Opinion: Lewis Hamilton – an icon both on and off the track | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 03.11.2019
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Opinion: Lewis Hamilton – an icon both on and off the track

Having won the Formula One drivers' title for a sixth time, Lewis Hamilton is now just one shy of Michael Schumacher's record. However, his star already shines far brighter than "Schumi's," writes Andreas Sten-Ziemons.

Only one man has won more Formula One drivers' championships than Lewis Hamilton; Michael Schumacher, who has seven to his name. Assuming that Ferrari carry on shooting themselves in the foot with the strange tactical decisions they have been prone to this year, and with their team order far from being resolved, Hamilton has to be the hottest contender for the 2020 title.

However, it wasn't as if the Briton was simply handed his sixth title by the faltering competition; he earned it with his outstanding driving skills and his knack of making virtually no mistakes on the track. Then there is his team, particularly Mercedes' F1 boss Toto Wolff and chief strategist James Vowles, whose astute decisions were what made the difference in a number of races. Also working in Mercedes' favor is the fact that they have a clear team order: Hamilton is the No. 1 driver, Valtteri Bottas is the understudy.

Sten Ziemons Andreas Kommentarbild App

Andreas Sten-Ziemons

While Sebastian Vettel  looks to have squandered his last chance to win a title this year — teammate Charles Leclerc can be expected to push the four-time drivers' champion even harder next season — Hamilton is well on his way to breaking the records still held by Michael Schumacher. His seventh drivers' title is within touching distance and with his 82 Grand Prix victories to date, Hamilton is also not far off of Schumacher's record of 91.

In terms of star power, the 34-year-old Hamilton has long since eclipsed Schumacher. The German record title-holder wanted to be known as a racecar driver. He never sought the glamor or bright lights off the track. Much more important to him was shielding off his personal life from the public – and his private affairs remain shielded from public view in a manner that is both impressive and respectable way several years after he sustained a severe head injury while skiing.

'I want my life to mean something'

Hamilton is a completely different type of personality to Schumacher. He has embraced social media, has millions of followers who eagerly click on his snapshots from fashion shows, film premieres and holidays at exotic destinations. But he also uses social media and media to comment on current political issues, using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter or criticizing US President Donald Trump over his hostility towards women.

Formel 1 | Grand Prix USA (Getty Images/AFP/M. Thompson)

Only Michael Schumacher has won more F1 titles than Lewis Hamilton.

A few days ago, Hamilton commented on a topic that seems to be becoming increasingly important to him.

"I'm sad right now with the thought of where this world is going" he wrote on his Instagram account, which has 13.2 million followers. "The world is a messed up place."

Hamilton went on to denounce the meat and dairy industries, cruelty against animals, damage to seas and the climate, dying forests and a failure to protect endangered species. Apparently, though he doesn't have a problem with being one of the leading protagonists in a sport that is anything but environmentally friendly.

"I want my life to mean something," Hamilton continued, clearly referring to something beyond his prominence as a racecar driver.

Others, like actors Leonardo Di Caprio, George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, have long since shown how an international star can make an impact as a human rights or environmental advocate. There's no question that Lewis Hamilton too could do the same.

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