Tiger Woods, Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell or Doug Williams − those are just a few names most think of when it comes to Black athletes who pioneered their way to championship status. But an unfamiliar name should be added to that short, but prominent list.

Meet Lewis Hamilton, a 25-year-old British professional race car driver who not only became the first Black driver to win the Formula One World Championship in 2008, but also became the youngest to do so at age 23.

Hamilton, who told The Associated Press that his father named him after African-American track and field legend Carl Lewis, represents various cultures. His father is Black, his mother is White British, and his grandparents are natives of Grenada.
But ever since his father, Anthony Hamilton, introduced radio –controlled car racing to him as a youth, Lewis has had dreams of representing his race as the first Black F-1 champ.

“It will show that not only white people can do it,” Hamilton said in an F1Fanatic.co.uk. article in 2007. “But also Black people, Indians, Japanese and Chinese can too. It will be good to mean something.”

As a driver for McLaren racing team, Hamilton pulled off the historical feat in just his second year as an F-1 competitor. Rising to fame in his country, Hamilton was honored by Queen Elizabeth II with a MBE (Member of Order of the British Empire) award after becoming the first British F-1 driver to win a championship since 1966.

But the young elite driver hasn’t received all praise. During some of his races, fans heckled Lewis with racial slurs and even wore black face paint and black wigs, according to The Times in London. But he never let that discourage him, pulling motivation from legendary social activists that he most admires.

“Outside of Formula One, my heroes are foremost my father, then Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King,” Lewis said in an F1Fanatic.co.uk article. “Being black is not a negative. It’s a positive, if anything, because I’m different. In the future I can open doors to different cultures and that is what motor sport is trying to do anyway.”

Hamilton believes he can accomplish that task by adding another championship to his resume. He recently chalked up his third win of the season (15th career win) after capturing the Belgium Grand Prix championship. The win placed him at the top of the leader board, three points ahead of Mark Webber, who sits at No. 2 with only six races left on schedule.

He’s excited about the possibilities of claiming his second championship at 25, but is still focused on not getting too ahead of himself.

“We still have a long way to go and there are still many points to be grabbed by any of the drivers who are fighting for the title,” Hamilton recently told {the AP.} “Clearly for me my closest rival in the championship is Mark in terms of points, but I still think the championship is open.”

Editor’s note: Lewis Hamilton is a Formula One Racing driver, not to be mistaken with the Indy Racing League most famous in the U.S.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor