Hamilton still rising, on and off the track

LONDON (Reuters) - The words “Still I Rise” are tattooed large across Lewis Hamilton’s shoulder blades and that assertion has been self-evident this year, both in sporting terms and in the wider world.

Formula One F1 - Turkish Grand Prix - Istanbul Park, Istanbul, Turkey - November 15, 2020 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton poses with his dog and teammates as he celebrates after winning the race and the world championship Pool via REUTERS/Clive Mason

The Mercedes driver’s seventh Formula One world championship, secured in Turkey with three races to spare on Sunday, raised him to new heights as the sport’s most successful driver of all time and surely with more to come.

“I feel like I’m only just getting started,” he said after winning Sunday’s race, his record 94th career victory.

Only Ferrari great Michael Schumacher won so many titles and Hamilton has already powered past the German when it comes to wins, pole positions and podiums.

The numbers, however, only tell part of a bigger story -- the rise of Hamilton from racing driver to global figure, from sportsman to spokesman, reaching up and across barriers to something more universal.

Before the start of the season, the 35-year-old showed off a new helmet design with a twist -- one with “Still We Rise” written on it.

2020 has been a year in which the Briton has increasingly used his platform as an opportunity to make his voice heard on subjects from racial injustice, to diversity and the environment.

“What’s important with the journey this year is it’s been combined with the fight for equality and a real growing process this year of learning what’s happening around the world,” Hamilton said last week.

“Being a little bit more aware of surroundings and starting to see progress with that.”


The paddock is now only one part of Hamilton’s world as he takes a knee before races while wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt and campaigning against racial injustice and for diversity.

He has set up a commission of experts to help increase the representation of Black people in British motorsport, and acquired a team in the all-electric Extreme E series to highlight global warming.

The sport’s only Black driver persuaded his Mercedes team to repaint their silver cars black and has taken part in protest marches.

As he said in a recent interview with Sky Sports television, speaking of the influence of the late heavyweight great Muhammad Ali, his aim is to “not only be the greatest...but also stand for something”.

“I want to know that I didn’t waste my time here, just collecting accolades and titles...of course winning the world championship’s a good thing but it’s not been the most important thing for me.

“For sure you want to look back and say I was part of something much bigger than myself, than my team, than the sport and I did it with a whole group of people and a lot of force against us.”

Asked last week about the seventh title, Hamilton told reporters he would be prouder of his campaigning.

Team boss Toto Wolff said Hamilton had grown as a personality.

“There are topics that are very close to his heart and because of his large audiences he has realised he has a voice and he wants to utilise his voice to support (them). I think that’s absolutely acceptable,” the Austrian said.

“He’s obviously polarising but that’s OK. You want to polarise and get your message out rather than be down the middle.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond