It’s lonely at the top. Lewis Hamilton would know.
As England’s knight — both literally and metaphorically — in shining Mercedes armor, Hamilton has dominated the racetracks in recent Formula 1 memory. But as the history books would suggest, glory and solitude are just two sides of the same coin.
The road Hamilton walked was a destitute one. That is the fact of the matter. But the question remains: Just when did the arguably greatest-racing-driver-of-all-time-slash-part-Denver-Broncos-owner-slash-aspiring-actor-and-filmmaker realize this?
Perhaps it was when a rainy Grand Prix in Turkey saw the Brit cross the finish line as a seventh-time world champion, effectively tying racing legend Michael Schumacher for the most F1 titles in history. Crouching near the cockpit of the battered and bruised Mercedes steed, it could be then that Hamilton fully understood the inexplicable weight that came with the title that would be added to his racing accolades — a true tongue twister that all started with “first Black F1 driver.”
If not the singular event in Turkey, then surely it was all the times throughout his career that bystanders have invalidated his success, calling it a mere byproduct of Toto Wolff’s utterly dominant Mercedes team — especially in a sport where so often money equates victory. The same bystanders who, so seemingly keen and observant, are blind to Hamilton’s battles. From the sheer physical and emotional tolls he’s experienced inside a race car to clawing his way through the billionaire boys club of opponents, Hamilton’s journey has been far from smooth-sailing.
Or maybe it was a few decades prior, before the world had even heard of a Lewis Hamilton and before he etched his name so deeply into motorsport history, when a six-year-old world-champion-to-be scoured the television for a racing driver that looked like him — and found none.
Perhaps it was really a couple years later, when the 13-year-old became the youngest driver to have ever been contracted by an F1 team and experienced the realization that he and his family will almost certainly be the only people of color in the room at any given time. Or it could be when that suspicion was confirmed in his 16 years of professional racing.
Regardless, Hamilton’s firsthand experience with the lack of diversity in his sport has fueled him to become a vocal advocate for Black representation in the cockpits and the entire motorsport business.
Formula 1 is a multifaceted industry — from the engineers to the mechanics to the marketers, the unsung heroes behind the grandiose extravaganza of every Grand Prix are simply countless. The vast — and not to mention rapidly growing — industry births over 40,000 jobs, and yet only one percent derive from Black backgrounds.
Hamilton took the wheel — something he is, frankly, quite good at — and founded the Hamilton Commission with the aim of “improving Black representation in UK motorsport.” The Commission, partnering alongside The Royal Academy of Engineering, revealed certain barriers that prevent people of color from entering the industry, many of which are rooted in a systematically racist institution: education. Thus, Hamilton established Mission 44 to target the structures that fundamentally obstruct diversity and representation in motorport.
Potentially nearing his swan song, there is absolutely no doubt of the legacy that Hamilton will leave behind — both on and off the racetracks. But it’s too early to talk about that, because as the 2023 F1 season fast approaches, the future is the eternal underdog for Hamilton.
And as for the crown, no head seems more suitable.