OPINION: Lewis Hamilton: A Study in Kindness

Lewis Hamilton has certainly made his mark on track throughout his career. Kristina Agresta takes a closer look at his actions and influences off track and what makes him human. 

Written by Kristina Agresta

May 8, 2021

Lewis Hamilton has had a long and fantastic career in Formula 1. Over the past 13 years of his career, he has seen epic wins and significant losses, but he has also become one of the greatest drivers of all time. Hamilton’s career started in 2007, and on his debut, he was already becoming a superstar. In his first race, he finished on the podium, and he ended up being the runner-up in the championship that year, separated from Kimi Raikkonen by only one point. Needless to say, Lewis Hamilton is and always has been a fantastic driver, but what really makes him shine is who he is off track.

Lewis Hamilton at the Spanish GP after achieving 100 poles (Photo from Tumblr)

 

While Hamilton may have had some years where he came off somewhat differently than today, specifically during the infamous fight between him and former friend & teammate Nico Rosberg, Lewis has always come off as a humble and kind man. From the moment he came into F1, he praised and thanked his parents for everything they sacrificed to get him into the sport. After leaving McLaren in 2012, he still spoke kindly of the team and thanked them for his time there and that championship win. Hamilton also raises up young drivers, giving them advice and encouragement when they need it. 

Lewis’s words of encouragement to McLaren driver Lando Norris (Photo from Instagram)

Over the Imola GP weekend, Lewis sent encouraging words to three young drivers: Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly, and George Russell. When Lando missed out on qualifying third when his lap time got deleted, Lewis commented on Norris’ Instagram, saying, “Nobody can knock you for giving it your all. Amazing lap, it’s great to see you and the team shine.” Lewis could have easily said nothing, but he chose to send encouraging words to a driver who felt down because that is the kind of person he is. This isn’t new behavior either. Recently Pierre Gasly revealed that he and Lewis bonded during the lockdown. He said Lewis was always open to giving him advice when he needed it, even texting him encouragement before the 2020 Monza Grand Prix, where Gasly famously won. In an interview at Imola this season, Lewis sang the praises of Pierre to the media, saying he was glad to see Pierre up there (in P5 after qualifying) with a good car underneath him for the season. He has also spoken highly of Charles Leclerc in the past, noting Charles’s ability to deal with Ferrari’s expectations. 

Lewis’s comment on Williams driver George Russell’s apology post for his actions at the Imola GP (Photo from Instagram)

One of the most significant moments of Hamilton’s kindness toward young drivers was when he commented on George Russell’s apology for his actions at Imola. Russell was involved in an unfortunate crash with Lewis’ teammate Valterri Bottas, and after the race, both he and Bottas shared some unkind comments in the press. When George apologized on Monday, Lewis commented on the post as he did in 2020 when Russell crashed under a safety car at Imola, saying, “Strength comes from vulnerability. If you don’t make mistakes you can never learn the lesson. Respect for taking responsibility.” This was a big moment as the crash directly affected Hamilton’s team. He had every right to be angry at Russell or express his frustration over the incident. Instead, he accepted the apology and acknowledged the importance of making mistakes and learning from them. All these instances of Lewis using his insight to help young drivers speak to the true character of Sir Lewis Hamilton.

 

He can’t make a mistake, let his emotions get the better of him, or speak out too much because that gets him extreme hate fueled by racism. If you scroll through the comments on anything he posts, frequently, comments use racial slurs and offensive language against him…Even through all those horrible comments, Lewis still chooses to promote kindness and loving others.

I’ve noticed that Lewis has developed a post-race interview ritual. Every time he finishes on the podium and the interviewer starts asking him questions; he does two things: thank his team and congratulate the other two drivers. I think this speaks volumes to his character. Hamilton takes the time out of his own interview to praise other drivers for their great races and effectively promotes positivity in the sport by doing so. There have certainly been races where he has been unhappy with his performance, or there was “drama” between him and another driver because that is the nature of the sport. Still, Lewis’s positivity always catches my eye. His genuine excitement and appreciation for being on the podium make watching him win over and over all the more gratifying because it makes him a person you want to root for. 

Lewis has faced discrimination and racism at every turn in his career. He can’t make a mistake, let his emotions get the better of him, or speak out too much because that gets him extreme hate fueled by racism. If you scroll through the comments on anything he posts, frequently, comments use racial slurs and offensive language against him. All that takes a toll on a person, and Lewis has every right to be frustrated and angry that Formula 1 isn’t doing more to fight racism. Even through all those horrible comments, Lewis still chooses to promote kindness and loving others. Reddit user Valynna brought up this double standard in a post about the Bottas & Russell incident talking about how Lewis constantly has to be on his best behavior. If he isn’t, people will use that as an excuse to spew racist hate against him. It seems as though he constantly has to prove that he deserves his success and that he has every right to be in F1, just like his white colleagues. He has to stay positive and kind because if he isn’t, he will be crucified. However his kindness never comes off as disingenuine or fake, but rather a true reflection of his mentality. 

Lewis Hamilton at a Black Lives Matter protest (Photo from Instagram)

 

In 2020, he used his platform to speak up for the Black Lives Matter movement and has even become an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, fights for women’s equality, promotes environmentalism and combating climate change, speaks out about anti-Asian hate, and talks about the importance of health both physically and mentally. He has used his status to speak about issues that people, especially in the motorsport community, often push aside. He does it with grace, sincerity, and of course, kindness. Recently on April 19th, Lewis posted a video of himself after a workout with a caption that talked about his struggle with body image issues and mental health. He was open and vulnerable at that moment which is something people don’t often see from drivers. In the same post, he tried to encourage his followers to stay positive about their own bodies and try to work out not for results but to help their mental health. It’s moments like those that make me wonder if we even deserve such an amazing man in this sport—a sport where he has been the only black driver for 70 years. 

Hamilton fights for equality every day, even risking his 2021 contract to create the Hamilton Commission, which investigated the lack of diversity in Formula 1 and whose goal it is to encourage people of color and women to get into the sport. He is genuine in his efforts for change and wants to see this sport become better with time, just like the fans. He has never taken for granted his position and tries to inspire kids just like him every day. When he won the championship in 2020, he dedicated it to all the black and brown kids who “dream the impossible;” he told them it can happen and that he is proof of that. That is a moment one certainly can’t forget. 

Lewis’s tweet after achieving the landmark 100 career poles (Photo from Twitter)

After achieving 100 pole positions over the course of his F1 career, Lewis looked as excited as he did for the first one. In true Hamilton fashion, he thanked the people at the factory before talking about himself once again showing the humble attitude that helps his success. He even had a signature Lewis interview moment recounting old memories with interviewer Pedro de la Rosa. Moments like these are what make watching him make history all the better. 

The best way to sum up Sir Lewis Hamilton is in two words: kind soul. When he remembers a journalist’s struggle with an illness or talks passionately about electric cars and the future, people can see the bright soul behind the driver. Like Senna, he never takes his position for granted and uses his status to help others. He is clearly deserving of the title of Greatest of All Time. Not only is he the driver with the most records to his name, now including 100 pole positions and soon 100 wins, but he is a person who does good both on and off track.  Not many drivers can say that. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristina developed her love of motorsport through years watching Top Gear with her dad every night. She specializes in Formula One and it’s feeder series F2, F3, and F4. Her favorite teams are Williams & McLaren and supports Prema & ART Grand Prix in feeder series. Outside of motorsport Kristina spends her time supporting the Washington Football Team and studying film. You can find her on Twitter as @agrestaP1.

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