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Formula One's Greatest Star: Lewis Hamilton

Photo Credits: EPA

“I Feel Like People Are Expecting Me To Fail; Therefore, I Expect Myself To Win” - LH

It’s undeniable that Tom Brady is, not only the best football player to ever live, but one of the best pro athletes to ever walk the Earth. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and I don’t think it’s a hot take to say that Brady is in the twilight of his career. While we can, we should enjoy his last season(s) in football. While we do that, we should keep in mind another athlete who has also dominated his sport, is in the twilight of his career, and who almost no one in the United States has ever heard of; Lewis Hamilton.

To say Formula 1 is a grueling sport would be an understatement. Drivers of the most complicated cars on the planet regularly need to be driving at over 180 miles per hour for extended periods of time. During races, drivers are subject to gravitational forces that are on par with what F-16 & F-35 pilots experience while flying far above the sky. In addition, the smallest mistake during a race could result in a flipped car, engine failure, or high-speed crash.

Formula 1 sounds dangerous because it is. In the 1970s, two drivers died every year. The sport only has twenty drivers on the track each year, so the sport had a 10% driver fatality rate every year. While driver deaths have gone down, accidents and injuries remain commonplace. All of this goes to say that you’d have to be a madman or the most determined person in the world to want to compete in Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton is both of those things.

Unlike most drivers who essentially buy their way into F1 (topic for another day), Lewis Hamilton comes from relatively humble beginnings. Born in England, his dad had to re-mortgage their family's house several times just to be able to afford the Go-Karts Lewis raced with early on. It paid off, however, when Hamilton began beating adults in high-profile races when he was still six years old. You read that right. Hamilton was so good that by the age of six he was beating professional race car drivers.

Photo Credits: Lewis Hamilton - Instagram

As you might imagine, big-time success came quickly for Lewis. By the time he turned thirteen, Lewis signed a deal with the McLaren Racing team as part of their junior program. His next few years were spent racing (and winning) in lower, less competitive racing series, all with the hopes of one day making it to Formula 1.

Hamilton finally got his shot at the age of 21 when McLaren gave him a seat with their F1 team. In his first season, Lewis broke multiple long-standing records and even finished second in the championship standings by one point. In his second season in 2008, Lewis became the youngest ever F1 championship when he beat front-runner, Felipe Massa, on the last lap of the last race. Basically, Lewis needed to finish fifth or better to have enough points to win the F1 title. But on the last lap, Lewis was in sixth and it had just started to rain. Remember when I said that these guys are driving at speeds over 180 mph? Well, imagine doing that while it’s raining. Lewis wasn’t imagining anything because he was too busy driving like a madman to think about the risks or long odds he faced at that moment. He was able to win the championship by getting back up to fifth on the last lap. See a re-cap of that stunning win below:

After that shocking win, Lewis spent a few more seasons with McLaren before switching to his current team, Mercedes, in 2013. And man I got to tell you after he switched to Mercedes, no one was beating this guy. Didn’t matter who you were, how good your car was, etc. You were getting the smoke from Lewis Hamilton.

In 2014 Lewis one his second Formula 1 championship. In 2015 he won his third. After he won his third championship, I remember being in the car with my dad and older brother, both passionate F1 fans, who were discussing Hamilton’s recent victory. My brother was talking to my dad and he said something along the lines of how he thought Lewis had a chance at matching or beating F1’s other great, Michael Schumacher, in total championships at seven. My dad, who had seen Schumacher race in his prime told my brother that there’d be no way anyone would be able to tie him, let alone beat him. You probably get the gist of it by now but Lewis did. From 2017 to 2020, Hamilton won another four world championships, putting his grand total at seven and matching Schumacher. But even more than championships, Hamilton beat Schumacher in total races won and several other key records.

It’s hard to put into words just how dominant Lewis has been over one of the world’s premier sports. He’s managed to do this all while simultaneously being a trailblazer in F1 as well. Something crucial to point out is that Lewis is the first, and to this day only, African American driver in Formula 1. Hamilton has spoken out multiple times about the racism he’s faced from other drivers, teams, and the global fan base. Yet despite having to pave his own way and despite the fact that his parents weren’t millionaires or billionaires, Lewis has managed to succeed. Although he’s British, Hamilton’s story is an underdog tale that I think the majority of Americans would love to hear.

Every sport has its legends. Basketball had Michael Jordan and now it has LeBron James. Football has Tom Brady. But like all things, good times must come to an end. James and Brady might not be around for another five years, so we should relish every game they play. Similarly, Lewis Hamilton may only have another two or three racing seasons in him before he hangs up the gloves. If you’re a fan of sports, I implore you to watch Hamilton while you can. There won’t be another driver like him for generations.


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