Lewis Hamilton's journey from McLaren to Mercedes, racism and more
26th October was a remarkable day, a day that will be embedded in the glorious history of Formula 1 racing as Lewis Hamilton surpassed the all-time great Michael Schumacher to become the leading race winner in F1 history after conquering the Portuguese Grand Pix.
Lewis later expressed his gratitude towards his Mercedes-AMG team, while his dad stood cheering for him as he crossed the line, 25 seconds ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Even Bottas acknowledged Hamilton’s exquisite driving skills and the fact that his speed was unmatched. But the thing is that most of the people know his story but are completely unaware of the journey he’s made so far.
The Beginning of a revolution:
Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton began his journey by first becoming a part of the McLaren young driver program in 1998. With perseverance and grit, nine years later Hamilton had a Formula One drive with McLaren in 2007.
This race also made him the first and the only ‘black’ driver to race in the sport as very few knew that a star was in the making.
The British always kept climbing the ladder as he acquired his first milestone the following season in 2009. He laid his hands on his first title but the race was filled with drama as he made a crucial overtake on the corner of the last lap in the last race of the season.
This was the moment when the 35-year-old realized that this was not it as he went on to become the then-youngest Formula One World Champion in the history of the sport.
However, following such a phenomenal start, he should have only progressed and reached new heights. Hamilton was partnered with the then double World Champion Fernando Alonso who had associated with McLaren after leaving Renault.
When the 35-year-old made his debut at the Australian Grand Pix, he finished third, becoming one of the very few to finish on the podium on debut. Apart from that, he also became the second driver to ever lead the World Championship and Alonso did not fancy his teammates’ success.
After Hamilton finished second to Alonso at Monaco, Hamilton felt exasperated as he reported that he was prevented from racing his teammate. However, nothing materialized as FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) cleared McLaren.
The British kept his head high and won both his first pole position and first victory of his budding Formula One career at the Canadian Grand Pix, conquering the United States Grand Pix a week later and becoming the first Brit since John Watson in 1983, to win a race in the US.
After equaling the record of 9 consecutive podium finishes for a British driver, the European Grand Pix saw something bizarre as Hamilton crashed at the Schumacher chicane because of a wheel nut issue.
His bad luck followed him until the race day as heavy rains caused severe problems in the race and Hamilton slipped off into a gravel trap. However, he was then lifted and put back on the circuit with the help of a crane thereby making him the first and only driver to have his car recovered by a crane and put back on the track during a race.
The Fall ended as McLaren signed for Mercedes in 2013 after four years of no top-three finishes in the drivers’ standings. People may question why are a lot of the above-mentioned feats a part of ‘The Fall’? The reason is that his path to ultimate glory was yet to be witnessed.
Something very trivial but serious till today, racism was at its peak back in the days. Not to forget that Lewis was the first and only black driver in the sport, he was accounted for all the misery happening, as he went through some very heart-wrenching moments despite his accomplishments.
He was heckled, abused, and just a few days before the Brazilian Grand Pix in 2008, a Spanish branch of a New-York based advertising agency named ‘Pinchalaruedadehamilton’ appeared in the British media. As strange as it sounds, it translates into English as ‘Burst Hamilton’s Tyre.’
Cut to 2019, England and ex-Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand described media scrutiny of Hamilton as having ‘racist undertones’ and contrasted to the driver’s treatment compared to fellow British driver Jenson Button.
The 35-year-old in the early stages of his career was of the thought that he would “ignore the fact that he was the first black guy ever to race in the sport” but after several filthy encounters he stated that he had further “appreciated and accepted the implications.”
Path to Ultimate Glory
In 2014, there were modifications in regulations mandating the usage of turbo-hybrid engines. They played a huge role in Hamilton’s career later on.
Lewis won back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015 during an intense rivalry with teammate Nico Rosberg. After Rosberg’s retirement, Lewis again rose to the summit as he won two high tempo championship battles overturning mid-season deficits twice in 2017 and 2018. He then completed his hattrick in 2019, bringing his tally to six, second only to the legendary Schumacher.
Featured image credits- dnaindia.com