Monday, November 3, 2008 at 5:19 AM

Hamilton becomes the youngest ever and first black F1 champion

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Hamilton had two superb chances (two weeks ago in China and today in Brazil) to complete his historic season by becoming the first rookie, not to mention the first black, to win F1’s coveted world title. But he choked.  In fact, despite starting in the No. 2 position in today’s final race, and needing only to finish 5th to clinch the title, Hamilton came in 7th.

[Hamilton blows FI championship, The iPINIONS Journal  Vol III, p. 162, October 21, 2007]

Well, I am proud (and relieved) to report that Lewis Hamilton, a 23-year-old Briton of Caribbean (Grenadian) heritage, redeemed himself yesterday by clinching this year’s Formula One (F1) championship in the final race of the season at Interlagos in Brazil.  This means that he has now fulfilled the incredible promise of becoming not only the youngest but also the first black world champion in Grand Prix history.

It is noteworthy, however, that Hamilton accomplished this remarkable feat despite facing even greater odds and increased public pressure this year.

After all, in an uncanny coincidence, he needed to finish no lower than 5th once again to clinch the title.  But, unlike last year, when he started from the comfortable No. 2 position yet ended up 7th, he started yesterday’s final race in the more difficult No. 4 position but ended up 5th – albeit owing as much to God’s grace as to his considerable skill.

That last corner, I managed to get past Timo Glock and I can only thank God for that – it’s amazing. It was one of the toughest races of my life – if not the toughest. [Lewis Hamilton]

Then, unfortunately, the racist behind-the-scene taunts he had to put up with last year from fellow drivers was compounded this year by even more sinister taunts from hostile crowds. These included everything from threatening epithets being hurled at him from the stands to a website called “Burst Hamilton Tyre“, where visitors routinely referred to him as a “nigger, half-breed and son of a bitch.”

Although, to be fair, there are probably just as many racists amongst the fans of NASCAR in America as there are amongst the fans of F1 worldwide – as we’ll no doubt find out as soon as a driver threatens to become the first black NASCAR champion.

At any rate, in addition to the physical challenge, just imagine the emotional stress Hamilton had to endure – having to deal with this racial hostility on the one hand and the jingoistic expectations of his fellow Britons on the other.

… The whole country is thrilled by his exceptional talent. The whole of Britain is now congratulating him, and is proud of the inspirational achievement of Lewis…. [Gordon Brown, Prime Minister]

Lewis is not just the youngest ever winner of the championship he is now officially a British sporting legend and a role model for what you can achieve if you follow your dream. [David Cameron, Conservative Leader]

Therefore, given all the baggage he was carrying, it’s no wonder Hamilton effectively backed into his world title.  After all,  with victories and brilliant performances in 17 previous races, he accumulated enough points to go into yesterday’s final race with a commanding seven-point lead. Yet he finished the season only one point ahead of Felipe Massa of Brazil – who actually won this race in front of impassioned hometown fans but could not disguise his disappointment over losing the coveted F1 championship.

Incidentally, if you don’t know Formula One from Formula 409, please take note:

F1 car racing is a sport that requires the steady hands of a surgeon, the daring skill of a jet fighter, and the physical stamina of a marathon runner.

Moreover, no sport can match the sustained thrill and nail-biting suspense one gets from watching those drivers navigate the zigs, zags, and hairpin-turns of a grand prix racetrack as they jockey for position at speeds exceeding 200 mph!  And that yesterday’s historic race was contested in the pouring rain only made it more daring for the racers and more exciting for the spectators.

Naturally, given the uncanny similarities in racial background and precocious talent between Hamilton and Tiger Woods, the barons of Hamilton’s sport are banking he’ll do for F1 racing what Woods has done for golf.

Not to mention that Hamilton now seems destined to eclipse Woods as the highest paid sportsman in the world – with a salary and commercial endorsements that are now expected to exceed $150 million per year.  And I suspect this appealing fact is not lost on his American girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger – lead singer of the burlesque group, the Pussycat Dolls.

It will be very interesting to see the effect. Lewis is a new character in F1 and he’s going to carry the sport into new areas. There will be a lot of kids out there who will now just want to be Lewis Hamilton. [Damon Hill, British 1996 FI Champion]

Finally, I cannot resist the hopeful symmetry that, just as Jackie Robinson becoming the first black to play in the Major leagues was a harbinger for Ralph Bunch becoming the first black to win the Nobel Prize, Hamilton becoming the first black to win a Formula One championship is a harbinger for Barack Obama becoming the first black elected president of the United States….

Congratulations Lewis … ride on brother!

Related Articles:
Hamilton poised to win F1 championship in rookie season

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