Days after claiming a record-equalling seventh Formula 1 world title at the Turkish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton picked up markedly domestic but no less significant accolade.
The 35-year-old Briton was anointed the most influential black person in the United Kingdom.
Hamilton was placed at the top of The Powerlist 2021 which hails people of African, African Caribbean and African American heritage in the country.
The judging panel considers talents who have the ability to change lives over a protracted period of time and in a positive manner.
Hamilton, who won the 2020 drivers’ championship with three of the season’s 17 races remaining, fits the bill not only for his sustained success on the F1 circuit but for his willingness to speak out on social issues during a campaign reconfigured due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He was a prominent supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and urged his fellow F1 drivers to take a knee before Grand Prix events in support of racial justice.
As the sole black driver in F1, he has set up The Hamilton Commission with the aim of boosting diversity in UK motorsport.
“It’s an absolute honour to be named number one on The Powerlist, I really appreciate it,” said Hamilton.
“This for me is a monumental moment. I’m so proud to be acknowledged, especially within the black community.
“Everyone on this list is so inspiring and leading in their own industry, I’m honestly thrilled to be mentioned alongside them. I think we all have responsibility and we’re trying to do our best. I like to think that I’m just a part of a chain of many people trying to push for change.”
That social evolution will be witnessed over the next decades. Hamilton’s achievements, though, can be viewed over the past 12 years.
He won his first world title in 2008 with McLaren, the stable that nurtured him.
But that triumph failed to launch the expected run of success. The German driver, Sebastian Vettel, eclipsed him with four titles on the trot between 2010 and 2013.
But following a switch to Mercedes in 2013, Hamilton – and Mercedes – have been transcendant. He took the drivers’ title in 2014 and 2015. Stablemate Nico Rosberg won in 2016 and Hamilton has mopped up since then.
“When he announced that he was going to leave McLaren who were one of the top teams and join Mercedes – a lot of pepople said that he was mad,” recalled motorsport author Maurice Hamilton.
“In 2013, Mercedes were just getting on their feet and there were all kind of technical changes coming in. It was a big risk. But as often happens, a world champion isn’t just about being a fast racing driver but about a guy who can manage his affairs to make the right choices.
“Lewis saw the future and that Mercedes would be worth being with when they got their act together.”
The duo have been dynamic and domineering. They head with the rest of the F1 extravaganza to Bahrain for races on successive weekends before the 13 December finale in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton’s contract with Mercedes ends after that last race. Mercedes team boss, Toto Wolff, joked after the Turkish Grand Prix that Hamilton’s success would make him more expensive to re-sign.
“I think more than likely we are looking towards the end of the year to sort out a contract,” Wolff said. “I don’t want to put ourselves under pressure to say before Bahrain or before Abu Dhabi we will announce a new contract because there isn’t any pressure. When it’s done it’s done.”
“We’ve got three weeks in the Middle East so now it’s a bit more chilled,” Hamilton added. “But I still have three races ahead of me that I want to win. It’s not done. But we will get it done, I’m sure.”
The lad from an unprepossessing town just outside London will broach those multi-million euro contract talks in fine fettle. He boasts a record 94 Grand Prix victories and is etched into F1 legend.
Wolff added: “Lewis loves racing and the competition, as does the team. If we didn’t have the competition against the stopwatch, then life would not be as fun. So I see us going for more next year, putting another great year on.”
A record eighth title – seemingly so distant when he switched to Mercedes in 2013 – looms on the horizon.
And factors less tangible than petrol could fuel that drive.
“There is a much bigger win that we all need to work towards together,” said Hamilton after drivers’ title number seven. “That’s pushing for equality so we create a better future.”
Orginally published on RFI