While all the talk around the world has been about Tuesday’s election of America’s first black President, Barack Obama, mainstream media outlets have failed to tie in that, just days before, Formula One crowned its first black Champion. On Sunday, Lewis Hamilton of McLaren-Mercedes squeaked back into fifth place just seconds before crossing the finish line at the Brazilian Grand Prix to win the Formula One Season Driver’s Championship.
To add icing to the cake, Lewis Hamliton was also the youngest to ever win it, as well.
Obviously, there is little comparison in terms of relevance on the world stage between Obama being voted President and Hamilton winning in F1, but Hamilton’s accomplishments should not be dismissed. We’re not talking history back to 1776 here, but 107 years ain’t too shabby, either.
Okay, in actuality the modern era of Formula One started in 1950. The first “Grand Prix” race, however, was in 1901 at Le Mans. During this time not a single man (or woman) of color has captured a season championship. With European, Australian, New Zealander, South American, and North American (including one American and a lone Canadian) Champions, the faces aren’t quite as homogeneous as those of the US Presidents, but every Formula One champions’ has still been some shade of white.
The United States’ reputation for racism is legendary, but thousands of Formula One fans would fit in well in the deepest, darkest parts of the ugliest parts of America. During the last two years, fans have openly taunted Lewis Hamilton. Ugly racist comments from the stands…and even fans painted in mocking black face paint showed that there are plenty of classless David Duke types in Europe.
Unfortunately, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone still is asleep at the wheel when it comes to denouncing the abhorrent actions of F1 fans. Just this week, Ecclestone commented that he felt some of the worst treatment – fans in blackface wearing “Hamilton’s family” t-shirts in the crowd at the Spanish Grand Prix, was just a “bit of a joke”. If the fans had dressed up in Chasidic diamond merchant outfits with signs saying “Ecclestone Only Cares About the Money”, we’re guessing that the Jewish Ecclestone wouldn’t have seen the humor. (And we wouldn’t have, either!)
But sadly, that’s in fact all Ecclestone cares about – and it has nothing to do with his religion or homeland. He has just proven time and time again to care about nothing other than control and receipts. If he cared about F1’s image, he would have squashed the nasty behavior of the fans and celebrated the groundbreaking achievements of a spectacularly talented driver.
So from The Four Wheel Drift: Congratulations to both Barack Obama and Lewis Hamilton for showing children with all skin colors that hard work and talent can translate to the highest honors in the toughest competitions.