Throughout the history of Formula One there have been numerous larger than life characters and personalities – Hamilton being one of the more recent entries – but does this mean that the sport owes him a debt?
In short, no – not really.
Hamilton’s large following on social media – 3.8 million on Twitter, the same on Facebook and 3.4 million on Instagram – allows the public to get inside the garage and gain access that money can’t buy. What it also does is promote himself and the Lewis Hamilton brand.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that he is promoting the sport over himself.
Almost every team and driver has a social media account these days and, despite no other account having anywhere near the number of followers that Hamilton possesses – the official F1 Instagram only has 1.7 million followers with Ferrari not even hitting the one million mark – he uses the platforms to promote his lifestyle through a series of carefully coordinated images.
Unlike me or you, the images are almost always professionally taken and uploaded – not the usual selfies and ‘thank god its Friday’ images that the average user would take.
The thing with Formula One is that, whenever a personality leaves the paddock, there is always someone who will take their place.
When Ayrton Senna suffered his tragic accident at Imola, Michael Schumacher stepped up as the dominant character. When Schumacher retired for the first time at the end of 2006, Lewis appeared on the scene but I have no doubt that, had Hamilton not been the overwhelming personality that he is, someone else would have stepped up.
We now have Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button…should I continue?
If we weren’t talking about Hamilton then we could be talking about any of these drivers.
My point is, Hamilton is no different to any other driver and – I’m sorry to shatter the delusion – he is not owed anything by the sport. If it was not for Formula One, we would all be saying Lewis who?
There are many lower Formula drivers who have won championships yet aren’t known to the masses because they have not been given the exposure that Formula One does.
Can anyone other than a motorsport fanatic name more than four or five World Endurance Championship drivers or World Rally drivers.
Yes his rockstar lifestyle is different to the norm and does hark back to a bygone age – this is part of his appeal – but there is a reason that this disappeared. Drivers needed to become more focused, more professional, and Hamilton has been anything but this year.
After his latest engine failure in Malaysia, he openly questioned the team and suggested that there was a conspiracy against him and then there was his antics in the press conferences in Japan where he acted with zero professionalism as he spent his time on Snapchat.
Claiming a third consecutive world title is now only a faint dream but, with his focus clearly on anything but the Grand Prix last time out – and his inability to get the car off of the line – I would suggest that Hamilton has already given up on the title.
There is no doubt that, on his day, Hamilton is unbeatable and that he has suffered from an unusually large number of reliability issues but every driver goes through these spells. It’s about how you deal with them and how you bounce back.
Will Hamilton be able to U.S. Grand Prix where he has been at his best in recent years or will he surrender more points to Nico Rosberg? We’ll find out on the 23rd of October when the drivers go racing on the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.