Story by Damien Scott
If you thought the NBA was the only league where young black men could dominate the game, flip to the Speed Channel to meet Lewis Hamilton, Formula One’s 22-year-old superstar. When the United Kingdom native decided to move to Formula One—open-wheeled auto racing considered by many to be the pinnacle of motor sport—after winning the GP2 (the minor leagues of F1) championship his first year out, Hamilton became the first black driver to push the high-tech racers since the series’ inception in 1946.
But just being the first black racer in F1 wasn’t enough for Hamilton. Ever since his father, Anthony Hamilton (not the
R&B dude), began working three jobs to pay for his kart lessons and races at the age of 8, Hamilton has been a beast.
He’s expedited his ascension by conquering every series he’s been in, from Formula A to the F3 Euro Series. So it was no surprise when he got the call to join two-time world champion Fernando Alonso on the McLaren Mercedes team.
Most rookies, no matter their skill set, stumble out of the gate during their first races. Not Lewis: His greatness was hinted at when he landed in third place during his inaugural race on March 18 in Australia. He made history again by becoming the only rookie to make a top-three finish during his next four races, and the masses realized the kid was better than anticipated. But when F1 came to North America for the Montréal and Indianapolis Grand Prix, his legendary status was all but cemented. Lewis shut down everyone—including his teammate—and snatched the number -one spot in both races.
Like the young, flashy, no-holds-barred players who rejuvenated the NBA in 1996, Hamilton brought with him a fresh, albeit wild, style of racing. Between his dizzying lap times, daredevil passing and ability to gain time by any means necessary—even if it means swinging the rear of his car around a corner—Hamilton has made Formula One fun again.
And people have taken notice. He’s become so well known in his UK home that he’s contemplating moving away to evade the overwhelming media and fan attention. Even hip-hop wants a piece of him. Rumors began circulating that Skateboard P wanted Hamilton as the face of his Billionaire Boys Club clothing line after he was seen with his family after the Indianapolis Grand Prix. There are already whispers that he’ll be better than Michael Schumacher, the retired world champ who was making more than Tiger Woods at his peak. It seems that Hamilton’s Formula One racing career is headed for a slam dunk.