Why oh why isn’t Lewis Hamilton properly appreciated by British motorsport fans?
So goes the annual lament around the time of the British Grand Prix and so it went again this year in spite of a record crowd at the event, where Hamilton was the only British driver at the pointy end of the grid, and he won convincingly, proudly draping the Union Flag round his shoulders as he celebrated his victory.
Hamilton is a spectacularly, game-changingly talented driver. It is beyond dispute. He may not have yet beaten all the records held by cheating, spoon-faced, born-again blumenkohl Michael Schumacher, but I have no doubt that he will if he wants to and if he doesn’t throw away his career with a vainglorious move to the Maranello Mafia.
Some will claim that it’s Hamilton’s brashness, arrogance and petulance that’s the problem. Others will claim it’s because he’s a tax exile who lives abroad. Others still will argue that his obsession with Americana, music culture and celebrity is his achilles heel.
But that is all besides the point. Setting aside F1 drivers like Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell who seem to have been born middle-aged and grumpy, many of the mealy-mouthed criticisms levelled at Hamilton can equally be levelled at Jenson Button or James Hunt or, when it comes to sportsmanship, Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton was careful to downplay Rio Ferdinand’s suggestion that objections to him are merely racism, pointing out that he’s mixed race. However, it feels to me like Ferdinand is probably correct, because people like Rio Ferdinand and his fellow proponents of race-baiting identity politics have made it so.
The more Hamilton has embraced ostentatiously black culture – and he has, in so many ways – the more he has marked himself out as different from whitey. His every action outside of the circuit has screamed ‘ I’m one of these guys, not one of you guys’.
It’s beyond doubt that people prefer idols with whom they can identify – I can see myself having a pint and a cigarette with James Hunt, playing 18 holes with David Coulthard or playing Counterstrike against Lando Norris, but can I see myself in a San Francisco nightclub, rapping with Lewis, sporting half a BA Baracus-worth of gold? Nah.
We are discouraged from holding black people up to the same standards we have for white people, we are excoriated for any suggestion that we may have the faintest idea what life might be like for a black or mixed-race person.
So how can anyone be surprised or offended that what some people actually don’t like about Hamilton is that he’s ‘different from us’?
Come on, Lando!