Michael Schumacher, a seven-time world champion, once said, “I always thought records were there to be broken”.
On 11 October 2020, we witnessed monumental milestones across sports: we saw LeBron James lead the Lakers to their 17th NBA championship win, Rafael Nadal claimed his 13th title at Roland Garros and Lewis Hamilton finally matched Michael Schumacher’s race win record.
While these men are all renowned in their respective fields, Hamilton has just cemented himself as one of the world’s most accomplished and decorated athletes. At the Eifel Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton won his 91st race, matching the record set by Michael Schumacher. At the post-race interview, Michael’s son Mick presented and gifted Hamilton with his father’s racing helmet which was truly a beautiful moment to witness.
Hamilton had humble beginnings. He was raised in Stevenage, Hertfordshire by his separated parents. His father began funding his karting hobby from the age of eight all the way until his split with Lewis in 2010. Lewis often reflects fondly on how integral his father was to his career, the same way Anthony, his father, is proud of their achievements together.
In an interview with the BBC at 10 years old, Lewis spoke about the racism he had faced from his peers and how harmful it was to him at such a young age. Not only did Hamilton have to overcome racial barriers but he also had to break into the very rich world of racing. His upbringing was different from the other drivers, in the sense that he wasn’t from a wealthy family. Anthony once told the BBC that it got to the stage where he had maxed out three credit cards in addition to working three separate jobs to keep Lewis going.
Eventually, Lewis picked up some sponsors and started racing competitively; by the age of 10, he became the youngest driver ever to win the British Junior Cadet Kart Championship and famously introduced himself to Ron Dennis, the CEO of McLaren, by telling him that he wants to race for him. Three years later Lewis was scouted and signed by McLaren.
Hamilton had achieved first position in a multitude of racing competitions
He started his formal racing career in 2001 for the Formula Renault Championships, where he was known for his talent and successful junior career. By 2003 he had gained 1st position in Formula Renault, already foreshadowing the milestones he would reach. Before his Formula 1 debut in 2007, Hamilton had achieved first position in a multitude of racing competitions: 2004 Bahrain Superprix, 2005 Formula 3 Euro Series and the 2006 GP 2 Series. 13 years after his F1 debut Hamilton has six world titles, 96 pole positions, 91 race victories and won 26 different Grand Prix’.
Despite the regular despicable treatment from Formula 1 fans, Hamilton is respected and appreciated by those around him. Alain Prost, 4-time world champion, told PA news in August 2020 that “it is unbelievable what Lewis has done”.
His fellow driver and rival Daniel Ricciardo spoke on Lewis’ achievements at their post-race press conference last week: “You can have a package and a car to do it, but to do it every weekend when the lights go out… certainly big respect.”
Schumacher himself has also said to BBC Sport that he does believe that Hamilton could surpass his records. By the time Hamilton retires he could arguably be the most decorated and accomplished driver of all time. He has already broken and set records that people never thought could happen.
Lewis Hamilton is important to Formula 1, but he is also important to young black and brown children everywhere. As of 2020, Hamilton is the only black driver to ever have raced in Formula 1. To be the only black driver and achieve the things he has, the way he has is nothing short of admirable.