If you’re a fan of motorsport, this is a tremendous time to be following the achievements of Lewis Hamilton in Formula 1. The 33 year old driver is on the precipice of achieving a truly amazing feat. Though he didn’t capture his 5th F1 World Championship this past weekend in Austin, there’s little doubt he won’t snag that title by season’s end. Once he does, Hamilton sits with only Juan Manual Fangio in second place for most driver’s championships. Only Michael Schumacher sits ahead with an insane seven world championships to his name.
When Hamilton first started winning, I was excited to see the young man take the sport by storm. His story is a remarkable one. With a dedicated father working upwards of four jobs to keep Lewis in his go-kart, Hamilton won races right from the outset. Often at circuits where other (more well off) families were shocked to see a young black kid battling for victory. His story is one of focus, dedication, and ridiculous support from an equally dedicated father.
So why have folks (at least those outside of his native UK) soured on Hamilton in recent years? I have some theories.
His ascension to F1 glory was quick. Hamilton jumped into the F1 fray for the 2007 racing season. In his very first race, Lewis managed a podium spot with a third place finish. He very nearly won the whole seasons, but wound up second overall. His first world championship title didn’t prove terribly elusive though, as Hamilton managed to win it all in 2008.
As Hamilton began to stack up the wins, he also began to stack up a social media following. This is where you could see Lewis enjoying time on his private jet. He was canoodling with pop stars and super models. Lewis’ love of fashion began to shine through as well, with some admittedly questionable clothing choices on occasion. His shining success on the track began to get a bit muddled with his off-track lifestyle.
And that’s a damn shame.
Imagine that you’re the son of a hard-working man who gave it his all so you and your family could have a better life. You then take that torch and run with it to unimaginable heights. Soon-to-be 5 time F1 world champion. Multi-millionaire living in Monaco. A jet-set lifestyle that includes the creation of your own fashion line collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger. You yourself have a tremendous work ethic and you’re enjoying the fruits of your labor in the way that others can only dream.
For some, I think a bit of jealousy comes into play. Hamilton has a high-flying lifestyle but he’s earned it. At the same time, we don’t have stories of him out too late partying or doing drugs. He’s not constantly ripping on other drivers. He’s working hard and winning at levels that almost no other driver has achieved. He still cites his idol Ayrton Senna at every chance he gets, and he comes off as downright humble in most interviews.
I’ve seen the social media photos. There was a time when I considered Hamilton a massive douche. But maybe I’m the douche here. If I grew up in the same manner as Lewis and achieved my dreams, you’d be damn sure I’d be enjoying my private jets. Hell, there’s a strong chance I’d be a lot worse.
Lewis Hamilton is dominating a very difficult sport. He’s doing it with a smile on his face and a serious level of respect for both the past and his current fellow drivers. He’s a true champion. When he wins that fifth title, I’ll stand and cheer for him and you should do the same. And we can only hope he has a desire to stick around and go after Schumacher’s top spot.
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