In this day and age, if you mention Formula 1 to the average person on the street, they may not know very much but they will have probably heard of Mercedes driver and 3 time world champion Lewis Hamilton in some way, just yesterday in Budapest he took his 3rd race win in a row to overturn what had been a 43 point deficit to rival Nico Rosberg, of course Hamilton is adored by his legion of supporters across the world but with this comes a section of F1 fans who have it out for Lewis, that they dislike him for various reasons, for me at least I would say Lewis is one thing, hugely misunderstood.
Coming into the sport with McLaren was a huge deal for Lewis, who had been on the books there for many years having first met Ron Dennis as a fresh-faced 10-year-old, confidently telling the team boss “I’m Lewis Hamilton and I want to race for McLaren”
That was exactly what he would do, stunning the sport with a run of 9 podiums that stretched from his debut in Australia through to his home race at Silverstone, including 2 wins in USA and Canada, however the second half of 2007 would be dominated by controversy and drama, starting with the incident in Hungarian qualifying where Alonso blocked Hamilton from setting a potential pole lap, being craned back onto the track in a soaking Germany, then finally the incident which arguably cost him a rookie World Championship as he slid into the tyre wall on the pit entry in Shanghai, Hamilton would miss out on the title by a single point but he had made a huge impression on the sport.
2008 he would go one step further and win the championship following a season long battle with Ferrari which culminated in the epic finale at Interlagos (IS THAT GLOCK, IT IS!!!) where Hamilton clinched 5th place on the final corner to pip Felipe Massa to a maiden title by a single point, now Hamilton was the golden boy of Formula 1, young, humble and stunningly quick.
His next few years with McLaren were bereft of another world title, but there was still success across their time spent together, with another 12 wins between 2009 and their divorce at the end of 2012.
Hamilton surprised the world with a shock move to Mercedes for the 2013 season, seeing it as a challenge to build a team into world championship contenders and winners, he would pair up with a close childhood friend in Nico Rosberg, the duo were tasked with transforming the Silver Arrows into an elite team and I think its safe to say they haven’t done a bad job.
2013 was largely a settling down year for Hamilton with only the one win at his happy hunting ground at the Hungaroring but things were looking up as Mercedes set out to dominate the new V6 era.
2014 ushered in the new engines and Mercedes had aced it, dominating the field and leading to a head to head scrap between Hamilton and Rosberg but with 11 wins to his name, Lewis rightfully claimed his second world championship in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, beating Rosberg by 67 points, for me 2014 was a close run thing but the same cannot be said of 2015, 10 more wins to add to the collection and another championship, in perhaps more convincing manner as he wrapped it up with time to spare at the thrilling United States GP.
2016 has started off in a much more difficult fashion for Hamilton, with multiple early season failures leaving him trailing Rosberg by 43 points, undeterred he would rally to 3 consecutive race wins including yet another home triumph, overturning the deficit going into this weekends German GP, the pressure now on Rosberg to try to stop the momentum that seems to be propelling Hamilton to a 4th world title.
So, so far so good, right.. you would think, what’s not to love about this lad from Stevenage taking the world of F1 by storm. WRONG.
Whilst he has an incredible following from #TeamLH it cannot be denied that there is a surprising amount of people particularly unenthusiastic about Hamilton, but why?
A large part of the appeal about Hamilton when he first started was that he was incredibly humble and always made it look as though he appreciated every single moment, very rarely would we see him not smiling.. only natural for a new guy coming into the sport fulfilling his dream I suppose, but it was an appreciated quality of Hamilton’s character, over time some fans think that it has disappeared and been replaced by a more entitled and arrogant attitude where he is the star of the show, but I think this is not the case, Lewis is still humble, he still appreciates his fans. I think the problem is more so that people underestimated the level of control that McLaren put on Lewis, they moulded him into a typical grand prix driver rather than letting him find himself.
Lewis has said many times that he has more freedom at Mercedes, he can do pretty much whatever he likes off the track, whether that be partying with Kardashians, attending fashion shows or even making his own music, he is completely different to pretty much any other driver on the grid and as long as it doesn’t affect his performances on the circuit, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it, to me at least it is this sense of breaking out and being free from the box which a lot of people don’t like, almost as if there is a pre-conceived notion of what a Formula 1 driver should be, what they should do and how they should do it, we can’t all smile like Daniel Ricciardo at the end of the day.
The whole idea of Lewis being a celebrity rather than a racer irks many, but for me this is a great thing, think about all the opportunity and publicity this provides for Formula 1, every time he is asked to do a talk-show with one of those overly eccentric American hosts, or when he’s in the spotlight of a fashion show, the focus is on Lewis Hamilton, here’s the process. Who is Lewis Hamilton? He drives in Formula 1? Whats Formula 1? and from there you hopefully have some new fans, but from a marketing point for the sport he is a dream, there is no shock that Bernie describes him as “The best World Champion” because Bernie as we all know knows about business, if he helps F1 become more popular I have no problem with it.
Going back to a previous point that people think Lewis has lost some of his values, absolutely not. If you go on Twitter you will often see that Lewis is the most interactive with his supporters, replying to tweets and offering an insight into his own hectic life through various Instagram posts, of course the other drivers do this as well but there is definitely a special connection between Hamilton and his fans, you only have to look at how he celebrated his Silverstone win a few weeks ago with his adoring faithful, spending a great deal of time with the masses even doing some crowd surfing in scenes arguably not witnessed in F1 for a generation
A problem for Lewis has been his playboy image, his on and off and on and off again relationship with Pussycat Doll singer Nicole Scherzinger seemed to impact on Hamilton’s mood for small spells of his career, where he seemed more grumpy than usual, but for anyone reading this, we’ve all let someone bring us down, as for the whole playboy image, I cannot understand how it is seen to tarnish him, he doesn’t even come close to James Hunt in these stakes yet Hunt was adored, a different generation with different tastes I suppose.
One of the more ludicrous arguments I’ve seen for people disliking Hamilton is the fact he chooses to live in tax haven Monaco, simply put.. The principality is home to pretty much all of the drivers and if you had the opportunity to live there I doubt you’d pass it up, I know I wouldn’t, he is entitled to live where he wants because that my friends is what freedom is all about.
Of course, he is a controversial figure too, speeding on multiple occasions and snapchatting on his motorbike being just some of his offences, nobody is perfect, admittedly he could brush up on some aspects of his off track excursions but it is his life and it is upto him how he lives it, just be careful next time Lewis!
A final point is the elephant in the room, it is 2016 and a very small minority of people probably still dislike Lewis mainly for his background, his roots and the colour of his skin, to those people wherever you are, if you still exist. You are idiots, I’m surprised you got this far.
Lewis Hamilton then, at the time of writing this has won 48 grand prix, he is 3 away from the great Alain Prost and once he surpasses him, will move second on the list behind Michael Schumacher whilst also moving towards his 4th world title, at the age of 31 there is still plenty of time in him yet, in my opinion he is a true great of Formula 1 and whether you like him or loathe him, he should be treated with the respect that a Formula 1 great deserves, by all of us, not just those who proclaim to be #TeamLH