In Lieu of Flowers…
The last couple of weeks the sports world has either been fixated on San Antonio basketball, New York City baseball or Western Pennsylvania golf. That's fine. But in all the gawking elsewhere, history has been written and re-written on the international race tracks. Lewis Hamilton is fast becoming the biggest name on the Formula One circuitâ€”and he's British. And just 22. And a rookie. And black.
Starting with the former, no Brit has been a force in F/1 Racing since 1998. The UK-based McLaren Mercedes team, well aware of said drought on the asphalt, had its collective eye on the lad (Lewis, who was named after track legend Carl Lewis, has a father from Grenada and a European mother) long before he made national headlines by shattering the sport's invisible color barrier and winning the '07 Canadian Grand Prix. Proving that the interest was mutual, a young Lewis famously approached McLaren chief Ron Dennis at an awards function back in 1995 and said, "I want to race for you one day.â€ Who knew the kid would be a prophet, too?
With such confidence and a host of accomplishments in a short span â€“Lewis was the world's No. 1 Formula A karter in 2000; the British Formula Renault title winner in '03; he's finished in the top three in all eight races on the F/1 circuit this year- it's inevitable that comparisons to Tiger Woods might arise. And like the U.S. Open runner-up, isn't just participating in a sport that very few blacks do; he's burning a hole through it.
On June 17 in Indianapolis, Lewis became the first rookie to win consecutive poles and races. Hamilton is currently No. 1 in the standings and already has the fourth most victories by a rookie driver ever. (Jacques Villeneuve had four in '96.) He hopes to further etch his name in F/1 history on July 1 in France. But even if he doesn't place in that race, the young man's inspiring season is already c'est magnifique!