Grand Prix racing, the world’s preeminent motorsport, is potentially heading for an extraordinary time: The final Formula 1 race of 2021 could firmly establish Lewis Hamilton as the greatest competitive driver of all time.
Britain’s Mercedes-AMG Petronas star Hamilton on Sunday won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, tying Red Bull Racing Honda’s Max Verstappen in championship points for the season and setting a tiebreaker for the ages at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday December 12th.
Formula 1 noted that even though the two are tied on points, Verstappen is “technically holding the lead” as he has one more win this season than Hamilton. Nevertheless, the driver who finishes faster next week is likely to win the 2021 championship.
With a win, Hamilton would surpass Michael Schumacher, the retired German legend, when it comes to world titles. Both have seven. Verstappen has never won the title.
Hamilton has also made headlines in recent years, speaking on human rights, gender inequality, racism and homophobia. He was awarded the title of knight as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s New Year’s List for 2021.
However, its presence in Saudi Arabia has drawn criticism, with human rights group Amnesty International accusing the country of using the Grand Prix as a “publicity stunt” to “divert attention from its brutal crackdown on activists. and human rights defenders â.
Hamilton, for his part, told a press conference ahead of Sunday’s race that he felt “duty” to raise concerns about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
“Sport has made the choice to be here,” he said. âAnd whether it’s good or bad, while we’re here it’s important that we try to raise awareness. “
In the days leading up to the Qatar Grand Prix in November, Hamilton also announced he would wear an LGBTQ flag on his helmet to emphasize human rights in a country where homosexuality is illegal.
Jean Todt, president of the FÃ©dÃ©ration Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body of Formula 1, told CNBC in a speech broadcast on Friday that it was not the role of the FIA ââto “get involved in issues policies “. , despite its record, encourages dialogue.
Hamilton won on Sunday despite sometimes chaotic race conditions.
His car and Verstappen’s made contact during the race, and Verstappen was subsequently penalized.
âI’ve been racing for a long time, but it was really, it was incredibly difficult,â Hamilton said after the race.
It was Hamilton’s third consecutive victory, a streak that gave him momentum despite Verstappen equaling the Formula 1 record for most podiums (first, second or third place) in one season. Verstappen took the championship lead in May with a victory in Monaco. On Sunday, he finished second.
Red Bull is also 28 points behind Mercedes for the annual constructors’ title, awarded to the best team.
Hamilton told reporters at the trackside on Sunday that he plans to keep his head down and focus on winning Abu Dhabi.
Yet two drivers tied for the world title with just one race to go in the season has only happened once in Formula 1 history, when Emerson Fittipaldi emerged victorious from Clay Regazzoni after the fall of the last flag of 1974.
Hamilton already has the most Grand Prix victories, 103 against 91 for Schumacher, as recognized by Guinness World Records. But at 36, Hamilton, of Stevenage, England, is more than 10 years older than the sport’s freshman drivers.
When Hamilton started in the 2000s, he faced Schumacher. Today he’s racing against the German’s son Mick, who drives for Haas.
It seems clear that Hamilton has been thinking about his legacy, especially because when he became the youngest driver to win a world championship, in 2008, he was the first and only black driver in Formula 1.
Today it still is.
After noting the sport’s lack of diversity, especially among drivers, Hamilton launched the Hamilton Commission in 2020 to remove barriers to motorsport for people of color.
That year, amid worldwide protests against the murder of George Floyd by police, he became a staunch supporter of Black Lives Matter. At the Austrian Grand Prix that year, he put on one knee in a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. Most of his fellow drivers joined him.
As part of his contract with the Mercedes team, Hamilton assured that the organization would invest in its support for diversity and inclusion for motorsport.
His concerns come from a personal place. There were times when he was a kid, competing in karting, when he and his dad were faced with racial epithets on the tracks.
When he was a 10-year-old kart champion, Hamilton, whose father bought him a kart and helped him hone his skills at a young age after recognizing his passion for the sport, met Ron Dennis, one of the best Formula 1 team bosses at the time.
Three years later, Dennis pledged to support Hamilton’s racing career as long as he continued to attend school in earnest.
This is the kind of support Hamilton wants to create for others.
âBeing the first Black Something is a proud and lonely walk,â he told CBS’s âThis Morningâ Gayle King in late 2020. âWe’ve always been the only black family on the scene.â
At the peak of his career, Hamilton said: “I realized that had hardly changed” as he pledged to focus on creating new opportunities in a sport which historically developed his talent with the Helping households who could afford constant travel, expensive equipment, and personal trainers.
âThere has been a revival and an opportunity to use your voice,â he told King.
The Hollywood Reporter said on Friday that a bidding war had broken out over a motorsport-related project involving some of the biggest names in the industry as well as, possibly, Hamilton.
When asked by King last year if he was considering retiring, the rider said: âI love doing what I do, and honestly winning that seventh world title is an amazing thing, but I think we still haven’t won this fight for racial equality. “
The athlete with a global fan base and high level income has become the face of a sport trying to rekindle its relationship with American motorsport fans while expanding its fan base in the Middle East.
Formula 1 returned to the United States in 2012 after a five-year hiatus when it kicked off the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
For the past two years, Formula 1 has brought Netflix viewers into some of those racing teams that each spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on drivers, engineering, gear, and marketing.
The show, âFormula 1: Drive to Survive,â was popular with racing fans, and The New York Times said it âignitedâ the sport.
Sports business guru Joe Pompliano tweeted on Sunday that there was nothing on the spectacular end of the Grand Prix season.
âNetflix is ââawesomeâ¦â he said. “But with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen tied for the Drivers’ Championship with just one race to go, it’s the best marketing for Formula 1 in years.”