Local boy wins British Personality of the Year
Stevenage born Lewis Hamilton is the 2020 British Sports Personality of the Year and the most successful British driver of all time.
Seven time World Champion, his current team is Mercedes AMG Petronas and is one of the best racing drivers in the history of the sport.
Coming from a mixed-race background, with a black father and white mother, Hamilton is often labelled “the first black driver in Formula One”.
Hamilton has surpassed the majority of the significant all-time records held by the legendary Michael Schumacher including total championships. He won the World Title in 2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
At the age of ten, Lewis approached the McLaren team principal, Ron Dennis, at the 1995 Autosport Awards ceremony and told him “I want to race for you one day.” Less than three years later, he was signed by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz to their Young Driver Support Programme.
After winning the British Formula Renault, European Formula Three and GP2 championship in 2006. He began motor racing at a young age but burst on to the Formula One season – finishing second in his first season 2007 for McLaren – 12 years after his initial encounter with Dennis.
When he won the world title in 2008, he was aged just 23 and, at the time, was the youngest ever winner. He has raced for Maclaren (2007-12) and Mercedes (2013 – ).
Hamilton has also been a voice for diversity. Following the death of George Floyd while being arrested in May 2020, which sparked national and global protests, Hamilton criticised the figures in Formula One for their silence, writing on Instagram:
I see those of you who are staying silent, some of you the biggest of stars yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice. Not a sign from anybody in my industry which of course is a white dominated sport. I’m one of the only people of colour there yet I stand alone.
I would have thought by now you would see why this happens and say something about it but you can’t stand alongside us. Just know I know who you are and I see you…
I do not stand with those looting and burning buildings but those who are protesting peacefully. There can be no peace until our so called leaders make change. This is not just America, this is the UK, this is Spain, this is Italy and all over.
The way minorities are treated has to change, how you educate those in your country of equality, racism, classism and that we are all the same. We are not born with racism and hate in our hearts, it is taught by those we look up to.
Following Hamilton’s comments, several drivers released statements about George Floyd’s death and voiced their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and support was expressed from other figures in the sport such as the Mercedes team boss, Toto Wolff. Ross Brawn, managing director for Formula One, said that the organisation “supports [Hamilton] totally”, describing Hamilton as “a great ambassador for the sport”. He acknowledged that Hamilton’s comments “are very valid” and that the sport “can give greater opportunity for minority and ethnic groups to get involved in motorsport”. Brawn stated that Formula One was working to increase diversity within the sport, with efforts targeted at increasing driving opportunities at grassroots level as well as across all roles in Formula One
In June 2020, it was announced that Hamilton had established The Hamilton Commission with the Royal Academy of Engineering. The partnership was established to find ways in which motorsport can engage more young people from black backgrounds with science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects and, ultimately, employ them in motorsport or in other engineering sectors
In December 2020, Hamilton confronted the Bahrain’s human rights abuses and spoke out on the allegations of “sportswashing”. Hamilton said he “won’t let it go unnoticed” after an 11-year-old boy, Ahmed Ramadhan, wrote a letter to Hamilton, asking him to save his father, who was facing the death penalty, after a confession was allegedly extracted through torture for the death of a policeman.
It will be interesting to his how Hamilton goes on in his career as, despite getting Covid this year, he shows no sign of showing down.