Seeing Lewis Hamilton leading the way is nothing new if you are a Formula One fan.
He has been regularly winning races almost on a fortnightly basis since 2014 and has been a leading driver since his first day on the job in 2007 as a young rookie at McLaren.
Despite his unquestionable talent that saw him break Michael Schumacher’s 14-year record of 91 Formula One race victories at the Portuguese Grand Prix on Sunday, he has had many critics over the years who have unfairly accused him of taking his eye off the race track to pursue life’s riches away from it.
Lewis Hamilton is leading the way on track after breaking Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Formula One victory’s at Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix
The Brit’s victory has put him well on course to take a seventh world championship
But as well as on the track, the Briton has now matured away from the race circuit too
It started as early as his first year in F1 when he began dating pop star Nicole Scherzinger in a relationship that would last until 2015 when Hamilton admitted that their long-distance relationship was ‘tough to hold down’.
Throughout his career at the top he has lived in the celebrity swirl, taking in rappers and red carpets in an existence split between Europe and America.
He is good friends with the party loving Neymar, with the Paris Saint-Germain star even congratulating him in his car via radio when the Brit won his fourth world championship at the Mexican Grand Prix in 2017.
But while Hamilton’s social media feeds were once dominated by his lavish lifestyle earned and justified in parallel with his on-track success, he has shaken off the playboy image to use his global platform by promoting key social talking points that affect us all.
During his first season in Formula One at McLaren, Hamilton was soon thrust into the celebrity lifestyle after dating pop star Nicole Scherzinger, they are pictured in 2008
Six-time world champion Hamilton (pictured alongside footballer Neymar and model Barbara Palvin) has lived much of his career in the celebrity swirl
Of course the 35-year-old still regularly shows off his fondness for fashion and music – we all have hobbies – but it’s noticeable how this year he has matured to start dealing with tougher issues, although he argues it’s always been on on his mind.
‘Over the years people assumed many things in terms of my lifestyle,’ he said. ‘I go to different events and I have a life and interests out of the sport.
‘But people take for granted the time I allow myself to be focused on being the best I can be physically and mentally. I never do anything that will hinder that.
‘Only I know how thinly I can stretch myself, and I have managed to strike a decent balance.
Hamilton has been deeply affected by the riots following the death of George Floyd by white police officers in the United States back in May, and since the F1 campaign restarted in July he has led the way in the sport promoting anti-racism.
Since the killing of George Floyd in May, Lewis Hamilton has thrust his support behind the Black Lives Matter movement he has helped carry into F1
Before every F1 race, drivers now stand united wearing anti-racism shirts, with a mixture kneeling alongside the world champion, in a show of support
This has led to all drivers lining up on the grid before the race with ‘end racism’ t-shirts and Hamilton front and centre with a ‘Black Lives Matter’ shirt.
The movement is close to Hamilton, who attended a rally in London during the summer to promote equality, which he has used to start his own campaign to bring more diversity into F1 via the Hamilton Commission.
Hamilton stated that the Commission is dedicated ‘to exploring how motorsport can be used as a vehicle to engage more young people from black backgrounds with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects’ to help them gain employment within motorsport or other sectors.
He added: ‘Despite my success in the sport, the institutional barriers that have kept F1 highly exclusive persist. It is not enough to point to me, or to a single new black hire, as a meaningful example of progress. Thousands of people are employed across this industry and that group needs to be more representative of society.
‘When I look back in 20 years, I want to see the sport that gave a shy, working-class black kid from Stevenage so much opportunity, become as diverse as the complex and multicultural world we live in.’
Lewis Hamilton is now often seen in the paddock with his beloved dog Roscoe
Hamilton has had Roscoe for seven years as they celebrate his win in Portugal
Hamilton’s maturity extends to his love for animals. Since getting his dog Roscoe in 2013 he is often spotted around the paddock with his ‘best buddy’, including at this weekend’s race in Portugal.
All this isn’t because Hamilton has become bored in his Monaco apartment since the Covid crisis emerged that has curtailed much of his jumping from city to city lifestyle. Before the pandemic in January he donated more than £260,000 to support the fire and animal rescue services working in the Australian bushfire crisis in that he called ‘heart-breaking’.
He has recently thrown his support behind a WWF campaign to save the Amazon rainforest, calling for an end to the deforestation of the area, saying: ‘They’re causing utter devastation to the Amazon’s local communities, species and landscapes.
‘This needs to stop now. We must come together and use our collective voices to speak out on this issue to enforce permanent change.’
In more recent times he called for justice around the death of Breonna Taylor in the United States. Before and after winning the Tuscan Grand Prix in September he wore a shirt that read ‘Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor’ on the front – claiming he was highlighting ‘human rights issues’.
Hamilton has used his global image to protest causes, stepping on to the Tuscan Grand Prix podium after winning in September to call for justice after the killing of Breonna Taylor
Hamilton also protested in support of Breonna Taylor before the race at Mugello
This weekend at the Portuguese Grand Prix he was wearing another shirt keen to promote awareness over concerning events in Nigeria, which have seen Amnesty International claim there was ‘credible but disturbing evidence’ of demonstrators being killed in Lagos after weeks of anger at the African country’s loathed Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Hamilton, who is a vegan, has had his critics though. Promoting action against climate change can be a tough sell if you are part of an industry that travels on private jets to race cars around tarmac circuits that effectively urbanise wild landscape, and you are telling people to change their lifestyle.
It was a message his old F1 rival Fernando Alonso pointed out in 2019 when he said: ‘You can’t send a message and then do the opposite the next day. We all know the lifestyle that he has or that I have, that Formula One drivers who take 200 planes a year have. You can’t then say don’t eat meat.’
Hamilton’s old rival Fernando Alonso (left) has warned the Brit about the contradictory lifestyle of F1 drivers in regards to promoting climate change
Alonso has a point but it should not detract away from the messages Hamilton is trying to promote. None of us are perfect and the Brit’s recent approaches to turn people’s attention to global issues should be encouraged and welcomed rather than merely criticised.
Awareness is the key component for Hamilton who continues to be a champion on and off the circuit. After all, we can all get behind his April quote in regards to ‘Earth Day’ on what he wants from the world in the future can’t we?
‘I love our planet, it’s beautiful, there’s so many beautiful things so we’d better start treating it right. For me, I feel that my purpose is to use that platform for a positive change.
‘It’s going to take all of us to come together being united to make small changes within our lives. There is a serious crisis and if we don’t then our children’s future are really in jeopardy.’