A former sports minister of India derided motorsports because he was truly unaware of the physicality, the mental effort, competitiveness and the technical nous that a driver needs to be a winner. In winning the race and his seventh World Drivers Championship at Istanbul this past Sunday, Lewis Hamilton displayed all those properties in spades. And while this race may not have had the drama of his first championship in 2008, where he won by a single point, overtaking German driver Timo Glock and denying Ferrari’s Brazilian driver Filipe Massa a chance to hold the title aloft at his home Grand Prix, the way Lewis won proved that sticking the best driver in the best car isn’t enough.
More importantly, Lewis also proved wrong the theory that Formula 1 drivers have to have immense family wealth and a connection with the top echelons of motorsports to succeed. A mixed-race child, who grew up in government housing in a lower middle-class part of England, he is now the winningest driver in the sport and has equalled Michael Schumacher’s seven world titles. If he resigns with Mercedes-AMG next year, as he is almost certain to do, it is a matter of when and not if he will win 100 Formula 1 races and a potential eight world titles. However, as Michael Schumacher himself said in an interview over a decade ago, records are meant to be broken and one day even Lewis’ success might be under threat. In this severely disrupted year, Formula 1 races have been fascinating to watch. Lewis, once famous for his partying ways, dedicated himself to racecraft and admitted that he had barely met friends or family except enjoying the company of his pet bulldog, Roscoe. But he is not just a champion on the race track, he has taken a strong stand on issues such as racism through the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. He got his team, Mercedes-AMG, to change its cars and associated infrastructure from the traditional silver livery to a black livery as well as got his fellow drivers to kneel at the start of the season, proving that some athletes and sports stars can provide leadership. After winning the race in Istanbul, he called out Formula 1 for ignoring human rights issues in many countries it races in as well as the need for the sport to become more sustainable. Lewis Hamilton is not just a star on the race track, he is a star off the track as well.