never let it hold them back. Talent spoke louder than
anything, leading to Lewis’ recruitment to McLaren Racing’s formidable young driver programme.
As a child I witnessed the end of the Schumacher era closely followed by the rise of the then
youngest driver on the grid who would later become the then youngest F1 World Champion (a
feat only bettered by Sebastian Vettel). Driving for McLaren, Hamilton won his first
championship in 2008, after only his second year in F1 (having just missed out in his rookie
year). Hamilton then shocked the F1 world in 2012 by deciding to move to up-and-comers
Mercedes AMG Racing, when McLaren were considered to be at the peak of their powers.
Commentator after commentator wrote off his chances. Even as a dedicated fan, I was unsure.
As the saying goes, only time will tell. And oh boy, did it have a story.
With 94 wins, 163 podiums and 97 pole positions, Hamilton has manoeuvred himself into the
best seat in F1 with the Mercedes-AMG team to the devastation of all their competitors. It’s a
process that has seen him develop from an intuitive driver who relied on pace to a more
considered, thoughtful driver who can pull a pole lap from nowhere. He’s faced up against
some of the greatest drivers in his era such as Fernando Alonso, Vettel and even his childhood
friend Nico Rosberg. Whoever the competitor, Hamilton has raised his game to make himself
unbeatable over the season.
At the age of 35 with so many titles under his belt, you could argue that Hamilton has achieved
everything in motor racing. It would not be unreasonable for him to retire as a legend. However, having risen to the very top of his sport, he is now using his platform to agitate for social justice. It seems he has found real purpose with the rise of people-led protest movements that have dominated 2020. He has especially been instrumental in bringing Black Lives Matter to Europe, forcing the topic onto the F1 race weekend itinerary as well as educating his fellow drivers on the role they have to play to make the world a better place. Since becoming a vegan, he has furthered his personal involvement in advocating for environmental considerations. He’s started his own team in a competition that will race cars run on reusable energy and has made a personal commitment to make his own travel as environmentally friendly as possible.
However, the question still remains, does he want more? With his contract running out and
rumours of team principal Toto Wolff leaving, will Hamilton stay? Can he win one more andbecome the most successful driver ever? Nevertheless, Lewis Hamilton is undoubtedly the