The Greatest F1 Has Ever Seen?

The numbers that describe British Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton are incredible: 6 championship titles. 92 pole positions. Most wins at a single Grand Prix. Most wins at a home Grand Prix. 14 consecutive seasons with at least 1 race win. These numbers will surely increase and the records will get ever more impressive. 

Lewis himself would tell you that Ayrton Senna is the best, but I would argue that you should pay close attention here if you aren’t already. We are witnessing a talent in Formula 1 that we may never see again. 

Humble beginnings

You may not know it from looking at him now, but Lewis Hamilton comes from a humble background. At two years old, his parents split. By the age of ten, Lewis’ father Anthony was working three jobs to support his son’s karting career, while never missing a race. He showed immediate promise and talent, but getting up the ladder of motorsport requires more than talent. As I mentioned in my last post, it requires money. Lots of it.

In 1995, at the Autosport Awards dinner, a ten-year-old Lewis told then-McLaren boss Ron Dennis that someday he would drive for him. From that point Dennis kept an eye on Lewis’ progress, and three years later signed him to McLaren’s Driver Development Support Program - the youngest driver ever backed by McLaren, then and since.

Being supported by McLaren gave Lewis the financial backing he needed to improve and showcase his skills. He worked his way up through the motorsport ranks and became the first black F1 driver when he joined McLaren in the 2007 season, paired with double World Champion Fernando Alonso. In only his second F1 season Hamilton took his first Driver’s Championship and the rest, as they say, is history.

A Controversial Figure

Hamilton isn’t like most F1 drivers; his unprivileged background also sets him apart from others. He has matured in his recent years, but early in his career he was hot-headed and quick to temper. Often, his lifestyle receives criticism for being over the top. He enjoys traveling to different areas of the world on a whim, posts such endeavors on his social media, and is “out there” for all to see, whereas other drivers have a very planned public persona. He also has an interest in fashion and launched his own clothing line in partnership with Tommy Hilfiger: Tommy X Lewis

His “jet set” ways can be summed up with a 3 week snapshot of his life: In 2018 he won the Italian Grand Prix. He then flew off to Mexico to launch Tommy X Lewis — his clothing line with Tommy Hilfiger — and did a bit of partying. The press went nuts claiming it was too much and over the top. To show them wrong, he came back to the next race and took a dominant pole position and race win at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Of late, Lewis has used his platform to voice his support for the Black Lives Matter movement and speak out against racism. His influence as a black F1 driver led Mercedes to race in a black livery this season, and for the driver’s demonstration prior to each race’s national anthem.

Seasoned Racer

On-track, Hamilton is nothing but impressive. His race craft is second to none on the grid. In this era of managing F1 cars instead of driving them full pelt for an entire race, Hamilton is a master of tire management, fuel efficiency, and ensuring the gap to the car behind him is sufficient without punishing his car. 

He is adept when it comes to defending his position or cutting his way through the field. He is hard to race against but never unfair. And, when the weather turns to rain, you will be hard pressed to find anyone who can handle an F1 car better in it.

Team Player

While there are things that do make Lewis controversial, something that everyone can agree on is that he is an utmost team player. He recognizes the hard work involved in putting a Formula 1 car at the front of the grid, let alone being completely dominant, and frequently pays homage to all those who work tirelessly to make it happen. 

It’s not unusual for champions to be controversial - there must be that certain something that puts them over the top compared to the rest. For instance, Schumacher and Senna were ruthless on track, nearly to the point of being dangerous. 

It’s more of Hamilton’s off-track antics that are his controversy, but with that he carries a great deal of skill, humility, and genuinely caring about people. It’s for these reasons that British Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton is something special. Keep watching, because when he’s gone we won’t see anything else like him.

About the Author:

Jared Nichols has been a Formula 1 fan for a decade and a car nut his entire life. He is the host of the F1 Explained podcast where he and special guests make Formula 1 accessible to all. Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.

August 20, 2020 — Jared Nichols

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