Lewis Hamilton is F1’s supreme, and perhaps only, show in town | Giles Richards | Sport

Posted on Posted inFORMULA 1

Two years into their tenure as the owners of Formula One and Liberty Media have known only one champion. With Lewis Hamilton taking the title in four of the last five years Liberty have inherited a period of singular supremacy by the British driver. Ordinarily this might be cause for concern as they seek to expand the sport but right now they must be positively relieved that if there is to be a dominant star, it is Hamilton.

Hamilton and his Mercedes team have been the pre-eminent force in F1 since 2014. They have won every title since then, with only Nico Rosberg’s 2016 victory denying Hamilton a clean sweep. Over the next two races the team are likely to make it five drivers’ and constructors’ championships in a row to match Ferrari’s record achieved with Michael Schumacher between 2000 and 2004.

For the last two seasons Hamilton has been pushed hard by Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel but has come out on top. Liberty want to see close, competitive racing with a range of winners but as things stand – a two-horse race between Hamilton and Vettel – they will not be concerned that it is Hamilton who is on top.

The 33-year-old, who took his fifth title in Mexico last weekend, is a one-man publicity machine for F1, especially in the US, a market Liberty are eager to expand. In the US Hamilton commands a presence and popularity unmatched by any driver. Even Fernando Alonso, who is well known in North America, does not come close and he is leaving the sport next season.

Lewis Hamilton on Good Morning America



Lewis Hamilton on Good Morning America Photograph: Lorenzo Bevilaqua/Getty Images

Before the US Grand Prix it was Hamilton who did a Q&A at the Nasdaq stock exchange. It was a giant image of the kid from Stevenage who had made it big which was then projected on the building in Times Square. The next day he appeared on Good Morning America.

It was only the latest in a series of high-profile appearances after he launched a clothing line with Tommy Hilfiger alongside models Winnie Harlow and Hailey Baldwin in Shanghai, Tokyo and New York.

Hamilton is hugely interested in music and in June collaborated with Christina Aguilera on a single under the pseudonym XNDA, a poorly guarded secret that was soon out. Gossip columns and news outlets were frothing when he and musician Nicki Minaj posted pictures of one another together in Dubai on their Instagram feeds. Hamilton has 7.9m followers, Minaj has 94.1m. After the race in Mexico he was congratulated by the actor Will Smith over the radio. A message he repeated on his Instagram feed. Smith has 24.2m followers. These are numbers Liberty will like.

Poppy Delevingne, Neymar, Lewis Hamilton and Lara Stone attend the Tommy Hilfiger Fall Show in 2017.



Poppy Delevingne, Neymar, Lewis Hamilton and Lara Stone attend the Tommy Hilfiger Fall Show in 2017. Photograph: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Tom

It is publicity money cannot buy and stands in stark contrast to his contemporaries. Vettel has no presence on social media. He keeps his private life largely private “I am happy to do things that people think are boring but for me they are not,” he said this year. Within the sport Vettel is an interesting, at times fascinating character, but he may as well be invisible to a wider audience.

Behind Vettel stand only Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo as characters who project but rarely outside the F1 bubble, their footprint is negligible compared with Hamilton’s. Worse still, the future holds a number of young drivers who have had all their interesting traits excised with extensive media training.

Hamilton may be divisive but he is always fascinating, presenting the big picture Liberty want their sport to embrace, as former driver John Watson observed. “What Lewis is doing is something we have never seen before from a motor racing personality,” he said. “Many people find it uncomfortable. As far as I am concerned he is opening a different world, a different market to his sport and trying to draw in people from entirely different backgrounds, education, colours, creeds, whatever, to look.”

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