Lewis Hamilton’s crusade for racial equality has helped him reach a new level as racing driver, sportsman and inspiration, according to his Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff.
After the six-time champion registered his record 156th podium finish at Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix with his 88th career victory to move within three wins of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91, Wolff said he felt he was watching a man competing at another, higher level than all those around him.
He also saw in Hamilton, who leads this year’s title race by 37 points after winning four of this year’s six races, a racer motivated by history as he aims to draw level with Schumacher on seven championships.
“Lewis has always been at his best when fighting adversity and the Black Lives Matter movement is close to his heart,” said Wolff on Sunday evening. “So, it certainly helps him in terms of motivation.
“I am always impressed with how Lewis develops every season. He gets better, in terms of his personality and his driving — and that is really inspiring.
“As a man in his mid-thirties, he is able to show how you can develop as a personality, how you can improve your game and how you can have interests outside of motor racing that make you stronger.”
Hamilton, 35, is the only black driver in F1 and has made it clear that the fight against racism is more important than anything else adding that would make winning a seventh title for that reason his greatest achievement.
On Sunday, he again led the drivers in their pre-race anti-racism demonstration and, after winning by 24 seconds, pointed at the ‘Black Lives Matter’ message on his helmet.
“It is important to continue to push,” he said. “There are many, many companies here that have not held themselves accountable and there are a lot of people out there in the world who haven’t.
“In America, for example, there are still policemen living a normal life even though they killed an innocent individual,” he said. “There have been so many of them where nobody has been brought to justice. We have to continue to fight for that.”
As a racer, he demonstrated on Sunday that he is better than ever with a flawless master-class from pole to flag in searing heat, perfect tyre management and speed, just a week after Mercedes departed Silverstone blistered and beaten.
He admitted that beating Schumacher’s podium record was beyond his childhood dreams.
‘I was ecstatic’
“All of us drivers here grew up watching Michael and what is happening right now is far beyond what I dreamed as a kid. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I’m given every day.”
After winning, he said he did not realise he had completed the final lap, such was his level of concentration.
“We all try for perfection and it’s not always easy to deliver like that, but today, for me in the car, I was ecstatic when I came across the line. I didn’t realise it was the last lap. I was still going. In my mind, I was like a horse with those blinkers on. I didn’t realise. I was going to keep going.”
He described his win as one of his best.
“I need to make sure is I really appreciate this moment because you never know when you’re going to have another like this.
“It’s easy, sometimes, just to forget just how amazing it is, where we are, what we’re doing — and so I’m definitely going to have a glass of wine tonight to celebrate.”
He will head to the seventh race in Belgium, where he has experienced mixed fortunes over the years, later this month knowing that another triumph and a win at Monza would set him up to equal Schumacher’s win tally at Mugello in Ferrari’s celebratory 1,000th F1 race.