Ever since joining the paddock back in 2007 as a 22-year-old, the British talent has grown into one of the most winning drivers of all time – with six consecutive World Championships in the last seven years and several broken records.
Lewis Hamilton, however, has not only improved and developed as a driver but as a real icon and socially-recognized personality. He himself claims his focus has shifted from simply aiming to win races and championships to creating an impact beyond just Formula 1
"I have grown a lot as a person, not changed but more evaluated in a positive way I think," Hamilton told SportWeek.
When he first started off as a Formula One driver, Hamilton was entrenched by that ‘playboy’ aura of old-style F1 drivers, he started dating the pop star Nicole Scherzinger and really rode that celebrity lifestyle. However, as years passed and on-track successes quickly followed one another, the Briton realized he could use his global platform by promoting key social talking points.
"Over the years, I have gained more knowledge, more responsibility and a better idea of what I can do for others.
In the last few years, Hamilton has been in the public spotlight for being one of the most active drivers on social media, and not only to talk about his career.
"When I came into Formula 1 I was still a boy. I was only thinking about driving, driving and driving again and nothing else. I wasn't thinking about the environment.
As a 35-year-old, Hamilton is now fully aware of the huge impact he can have, not only on the sport but as a world icon and social activist. As he claimed, during the 2020 season, he played a dual role: a racing driver and social activist.
"Take the 2020 championship. I gave everything to be a champion and at the same time I did everything I could in the fight against racism," he stated.
Indeed, as of 2020, Lewis is the only black driver to race in the sport, this is why he was so strongly affected by the riots following the death of George Floyd by white police officers in the United States back in May, and since the F1 season restarted in July, he has led the way in the sport promoting anti-racism.
"I drew attention to those issues and the eyes of the crowd gave me extra strength when I was racing on the track.
"It's not just about winning, but also about bringing something bigger. This year I also learned a lot about myself."
Hamilton's maturity extends to his love for animals. Since getting his dogs Roscoe (and Coco, who passed away last year), he is often spotted around the paddock with his 'best buddy'. He also went vegan and tries to use his platform to inform his millions of followers about the environment and animals’ rights.
In his interview with SportWeek, Mercedes driver has also talked about the impact of former three-time F1 world champions Ayrton Senna and Niki Lauda and how they both influenced his career.
Hamilton has never hidden his appreciation for his childhood hero, Ayrton Senna. The Briton, in fact, recounts how he began his career with a yellow helmet, a design that resembled that of the Brazilian legend. Hamilton shares why he was such a huge fan of the former McLaren driver, in a sense, he sees himself in the Brazilian hero.
"It was because of his driving style, […] and the passion with which he talked about his victories," Hamilton told SportWeek.
"But also because of the way he single-handedly fought against a system, a system that wasn't always good for him. Something I have also felt in my career, although with me it was in a different way. "I always told myself that I wanted to become like him and end up in F1. I love cars and my profession is, therefore, the most beautiful profession in the world."
If, on the one hand, Hamilton never had the chance of meeting Senna; on the other, he enjoyed the companionship of another F1 legend, who played an extremely important role in determining his success.
The Austrian three-times World Champion Niki Lauda was the man who convinced Hamilton to join Mercedes, back in 2012. The British driver considered Lauda a friend rather than a typical mentor.
"I don't remember Lauda giving me any particular advice," Hamilton said.
"He was not a classic mentor. We had a different dynamic. As we got to know each other, we also understood that we had a lot in common. Much more than we imagined, which is why we had a lot of fun and became friends. I still miss him."
Awareness of his role and inspiration from two legends are thus the key components for Hamilton, who continues to be a champion on- and off- the circuit.