Magazine article New African

LEWIS HAMILTON the Ace of Pace

Magazine article New African

LEWIS HAMILTON the Ace of Pace

Article excerpt

Lewis Hamilton became the first British Formula One driver to win four world championships when he clinched the title in Mexico City, with two races of the 2017 F1 calendar still to go. By dominating a sport that has traditionally been a white monopoly, Hamilton, like Tiger Woods before him, has become a powerful icon for tens of millions of fans around the world Clayton Goodwin profiles the world's first black F1 driver.

Lewis Hamilton has attained an almost unparalleled global mystique. Champions in sport don't come more glamorous and exalted than those of the F1 circuit.

But until Hamilton, the sport was a closed shop, restricted to white drivers, although individuals from over 40 countries have participated at some time or the other (including a few from South Africa as well as "Rhodesia", as Zimbabwe was called before independence). There were a sprinkling of non-white drivers from India, Malaysia and Thailand who made no impact whatsoever and whose names can hardly be recalled.

Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton was born on 7 January 1985 in Stevenage in Hertfordshire. He is of mixed-race--his father, Anthony, is a black man from the Caribbean and his mother, Carmen, white British. When they separated, young Lewis lived at first with his mother and then, from 12 years old, with his father.

Anthony recognised his son's fascination for wheels, buying him a radio-controlled car in 1991. The young Lewis showed his determination in the much-viewed Blue Peter television picture of him, then a schoolboy of 7, with his father, purposefully manipulating a radio-controlled model car.

Anthony juggled his own working life to manage him and attend all the races. Lewis was also adept at playing cricket and football --he is an Arsenal fan. Neither, however, could match his devotion to sport on wheels, and he joined Rye House Kart Circuit when he was only eight years old.

Such was his confidence, born of frequent early success, that he approached Ron Dennis, the McLaren F1 team boss, for an autograph at the age of 10, telling him that he had won the British Championship and wanted to drive one of his cars one day.

Dennis asked him to call back in nine years. In fact, such was the young man's progress that it was the McLaren boss who called him and he moved swiftly and successfully through the Formula Renault, Formula Three and GP2 stages of competition. His GP2 triumph in 2006 led to McLaren giving him an F1 seat for the following year.

Lewis came third on his debut in the Australian Grand Prix, and early in the season became the youngest driver to lead the championship. Although Hamilton had a clear lead on his rivals coming into the ultimate race in Brazil, he finished seventh in the race when his tyres gave out. This allowed Kimi Raikkonen to beat him by a single point.

The outcome was equally tense the following year, 2008. The loss of penalty points offset the lead the Briton had established, leaving him needing to finish at least fifth in the last race to become champion. He overtook the fifth-placed man on the very last corner of the final lap, to became the youngest driver, at the age of 23, to win the title.

The first victory by a black driver was marred by isolated outbursts of racial abuse, especially in Spain and in Brazil on the eve of the concluding showdown. Hamilton's relationship with his team-mate, Spain's Fernando Alonso, much more senior to Lewis and a two-times world champion, had been fractious and Alonso left McLaren at the end of the season. On-track tussles with Brazil's Felipe Massa, which Hamilton won overall, incensed the Brazilian's fans.

Birth of a new star

Nevertheless a new star was definitely gaining momentum. The next five seasons, however, were frustrating as he finished fourth three times and fifth twice.

For the 2013 season Lewis moved to Mercedes. This aroused sustained criticism in the UK as Mercedes had been struggling in the previous seasons. …

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