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BHM Profile: Lewis Hamilton

Lewis+Hamilton%2C+the+only+black+Formula+1+driver%2C+is+breaking+barriers.+Design+by+Emma+Tucker
Emma Tucker
Lewis Hamilton, the only black Formula 1 driver, is breaking barriers. Design by Emma Tucker

When people think of Formula 1, there are a few famous names that come to mind in the motorsport world. These are names of drivers who broke records of their time, like Ayrton Senna, Micheal Schumacher and of course Lewis Hamilton. 

Lewis Hamilton is the first and – to date only – black F1 driver. He tied Schumacher’s record-breaking seven world championship wins in 2020. His dominance on the track and his fight have led him to become, statistically, the most successful F1 driver of all time. His success has made him one of the highest-paid athletes in the world and the most marketable athlete in the sport, with his 2023 salary being $65 million according to Forbes.

Hamilton’s success, however, did not spring up out of nowhere. He had to work hard for it, especially when he came from simple beginnings. In his small hometown of Stevenage, a town north of London, he had to overcome racial barriers within his karting career. Karting is known as a motorsport discipline using open-wheel, four-wheeled vehicles that run on scaled-down circuits. Many, like Hamilton, use it as a stepping stone to car racing.

Hamilton’s father worked multiple jobs to help keep his karting career alive. Hamilton later wrote, “We started with nothing, he had 4 jobs to keep me racing at one time and I slept on the couch.” 

But even though Lewis’s father helped his karting career stay alive, Lewis himself faced hardships at a young age. Being the only black child racing at his club, Hamilton faced racist comments and abuse by people. He wrote, “People would laugh at us, call us names, joke about us but we kept our heads down. We did our fighting with actions on track.” 

Despite this, he went on to win several series and British championships, racing against adults. Hamilton, with all his karting success, made contact with the McLaren Formula 1 team where they signed him to their driver development program. 

At age 13, he was the youngest ever to have been contacted by an F1 team and this would open the door to his future in F1. A couple of years later, in 2005, Hamilton dominated the Formula Three Euroseries season, winning 15 of 20 races with ASM. 

In 2006, Hamilton made it past another stepping stone to Formula 1 – GP2, which he would fly through. GP2 was a form of open-wheeled motor racing created to be a feeder program into Formula 1. It was created in 2005 but only lasted until 2016. This title and success in GP2 set Hamilton up for his graduation to Formula 1. 

In his rookie season in 2007, Hamilton raced for McLaren alongside world champion Fernando Alonso. In just his first F1 race, Hamilton finished on the podium and he kept at it for the next nine races. Hamilton was on his way to winning the world championship in just his rookie season, but Kimi Raikkonen was able to steal the title by one point in the last two races of the season. Even with the last-minute disappointment for Hamilton and the McLaren team, Hamilton astonished the motorsport world and it brought him to much fame. 

Hamilton would again race for McLaren in 2008, where he would overcome multiple setbacks at the beginning of the season, but was able to win his first driver’s world championship. This officially put his name in the books for his dominating talent, as one of the best. 

After multiple years of disappointment and frustration, Hamilton announced his move away from McLaren to Mercedes before the 2013 season. Coming off a drought of wins in 2013 with Mercedes, Hamilton clinched his second World Drivers’ Championship title in 2014 after a commanding season with Mercedes. Then, in the 2015 season, Hamilton took an astonishing third world championship, leveling the record of his childhood hero, Ayrton Senna. 

After a season of letdowns in 2016, Hamilton was ready to once again dominate the track in 2017. He had multiple battles against rival Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari but came out on top in the end. Hamilton had been close the entire season to another championship, but it finally became a formality and Hamilton was then a four-time world champion.

The next three seasons wouldn’t come without fights, but Hamilton managed to clinch three consecutive world titles in 2018, 2019 and 2020– making him a seven-time world champion. This was record-breaking, with the most Grand Prix wins by a single driver and he tied Michael Schumacher’s seven world championship record.  

After Hamilton’s domination in the last three F1 seasons, many expected a record-breaking 8th title in 2021, but expectation is not always reality. 2021 was filled with a year-long duel between Hamilton and new rival, Redbull’s Max Verstappen. Hamilton and Verstappen would trade the championship lead all season long, but Hamilton continued to break records including his 100th race victory. The two drivers’ battle was one full of controversy as they clashed with each other and crashed multiple times. 

Going into the final race of the season at the Yas Marina circuit, Hamilton and Verstappen were tied for the world championship, but it was one that Hamilton appeared to be in favor of. However, a safety car, with Verstappen pitting for fresh tires, changed the fate of not only the race but also the championship title. 

A safety car goes in front of all the drivers to slow them down when a crash happens during a race. This helps give the race marshalls time to safely clean up a car or debris. When Verstappen went into the pit lane to change his tires during the safety car, it gave him an advantage over Hamilton, who had old, used tires on his car. With Hamilton’s tires being old and worn down, they did not pick up as much traction on the ground, making the car move slower and more accessible to sliding around. 

Right before the restart, race directors let lapped cars pass by the safety car, creating a vulnerable situation for Hamilton with his rival right behind him. During the safety car period, some cars that Verstappen and Hamilton lapped around in the race got in between them. Usually, when this happens and the race restarts, Verstappen would’ve had to get around those cars himself, but the directors let the lapped cars pass by the safety car before the restart. 

Hamilton put up a fight, but it wasn’t enough. In the end, the 2021 world championship went to Max Verstappen of RedBull with an, even now, controversial ending. 

For the next several years, in 2022 and 2023, Hamilton was able to obtain multiple podium finishes but had no luck in gaining any more titles. He will be racing with Mercedes for this 2024 season. However, just a few weeks ago, Hamilton made a historic announcement that he will be moving to Scuderia Ferrari starting in 2025. After almost 11 years at Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton will be switching gears to drive for Formula 1’s most notable team. 

Lewis Hamilton’s record-breaking Formula 1 career still has room to grow, and considering his history in the sport, there’s a very high chance it will. His legacy will be one of determination, fight, and resilience. He is a role model for all dreaming children out there and an example that the impossible can be achieved.

About the Contributors
Scarlett Frisbie, Staffer
Scarlett Frisbie is a staffer for Manual RedEye. You can contact her at [email protected].
Emma Tucker, Staffer
Emma Tucker is a staffer for Manual RedEye. You can contact her at [email protected].
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