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Automotive Hero of 2017: Lewis Hamilton

2017-12-22 07:20

MANY RACES LEFT TO TAKE BACK THE LEAD: Lewis Hamilton says that he needs only one good weekend to be back in the F1 title race. Image: AP / Wong Maye-E

Lance Branquinho

Cape Town - Awarding the F1 driver’s world champion hero of the year status might appear a fait accompli, but Hamilton’s fourth world championship carries special significance. 

Detractors criticise his alleged whining attitude and the ease of victories in a dominant Mercedes car, but those are the fallacies of people who do not understand the complexities of a sport more expensive and technical than any other. 

'Ostentatiously glamorous'

In 2017 Hamilton was rivalled fiercely by a competitive Ferrari, driven spiritedly by a resurgent Seb Vettel. In the end, Mercedes strategy and technical acumen, in pace with Hamilton’s sheer speed and race craft, carried a sufficient amount of racing Sundays to clinch the world title. 

The criticism from F1 traditionalists and those in the paddock are traits of pure jealousy and misunderstanding.

Hamilton’s expertly crafted social media stream might be ostentatiously glamorous (his own Gulfstream jet featuring in many posts), but he’s never been caught doing anything untoward – which is a point missed by many. 

There’s glamour and confidence, but no malice – and for a sport which desperately requires adjusting to a digital audience and younger, more diverse, collective of fans, Hamilton is a godsend.

His outrageous fashion sense and private jet lifestyle is true celebrity, something not at all out of sync for an F1 driver.

Of all F1 participants, Hamilton is the only one who can compete with other celebrities for online attention – and he should be congratulated for keeping F1 relevant in an environment it has long ignored: digital media. 

'All-time greats'

Beyond his digital awareness, the value of his driving is terribly underrated.

Hamilton’s qualifying pace, and overtaking ability, cannot be disputed.

For those F1 followers who dislike his manufactured online persona, the reality of Hamilton’s driving cannot be disregarded: he is one of the all-time greats, a man of immense focus behind the helm of an F1 car. 

Wonderfully entertaining and relevant to the youthful audience, and inarguably valuable to those pundits who appreciate driving skill without bias, Hamilton is the automotive world’s hero of 2017 – and well worth his incredible 2018 Mercedes contract salary of R2.7bn. Yes. Billions. 

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