Sunday saw Lewis Hamilton toasted by the cream of British sport, crowning a brilliant 2020 by being named BBC Sports Personality of the Year for the second time in his career.
The seven-time Formula 1 world champion got the nod ahead of Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and jockey Hollie Doyle, winning the public vote after finishing runner-up in both 2018 and 2019.
Since his F1 debut in 2007, Hamilton’s success on the track has seen him transcend the sport. While past British drivers have excelled in their mediocrity while on media duties, the 35-year-old has rarely failed to speak his mind and now seems to be finding his niche within the public consciousness.
Early Promise Leads to Results
Born in Stevenage in 1985, Hamilton wasted little time in demonstrating a natural flair for driving, receiving his first go-kart as a Christmas gift at six. In fact, it was in karting where he first crossed paths with future Mercedes team-mate and rival Nico Rosberg.
His talent was so prodigious that bookmakers started taking bets on him winning the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship by the age of 23 when he was just 12 and needless to say, he upset the odds for that as well, more of which later.
Rising through the ranks with success in Formula Renault and Formula Three, he won the ART GP2 Series in 2006 before making his F1 bow with McLaren the following year.
Partnering Fernando Alonso in Woking, he made an immediate splash by finishing on the podium in his debut race in Australia, before wins in Canada, USA, Hungary and Japan saw him go close to winning a maiden Drivers’ Championship. However, he retired in China before ending the season by finishing seventh in Brazil as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen took the title.
Despite that disappointment, the 2007 campaign saw him set plenty of records, with nine consecutive podium finishes the most for a rookie season, with his four wins the joint-best for a novice and his tally of 109 points the best for a rookie.
Hamilton went one better in 2008, those early bets coming to fruition in winning his first world title at the age of 23 with a dramatic fifth place in Brazil to edge Interlagos’ darling, Felipe Massa, by a point. However, he had to wait another six seasons before conquering the world again.
Merc Move Ends Barren Run
The introduction of the new V6 engines meant leaving McLaren for Mercedes ahead of the 2014 season was seen as a gamble. However, it has since proved a match made in heaven, with him immediately flourishing under the guidance of Toto Wolff and winning his first SPOTY.
The Silver Arrows have dominated top-level motorsport since, winning seven straight Constructors’ Championships. Hamilton has won the Drivers’ crown in six of those years, losing out to Rosberg in 2016, despite winning the last four races.
Like Alonso before him, his inter-team rivalry with Rosberg became one of the great subplots in the sport, and he has further come into his own since the German’s retirement, with Valtteri Bottas instead proving a competitive, but less combative, colleague.
Despite the delayed start, 2020 has become a year to remember for the 35-year-old, winning an incredible 11 of the 17 races. That contributed to helping him equal Michael Schumacher’s tally of seven world crowns, while his triumph at October’s Portuguese GP was a record 95th in the sport.
Racing Not Hamilton’s Only Hobby
The public’s interest in him has even seen Hamilton’s personal life hit the headlines, while his willingness to speak his mind has led to both criticism and praise from those involved in F1.
Hamilton also has plenty of interests away from the track, from fashion to making music to commenting on geopolitical issues, with his personality attracting non-petrolheads to follow the sport.
Winning races remains his passion, though and he is
2/5 to collect a record eighth Drivers’ Championship in 2021.
After his magnificent 2020, it is hard to see anything other than another success and, potentially, a record-equalling third SPOTY award.
*All odds correct at time of writing.