By: Daniel Zagoren — Op-Ed Editor
British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton won his seventh world championship trophy last Sunday, tying Michael Schumacher’s record, in an exciting and unpredictable Turkish Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton entered the sport in 2007, signing with McLaren F1. Upon entry, he was the first black person to have ever competed in the sport. In an instant it was obvious the potential that Lewis possessed when driving a race car. He missed out on the drivers championship in 2007 by only a single point. Winning would’ve made him the first ever driver to win in their maiden year.
In his 14 years of being in the sport, Hamilton has broken countless records including the highest number of all time wins, pole positions, podium finishes, all time points, the only driver to have a win in every season they raced, and more. In 2012, Lewis left Mclaren to join the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team, who he still races for to this day. In addition to etching his name into the the book of Formula One greats, outside of the sport Lewis is a role model for people of color, a Black Lives Matter supporter, and an environmentalist.
In an Instagram post on Sunday, Lewis talked about what he has been doing on and off the track. He says, “This year I’ve been driven not just by my desire to win on the track, but by a desire to help push our sport, and our world to become more diverse and inclusive. I promise you I am not going to stop fighting for change. We have a long way to go but I will continue to push for equality within our sport, and within the greater world we live in.”
Samid Khandaker, a senior at Sharon High School, says that Lewis is the best driver to race in Formula One. “Lewis Hamilton is the greatest racing driver of all time. His absolute dominance over the course of his career has been incredible, similar to Michael Jordan’s dominance in the 90’s.”
“He has won at least one race in every single season that he has driven in, and now holds the record in practically every category. Most arguments against Lewis Hamilton being the greatest of all time is that he had the benefit of a strong car… However, that still does not take away his accomplishments,” added Khandaker.
In 2007, his rookie year, he outscored Fernando Alonso, one of the best drivers of all time. In 2008, he won the championship despite Ferrari having a much quicker car. From 2014 to 2020, Mercedes have been dominant, but he has still excelled within this framework. He beat a proven race winner in both 2014 and 2015 in Nico Rosberg, and arguably only lost the championship in 2016 to an engine failure in Malaysia. “Since 2017, he has been nothing short of unstoppable, winning over half the races in each season. Michael Shumacher never did that,” said Khandaker.
Hamilton’s championship rival in 2018 and four time world champion himself, Sebastian Vettel, had nothing but praise for Lewis after the race. “To me, certainly emotionally, Michael [Schumacher] will always be the greatest driver. But there’s no doubt Lewis is the greatest in terms of what he has achieved. He’s equalled the championships, he has more races won, he has a lot more pole positions so I think he’s done everything you can ask for,” Vettel said in a post race interview.
Using his worldwide audience and social media platform of over 20 million followers on Instagram, Lewis has never been afraid to voice his opinion and fight for what he believes in. In support of Black Lives Matter, Lewis has caused the Formula One organization to recognize racism and try to put an end to it. For the 2020 season, Mercedes changed their team colors from silver to black, to make a stand against racism and discrimination.
Khandaker says that Hamilton deserves the right to voice his opinion. “At the end of the day, Lewis Hamilton should be allowed to promote whatever he wants. If he believes in something, he should be able to post about it. Hamilton has talked about in the past how he had been discriminated against as he developed his career. If he wants to promote a good cause, then he should be able to do so. He has always been very outspoken against racism, and both F1 and Liberty Media [who broadcast F1] have no place in censoring his speech.”
In an interview, Lewis talked about the impact he tries to make on the world and why. “I say one thing, and it travels very very far. So, that’s an unbelievable power to have, that we have today in the media, being able to really push for change. If I didn’t, I would just feel, I wake up and this is great winning all these championships, but what does that really mean? When you retire from racing and you have one, or two, or God knows how many championships, what does it mean? It doesn’t really mean anything,” stated Hamilton.
“I’m thinking how I am going to be able to impact my sister’s kids. How am I going to help them? How am I going to help these young kids that are following me? How am I going to help change the system so that they can have a brighter future ahead of us? That’s something where I wake up and those are the conversations I have in my mind,” Lewis said on why he makes his voice be heard.
There are three races left in the 2020 Formula One calendar, and it has not been confirmed whether Lewis will continue his career in Formula One after the 2020 season. Although a contract has been confirmed for his teammate, Valterri Bottas, Lewis has not yet signed with Mercedes and rumors continue to circle around the paddock.
In a post race interview, Hamilton reflected on his win and what lays ahead for the future by saying, “There’s more to do… this is the world championship and this is the pinnacle of my life so far, but there’s a much bigger win that we all collectively need to work together for, and that’s pushing for equality, pushing for equal opportunity for all these kids that are out there so we can create a better future, but that’s going to take us all to do it together.”