Lewis Hamilton: a champion living out of the bubble

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Thursday – Steve Etherington

Lewis Hamilton is the most known active and record-breaking Formula 1 driver, who in addition to six championship titles is soon going to have most Grand Prix wins to his name – more than Michael Schumacher’s 91 career victories. The 35-year-old Mercedes racer is also adamant about leaving a powerful legacy that goes beyond the sport. But let’s see what else makes this superstar unique.

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With outstanding performances weekend in and weekend out, Lewis has become one of the most influential people in the sport, and certainly a public figure known around the globe. This champion has evolved a great deal over the years, from attending parties with famous A-listers to openly expressing his opinion and supporting the most relevant causes and initiatives.

One of the first issues was his veganism. Back in 2018, he confirmed he would stop eating meat and therefore received both criticism and compliments. One of those who showed their discomfort with Hamilton’s decision was none other than Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard blasted the Brit by suggesting all this was a hypocrite move: “We all know the lifestyle that Lewis has, and that Formula 1 drivers take 200 planes a year. You can’t then tell others to not eat meat,” Alonso said. However, Lewis has admitted feeling much better than ever before after going vegan, having much more energy, in addition to his contribution to animal welfare. Even though this can be seen as a hypocritical act having his profession in mind, the Mercedes star cannot control nor dictate the rules regarding Formula 1’s carbon emissions, so instead he has chosen to do what he actually can – spread the word about the environment to his multi-million fan base.

Lewis Hamilton is humanising Formula 1, a sport known for living in an untouchable bubble.

Indeed, his concerns about the world go further – he sold his private jet to avoid unnecessary pollution. And he attended an event for Earth Day just before the coronavirus lockdown, to remind the youth about the importance of making individual efforts in order to be more gentle to our fragile planet.

However, if there is one cause that appears to be closest to the Brit’s heart, it’s racism. At a very young age, Hamilton suffered the cruellest and most malicious comments because of his skin colour. He has never hidden how traumatic and painful the experience was, and after the death of George Floyd, he did not hesitate to speak up and fight against the other epidemic that has infected millions of minds around the world. The world needs people like Lewis Hamilton to speak truthfully about these matters, and it definitely helps the image of Formula 1 whenever he opens up about it.

Since the start of the season, Hamilton pressured both Formula 1 and the FIA to stand for racial equality. A decision which has not been free of criticism, in fact, Hamilton has publicly expressed his discontent with those who do not kneel down when showing their support to the cause. In that regard, the paddock is a bit divided: drivers like Charles Leclerc explained their decision by arguing that “what matters are the behaviours in our daily life rather than formal gestures that could be seen as controversial in some countries”.

Despite the controversy, what one cannot ignore is the fact that Lewis Hamilton, a driver that earns around 40 million per year, is not afraid of showing his vulnerable side. In a recent post on his social media account, the six-time world champion has acknowledged that even being a star and living in a privileged position doesn’t make dealing with the current situation of the world easier for him.

A touching and sensitive side makes Hamilton a unique sportsman. Other stars that have a great influence on the younger generation, such as Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo just to name a few, do not show the same level of commitment as the British driver when it comes to uncomfortable or sensitive topics.

His positivism, his vulnerabilities, his dedication to helping others, raising awareness about painful issues, make him a fantastic representative for brands who identify themselves with his values. But most importantly for us racing fans, he is humanising Formula 1, a sport known for living in an untouchable bubble. Yes, Formula 1 needs more people like Lewis – athletes who are not afraid of speaking up and therefore relating to regular fans.

Everything Hamilton says has a place in the media, both traditional and digital one, and that, along with his 20 million followers on various social channels, make him the best champion Formula 1 could ever hope for in order to grow and prosper.

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