THERE was a moment this season that proved Lewis Hamilton is now bigger than Formula One itself.
It was not his record-breaking 92nd win or this, his seventh world crown.
In fact, it was back in March in Melbourne at a press conference.
Drivers before him said the FIA were right to press ahead with the race, despite the coronavirus pandemic looming large.
Not Hamilton. When asked why the race was on, he replied cryptically, “Cash is king”.
And he added: “I am really very, very surprised that we are here.
“It is shocking that we are all sitting in this room.”
He was right and, as we now know, the race was cancelled following a positive test in the McLaren team.
Hamilton called it. He stood up and gave his opinion when others had been too afraid to talk negatively against F1.
He’d previously spoken about Donald Trump, environmental causes and racism. And he continues to do so.
Whether you agree with his stances on racism, the environment, veganism or politics, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is he is not afraid to give his opinion.
Over the past few years, he has found his voice and is using his platform as a seven-time F1 champion to speak out and educate those who follow him.
When was the last time a sports star at the very top of their game — and with so much to lose — was confident enough to speak out on a subject without worrying about upsetting a sponsor?
Over the years I have covered his races, I’ve seen the sulks and reported on them. I’ve also got to witness some sensational performances on track.
But this season, it is his off-track work that has made me appreciate Hamilton as the UK’s best sportsman of all-time.
People disagree. I know this because they tell me all the time and Hamilton now knows he will never enjoy the universal support of us Brits.
The reasons? Maybe the accent, maybe the tax debate — for the record he does pay UK tax and is in the country’s top 5,000 payers — or maybe because people feel they cannot identify with an F1 driver.
But like him or not, you have to appreciate the fact that he is willing to say exactly what he thinks.
Yes, he’s damn good at what he does, but he also stands up for what he believes in. And that goes beyond sport.
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