I’m going to disagree with Phil on this one but more from the perspective that he’s admittedly not a Formula 1 follower and has probably picked up on this through the reporting of the mainstream media.
The only tenuous argument to suggest this to be the case is that Tiger Woods is of an Afro-Caribbean background and so is Lewis Hamilton and they’re both in sports dominated by predominantly white males. I’m not going to discount the potential spin off that Lewis Hamilton could become a great role model for for young Afro-Caribbean males but I would put it in a different context which probably illuminates on my own perspective of issues of race.
Unlike many who have suddenly been awoken to the existence of Lewis Hamilton I’ve actually been following him for many years. Mainly because I’m a supporter of McLaren Mercedes who he drives for and so I get all the magazines that have been highlighting his development since a young age as one of only a handful of drivers who the team have been sponsoring through their driving careers.
What effect he will have, at least hopefully from my perspective is to raise the interest in Formula 1 in Britain which for over a decade has been flagging. Partly due to the dominance in that period of a certain Michael Schumacher which ironically elevated the interest in Formula 1 in Germany to unheard of levels but equally because despite we as a country holding the largest number of Formula 1 drivers championship crowns, the crop of drivers we’ve produced of late have been at best mediocre.
Going to do a bit of a run down, sorry if you disagree but purely my own take on it. The big hype the last few years was all around Jenson Button. Sorry, seems like a nice enough guy but he just doesn’t have it from pretty much every angle you consider. David Coulthard, too much into the lifestyle, just doesn’t deliver. He had exactly the same car as Mika Hakkinen during the seasons that he won the World Driver’s title and was way behind, not even a good enough support driver in the second season losing the constructors title to Ferrari. Damon Hill, well yes he won the Drivers title but did he infuse people with his ability, no, because to be fair he wasn’t that good a driver, he was simply lucky that the year he won he had a car that was so supremely superior to everyone else’s that he only had his team mate to beat and that was Coulthard. Almost forgot Eddie Irvine. I thought he was great from a personality perspective but still nothing outstanding as a driver and of course had the problem of being partnered with Michael Schumacher where he was outclassed as a driver even despite rumours of contractual agreements.
No, to see the last time there was a British driver with some real pulling power that infused the crowds then you have to go back to Nigel Mansell and again he wasn’t a truly great driver. He had a habit of breaking the cars with an overly aggressive driving style which probably accounts for only one title although it should have been two.
I’m going to say that Britain has lacked a truly great talent in Formula 1 since James Hunt, an innately talented driver with an admittedly larger than life personal life but definitely one of the great drivers.
It’s nice to see Formula 1 getting some more attention in the press but sad as it might seem it would only take a crash or two or a couple of breakdowns for all this media adulation to turn to criticism. I sometimes wonder about why the British media acts in this way.
I went into this season having Hamilton as my favourite driver, not only because he’s driving for my team but for the first time in over a decade and a half it was refreshing to be supporting a British driver for a change.
I didn’t want to expect much because it’s a big step up from GP2 racing to F1 but so far he’s exceeded all my expectations and that makes me rather happy. His drive last year from last to first in the Turkish race was probably one of the best in the history of GP2 where cars are much more equal and the difference is very much more down to the driver than in F1.
What I didn’t spot in the media is the little fact that since the Bahrain GP on Sunday he has now beaten every single driver in the field in an actual race which is nice.
My predictions for the season. Well, it would be nice to see him as world champion but I won’t expect it because it’s never been done before but what I do expect to see is that he will come to dominate the team. Despite having a double world champion as a team mate, irrespective of whether Fernando Alonso gets more points by the end of the season.
Hamilton is simply a lot smarter, understands the professional corporate mentality of McLaren to a much higher level than Alonso and so for me I will look forward to finally being able to support a British driver for a change and what colour his skin is is irrelevant to me.
I’ll finish on what roughly Ron Dennis the boss of McLaren said about him (can’t be bothered to look up the exact quote). That McLaren aren’t doing this as some stunt to have the first black driver in Formula 1. He’s there simply because of his sheer talent and ability, his race/ethnicity is irrelevant, McLaren are in Formula 1 to win and that’s why Hamilton is there.