Mercedes boss says Hamil­ton scarred for life by abuse

For­mula One: Wolff claims ace was racially tar­geted on track as a child

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - SPORT - BY PHILIP DUN­CAN

Lewis Hamil­ton has been scarred for life by racist abuse he suf­fered as a child, his Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has claimed.

Hamil­ton, 34, could cel­e­brate a re­mark­able sixth world cham­pi­onship in the breath­less Mex­ico City air on Sun­day, tak­ing him to within one of Michael Schu­macher’s all-time tally.

And yet the Mercedes driver con­tin­ues to di­vide opin­ion in his home­land.

He re­mains stuck on an MBE while the other out­stand­ing Bri­tish sports­men of his gen­er­a­tion, Andy Mur­ray and Mo Farah, have re­ceived knight­hoods.

Hamil­ton broke down racial bar­ri­ers as a ju­nior karter en route to the sum­mit of For­mula One but he re­mains the sport’s only black driver.

He has called for greater di­ver­sity and, in 2011, he con­tro­ver­sially said he was be­ing pe­nalised by stew­ards “be­cause I am black, that’s what Ali G says”, in ref­er­ence to the satir­i­cal fic­tional TV char­ac­ter.

“When Lewis was younger he was the only black kid among the white kids, and I know he was racially abused on the track,” Wolff said.

“If that hap­pens to an eight-year-old, or a 10-year-old, it just leaves scars that will not go away. If, as a child, you have had to over­come abuse and dis­crim­i­na­tion, on one side it makes you a stronger per­son­al­ity. But, on the other side, it also leaves scars.

“To­day, Lewis has a good and ma­ture per­spec­tive but the scars are cer­tainly there. That is not the only mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor for him – those scars are a wit­ness of hav­ing sur­vived.

“We have to ac­knowl­edge we are not very di­verse in For­mula One, and I have cer­tainly learned through Lewis to ac­cept it is dif­fi­cult to over­come dis­crim­i­na­tion from time to time.

“He wears his heart on his sleeve, he has opin­ions, and by ex­press­ing them you will al­ways run the risk of po­lar­is­ing. That is hu­man na­ture.”

Hamil­ton will be crowned king of the world for a third straight year in Mex­ico if he outscores his Mercedes team-mate Valt­teri Bot­tas by 14 points and is only nine vic­to­ries away from match­ing Schu­macher’s wins record.

But the Au­to­dromo Her­manos Ro­driguez cir­cuit, 2,200 me­tres above sea level, has been some­thing of a bo­gey venue for Hamil­ton and Mercedes in re­cent years.

In 2017 and 2018, Hamil­ton fin­ished ninth and fourth. He must cross the line at least in third on Sun­day to stand any chance of se­cur­ing the ti­tle.

While his wait for a fifth cham­pi­onship in six years is likely to be pushed back a week to the next round in Austin, it is un­fea­si­ble that Hamil­ton will not cel­e­brate an­other ti­tle this sea­son.

And Wolff, who has over­seen Hamil­ton’s sen­sa­tional run of suc­cess, be­lieves the English­man could be con­sid­ered as the finest driver to step into an F1 car. He said: “When Lewis fin­ishes his ca­reer, peo­ple will say he was truly one of the great­est, if not the great­est rac­ing driver of all time.”

SPEAK­ING OUT: Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff thinks the world of For­mula One is ‘not very di­verse’

F1’s Lewis Hamil­ton

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