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Hamilton is the champ

By unknown | Oct 30, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Musa Zondi

Musa Zondi

So Lewis Hamilton stands on the threshold of winning the Formula 1 world championship?

The nerdy young black racer is coming of age this weekend and it does not really matter whether he wins or not. He has already won.

People like Hamilton win even if they do not. They win because their presence and effect is not so much in the tally of wins, losses or draws but in the fact that they become a phenomenon.

They burst onto the scene and forever embed whatever sport they are involved in with a stamp that lives in the annals of history. They take chances.

Consider this story for a moment. A starry-eyed 10-year-old boy had the gall to approach the team principal of McLaren, Ron Dennis, and say: "One day I will drive for you."

Dennis has not said what his response was but it could only surprise him. But more than anything, that courage would have left Dennis flabbergasted.

It took about three years and Lewis was part of Mercedes- Benz's Young Driver Support Programme.

His progress into Formula 1 was swift, and last year McLaren partnered Hamilton with Fernando Alonso, who was walking in the clouds, having been a world champion for two years running.

The partnership between the two drivers just did not work. Hamilton was not prepared to play second fiddle and Alonso demanded that he be treated like a champion over the rookie.

The situation got so bad that the two were not on speaking terms for some time. Something or someone had to give and unfortunately Alonso was the one who had to leave.

He had also managed to wind up the team the wrong way and his departure was good for all parties.

In this year's run alongside Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen, Hamilton has been at the top of his game.

But he was not immune to controversy - crashing into Kimi Raikkonen during the Canadian Grand Prix; being stripped of a win for cutting a chicane in Belgium; and having a bad start in Japan.

Despite this he comes to the final race this weekend with a seven-point lead over Ferrari's Felipe Massa who will be racing in front of his home fans in Brasil.

But what is the phenomenon Hamilton all about? He was named after the US sprinter Carl Lewis - another winner - by his father Anthony who took up to three jobs at any given time to make sure his son fulfilled his destiny. He adored Ayrton Senna.

That is not all. "Outside of Formula 1 my heroes are foremost my father, then Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King," he said.

Hamilton has faced racial abuse but he takes comfort in who he is.

"Being black is not a negative. It's a positive, if anything, because I'm different. In the future it can open doors to different cultures," he is quoted as having said.

He is blindingly fast, thrives in dangerous conditions, like driving in the rain and he is so over-endowed with confidence he has managed to rub up the other drivers the wrong way.

Perhaps the best endorsement of brand Hamilton comes from none other than the king himself, seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher who sees a worthy successor in him.

So at about 9pm this Sunday we will know whether Hamilton has taken the first tentative steps into Schumacher's shoes.

But it does not matter. He will already be the champion to millions.


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