'Better Than Sex'
That's how Formula One phenom Lewis Hamilton described winning his first pole. Imagine how F/1's first black driver felt about his historic win in Montreal last weekend
Posted: Tuesday June 12, 2007 2:36PM; Updated: Tuesday June 12, 2007 2:36PM
At 3:30 p.m. last Friday, in the paddock at the Canadian Grand Prix, a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes press attaché set up a standard interview backdrop of three panels festooned with logos. Within minutes two dozen TV cameramen had assembled in front of it. Never mind that the man they hoped to film, Lewis Hamilton, wasn't due for another hour. They stood vigil because, at this moment in the world of auto racing, there would be no greater horror than for the 22-year-old British driver to materialize with no minicam present to record the moment.
As he takes his first pass of the circuits, Hamilton is also making a series of figurative left-hand turns into traffic. Being F/1's first black driver is the least of it. (Willy T. Ribbs test-drove a car for Brabham in 1986, but never actually raced.) Hamilton is a babe in a sport that rarely treats youth kindly. Moreover he's a Brit driving for McLaren, a whiskered name in British motor sports that last won an F/1 team title in 1998. Thus Hamilton is playing out multiple roles as the Great (fill in the blank: Black, Young, British) Hope.
Of those three mantles, race may be the easiest to bear. Hamilton has been able to draft in the slipstream of inevitable comparisons with Tiger Woods, another outriding prodigy who brought new fans to a largely monochromatic sport. Anthony Hamilton has played the role of Earl Woods, the doting father who, recognizing a knack and a passion in his son, sacrificed for the sake of the boy's development. (The son of Grenadian immigrants, Anthony at one point held down three jobs so young Lewis Carl, named after the American track star Carl Lewis, could afford to race go-karts.)
1 of 4