Then again, one statistic mentioned in Germany was Hamilton’s rise in the wins percentage table. Fangio always tops this one, with 24 wins from just 51 starts (46.2%), Alberto Ascari is next with 13 wins from 32 (39.4%) – and now Hamilton edges past Clark with 91 from 261 (34.9%). Sir Jackie would say that’s the car superiority, but then Fangio and Ascari always drove the best, too… I know, I’m getting drawn in. Let’s leave it there!
The Hamilton commission
No matter how many race wins and titles he racks up, Hamilton will always remain divisive – especially, it seems, among older generations, many of whom resent everything from his dress sense and lifestyle to his defiant campaigning against racism. Don’t mix politics and sport, they say. Bigotry and prejudice isn’t politics, responds the other side, who admire Hamilton for taking a stand on basic human rights. You will have your own view.
What is irrefutable is Hamilton’s commitment to something that’s barely acknowledged by too many in motorsport. This summer, he set up the Hamilton Commission in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering “to identify the key barriers to recruitment and progression of black people in UK motorsport and provide actionable recommendations to overcome them”. A non-issue? As Lewis’s brother Nicolas pointed out to us, how many minorities do we see in UK paddocks? And after Lewis retires, who will follow him?
Ex-McLaren F1 team boss Martin Whitmarsh (who offers us some insight into Hamilton’s progression from karting prodigy to world champion here) was invited by Lewis to join the commission, and he was pleased to accept.
“We’ve only just started, but I’m doing it because I want to learn,” he says. “I’m honoured to be white, middle-aged and male sitting on a commission looking at this issue! It’s important to me that Lewis gives his time and attention to it. He’s very sincere, and I think it’s a good thing to be happening in the sport. Not necessarily everyone agrees, but this is a serious project.
“I had the honour, 13 years ago, of standing on the podium when Lewis became the first black driver to win in F1. But it hasn’t been the transformation we expected. He’s at the pinnacle but hasn’t been the catalyst for the change we perhaps thought might follow, and that’s what we have to look at.”
As Whitmarsh readily acknowledges, Hamilton is far from perfect. “He does make mistakes, he is human,” he says. “But he’s also a very brave and sincere individual. Until now, I had never really thought about racism and obviously haven’t experienced it. Lewis has.”
I would add that he still does. He’s a true champion in every sense, and we’re lucky to have him.