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Are we ever going to learn to love the council's flat kid who became F1's greatest driver?


Even if you know nothing about Formula 1, and even less interested in the high testosterone sport in motorsport, you have almost certainly heard of Lewis Hamilton.

There's Lewis, the red carpet, regular with a number of glamorous celebrity friends, Lewis, the fashion icon with his tattoos, pigtails and jewelry.

Lewis, the social activist, with a checklist of fashion causes, from veganism to lecturing on green issues – a tough sell for a man who flies the world and makes £ 35 million a year driving gas-guzzling cars.

And of course there's his bold, albeit controversial, support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

He's been linked to several women, including singer Rita Ora – but he wasn't in any other serious public relationship

These qualities, however admirable they may be, did not make him the most recognized and successful athlete in Britain. Because they're just a by-product of his success on the track.

Yesterday, at 2:43 p.m. London time, his status was given another shine among a shining handful of drivers who graced motorsport – victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix and his 92nd career victory, a record ahead of Michael Schumacher and everyone else brings whoever has ever taken the wheel of a 200mph race car.

His win by an astonishingly comfortable 25-second lead turns his march into another record-breaking seventh world championship into a procession.

Despite all the triumphs that have brought him unparalleled fortunes, he remains in the unique position of being a sporting hero who receives decidedly mixed announcements.

On the one hand, its story is remarkable and uplifting. A mixed race pioneer who grew up in a one bedroom council house in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, watching drugs slide onto the street below.

Now he's worth around £ 250 million, just like a self-made man, with a home in the millionaire enclave of Monaco, where his shoe collection alone comprises two rooms, and an Instagram account with 20 million followers.

Yesterday, at 2:43 p.m. London time, his status was given another shine among a shining handful of drivers who graced motorsport - winning the Portuguese Grand Prix and his 92nd career victory, a record ahead of Michael Schumacher and everyone else brings whoever has ever taken the wheel of a 200mph race car

Yesterday, at 2:43 p.m. London time, his status was given another shine among a shining handful of drivers who graced motorsport – victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix and his 92nd career victory, a record ahead of Michael Schumacher and everyone else brings whoever has ever taken the wheel of a 200mph racing car

At 35, he's on par with Roger Federer, Lionel Messi and the great basketball player Michael Jordan for the fact that he's a true global superstar. Unfortunately, although he is loved by many, he is not loved as much as his extraordinary deeds warrant.

The obvious contrast is with the great tennis player Sir Andy Murray, who escaped his early reputation for security and thin skin to rephrase himself not only as a three-time Grand Slam champion but with self-deprecating humility. The country warmed up for him.

But Hamilton's performances overshadow those of Murray, who, although he was briefly number 1 in the world, is only the fourth best in the quartet, which includes Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Hamilton is the outstanding driver of his era – and possibly of all time – who made a princely distinction with a brave overtaking maneuver on the first corner of his Formula 1 debut in Melbourne in 2007.

He missed the title by a point in his rookie year and won it by the same narrow margin the following season.

Together with the reactions of a fighter pilot and the endurance of a long distance runner, he has the ability to cleanse his brain so that it is in a state of perceptible clarity.

These natural gifts, discovered by his father when he gave him his first remote-controlled car at the age of five – and watched his son beat rivals years older, are underpinned by an absolute will to win.

Linked to this genius, however, was the ability to feel persecuted. In a funky remark he made in Monaco nine years ago, he almost answered why.

After Hamilton was punished for strangely erratic driving, he challenged the sanction by invoking the Ali G line: "Maybe it's because I'm black." He was only half joking.

Some people will hold his color against him depressingly, but fortunately there are few. Why is he not as popular as other racing characters? Is it because he's too much of a shape breaker? And if so, why should it matter?

Refined handsome James Hunt won only one world championship at a time, but he was revered, his early death polishing his legend.

Sir Jackie Stewart has achieved national treasure status after Hamilton, the most successful British driver. The Queen appeared as a guest of honor at his 80th birthday party last year.

Hamilton is also not as cool as Sir Stirling Moss or as humble as Jim Clark, who won two Wold Championships in the 1960s. Indeed, the Hamilton personality has developed uncomfortably at times in public.

The world had drawn attention to itself since his time as a child prodigy of the kart track.

Even then, he was polished, articulate, perhaps too literal as he rose through the age groups and disciplines of motorsport, which not least helped his father Anthony, who made countless sacrifices – and held down three jobs – to support his son.

Then came the moment when he left his father's professional services in 2010. It was Anthony who came up with the idea that Hamilton would live overseas to avoid the constant attention of fans. His father's choice of tax-friendly Switzerland indicated other impulses.

Moving so soon into his career and offering an eyebrow-raising pretext for it hurt Hamilton's reputation.

Outside of his father's control, Lewis set out to find more freedom. This time he moved to Monaco again, down a worn path of Grand Prix millionaires. He made friends with rappers, pop stars and actors and his increasingly eccentric clothing style reflected the tastes of his newly acquired "friends".

Then came the tattoos and necklaces. His ears were pierced. His hair, suspiciously plump in his early twenties, was fully grown.

He made music and designed clothes with Tommy Hilfiger. Further lucrative collaborations came with the fashion brands Police and Puma, the watchmaker IWC, the Italian motorcycle brand MV Agusta and the energy drink manufacturer Monster.

He was the only racing driver to give both his name and voice to a character in the animated Cars franchise. He made a cameo in the movie Zoolander 2 alongside Kate Moss and voiced a character in the Call of Duty video game series.

Hamilton began moving his bulldog puppy Roscoe into the F1 VIP paddock. His other most constant companion – and deepest influence – during these self-discovery years was friend Nicole Scherzinger, the Pussycat Dolls singer he met in 2007.

Seven years older than him, she introduced him more deeply to American celebrity culture when he cultivated a strange twang in the mid-Atlantic. But she was only present occasionally at races where she and Hamilton held hands and said mercy together before lunch. Their on-off relationship ended in 2015.

Alluding to the split, Hamilton said, “My cars are my babies. I always said when I had a girlfriend, "I'll take one of the 'girls' out so you can come if you want, but you come second behind the cars."

He has since been linked to several women, including singer Rita Ora – but he hasn't been in any other serious public relationship.

The world had drawn attention to itself since his time as a child prodigy of the kart track. Even then, he was polished, articulate, perhaps too literal as he rose through the age groups and disciplines of motorsport, which not least helped his father Anthony, who made countless sacrifices - and held down three jobs - to support his son.

The world had drawn attention to itself since his time as a child prodigy of the kart track. Even then, he was polished, articulate, perhaps too literal as he rose through the age groups and disciplines of motorsport, which not least helped his father Anthony, who made countless sacrifices – and held down three jobs – to support his son.

Over the past few years he has made various enthusiasms and life choices, not least as a proselytizing vegan, and he was instrumental in launching Neat Burger, a central London restaurant that calls itself "the first plant-based sustainable burger chain of its kind "means type & # 39 ;.

He has also spoken of environmental issues – recently he accused journalists of wearing disposable face masks to keep them from cluttering the ocean floor. “Hypocrisy!” Shouted his critics.

Still, Hamilton is instinctively friendly and tends to team members who have suffered from difficulty, and dedicates himself to his half-brother Nicolas, who has cerebral palsy. But while he is well-intentioned, he can naively and frankly preach a bit.

Never before have these combinations of his personality been more evident than in the most recent and possibly deepest of his passions – his outspoken anti-racism campaign, which was sharply offended by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota by a white police officer.

As the only black driver in the whitest sport, he deserved to be heard.

He urged his fellow riders to join one knee before every race this season. Some of his colleagues were less than interested in advocating the cause.

Hamilton then accused the reluctant handful of being involved in racism unless they spoke out and proved otherwise.

But all of these are just distractions. Winning remains his ultimate goal, and as he demonstrated yesterday, it has put him out of the reach of his rivals.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is ready to go to extreme lengths to keep record breaker Lewis Hamilton on board and pay the world champion's £ 40 million a year salary

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff joked that he was ready to sell the team's factories to hold Lewis Hamilton after his last record win on Sunday.

Hamilton made history at the Portuguese Grand Prix with the 92nd victory of his career and prevailed against Michael Schumacher in the overall standings.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates after his 92nd Grand Prix victory in Portimao on Sunday

Lewis Hamilton celebrates after his 92nd Grand Prix victory in Portimao on Sunday

The 35-year-old Briton no longer has a contract at the end of the season. But both he and Mercedes want to extend their partnership.

And Wolff joked that he would go to extreme lengths to make it happen, saying of Hamilton's £ 40 million a year worth, “It's huge. We have to sell a lot of inventory. Sell ​​back the lease on the buildings to make the money.

& # 39; It's a surreal amount of profits. It is his absolute passion and energy that he puts into the sport that is amazing. His talent, his ability – he just stands out. & # 39;

Hamilton's win at Portimao brought him one win ahead of Michael Schumacher's once sacred move of 91 victories.

"Did I think we'd do so many races?" asked Hamilton after dominating the race. & # 39; Of course not. This is a phenomenal time for us. What a time to be alive.

Toto Wolff joked that if it means keeping Hamilton on board, he will sell Mercedes factories

Toto Wolff joked that if it means keeping Hamilton on board, he will sell Mercedes factories

“I don't believe the saying the sky is the limit. It depends how much we want it, how much we want to raise the bar further, and when we look at our shared history at Mercedes, we won't sit back and relax.

“Every race feels like the first and I don't know how that is possible after all these years, but it is for me. There is a lot more to do, especially in this crazy time with the pandemic and as a leader in terms of diversity and inclusivity. That inspires me.

"I still feel physically strong, but of course you're wondering when it's going to tip and you start to lose performance, but after today it's not like that."