Lewis Hamilton is the British Grand Prix’s most modern home-made hero.
This was clear when he claimed his third British Grand Prix at Silverstone on Sunday. (Race report | Race in pics)
But he is also a global icon and a happy man of the world.
Clearly comfortable with his status as a double world champion, he revels in his connection with Britain’s younger generation of sports fans as much as he enjoys the trappings of fame and fortune. (Also read: How Rosberg was fooled by Hamilton’s masterstroke)
After several years of occasional public tantrums and impetuous reactions, the 30-year-old Englishman appears to have found himself.
He seems to be at ease with life as he races with unprecedented speed, elan and control and, between Grands Prix, flies from one red carpet to the next.
From Cannes to Glastonbury and Manhattan to some of the Mediterranean’s most glamorous resorts via various recording studios and film sets, Hamilton has indulged in what he concedes is a “rock ‘n roll lifestyle”.
“Yes, I’m living my dream,” he said. “I love it and I want to do it now because you never know if you will have the opportunity again if you don’t take it. So, yes, I’m on a lot of planes and I’m in a lot of hotels!”
His flamboyance, in appearance and lifestyle, is approved of by some including F1’s long-serving ring-master Bernie Ecclestone, 84, but questioned by others, including another fellow-British world champion Damon Hill.
Hamilton cares not a jot. He has retained his connection with his fans in Britain and beyond, giving Formula One a marketing platform that Ecclestone appreciates. At Silverstone, he feels the support gives him energy.
– Mental Strength –
“It’s the banners, the flags, the team caps, the messages that get sent every day,” he explained Saturday, after seizing the 46th pole of his career to set up Sunday’s dramatic win over his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
His ongoing success – he leads Rosberg by 17 points in the championship – has been built from experiences, public and private, that have given him a sense of balance and mental strength this year.
Most notably, he responded following the end of his long-term romance with American singer Nicole Scherzinger by starting this season in a positive and successful mood.
“I don’t really know how I’ve done that,” he said.
“It’s not that it’s been easy. It was very, very tough in that period, but I was determined not to let it get in the way of what I’m here to do… which is win races and championships.
“I understand the opportunity that was ahead of me and I just did everything that I could to stay on it. It’s been wobbly. It’s not been easy, but I’m grateful that I’ve stayed on course.”
He drew on that inner strength when a team blunder cost him a near-certain win at the Monaco Grand Prix. “It was hard beyond belief. It was definitely the hardest moment for me that I can recall,” he said.
“I’m very strong in my faith and I stopped and prayed about it … give me strength to get through this because I know there are going to be more positives moving forwards.
“It’s a powerful thing to be able to send a strong message to people that, no matter what’s thrown at you, you can get by. That was really the ultimate test for me.”
He bounced back with a victory in Canada and refused to change his lifestyle to suit critics who expected something more traditional from a champion.
“It’s just strange how people want everyone to do the same thing as the people back in the day,” he said. “There was never a black driver before, firstly, so I’m much different to any of the ones in the past. Let’s do me, my way.”
“I’ve got kids that look up to me nowadays and the way I behave will affect how those kids, perhaps, will behave at school or when they’re driving,” he added.
“And that’s a more important message for me to give. Just don’t act up…. I know this is my time and I am loving it, but I am aware of my responsibilities.”
To judge from Silverstone this weekend, his fans are with him and share the moment as they celebrate his success.