Hamilton's landmark F1 victory just the beginning
Lewis Hamilton made history by becoming the first black driver to win in Formula One. Rest assured, writes Dan Knutson, we will see Hamilton win again.
MONTREAL -- The view out of the side of the pressroom at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit on the Ile Notre Dame in Montreal looks over the podium. Lewis Hamilton pulled his Vodafone McLaren Mercedes into the parking area behind the steps leading up the podium.
Moments earlier he had finished a slow cool-down lap as he savored every moment of his first-ever Grand Prix victory along with 105,000 fans.
"I was just trying to control myself, to be honest," he said later when asked about the final lap of the race and the cool-down lap. "I wanted to stop the car and jump out and just do, I don't know, cartwheels or something!
"I just had to keep it going. The fans were fantastic, to come to Canada for my first time, they really have been fantastic supporters, so thank you to them. It was extremely emotional -- to get all the way into F1 and to have my first pole, my first win!"
Standing in the area behind the podium were three men who have guided Hamilton's career for the past decade: McLaren boss Ron Dennis, McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh, and Mercedes-Benz's Vice President of Motorsport Norbert Haug.
Hamilton hugged Dennis before running up the steps and out on to the podium to celebrate his win along with Nick Heidfeld, who finished second, Alex Wurz, who finished third, and Whitmarsh, who accepted the trophy for the winning constructor.
The story that led to Lewis Hamilton's first Grand Prix victory is part of legend now. It was December 1995 when a 10-year-old Hamilton approached Dennis at a postseason racing banquet. Hamilton, who had won a go-karting championship in England, walked up to Dennis, shook his hand, and told him he wanted to drive for him someday.
Two years later, McLaren took Hamilton under its wing, and McLaren and Mercedes have guided his career ever since.
Hamilton's paternal grandparents went to England from Grenada, and thus he has an African-Caribbean heritage. But the color of his skin had nothing to do with why McLaren has helped him out. McLaren likes Lewis because he is fast. Very fast. They also like him because he is a genuinely nice guy.
Having won championships and races in go-karts, Formula Renault, Formula 3 and GP2, Hamilton was ready to move up to F1 this year. After deep consideration, McLaren, which has a policy of never hiring rookie drivers, made an exception and put Hamilton in the car this year.
With a third place followed by four seconds and now a win, Hamilton has had the best start to a season of any F1 rookie in the history of the sport.
As Hamilton celebrated on the podium, his father, Anthony, cheered from the crowd below.
"I could see him in the crowd while I was on the podium," Lewis said, "and it looked like he had a tear in his eye. So it's obvious that he was extremely proud. You wouldn't believe the amount of work he's put into my career. He had nothing when he was younger. He lost his mum at a young age, and just to see his family be successful is a real pleasure to him. I dedicate this race to him."
Anthony has indeed put a massive effort into Lewis' career, and he is one reason why Lewis is such a well-grounded, friendly, polite and urbane 22-year-old.
After the race, Anthony said he was unaware that Lewis had dedicated the win to him.
"I hadn't heard that," said Anthony, who didn't listen to the postrace interviews, "so I don't want to comment on that. But I'm glad I didn't hear it because who knows what would have happened. I was trying to hold it back [the tears] as it was."
Anthony said the strain of the race, with all the accidents and the four restarts behind the safety car, left him drained.
"Today has been hard work," Anthony said. "I had to go through winning that race four times today. I did four Grands Prix today. Forget Lewis! He has just been laughing in his helmet and enjoying the race. That is what he does. Nothing scares him."
Anthony said he and Lewis have been realistic throughout his career.
"We never made plans to get to where we are; we just made plans to always do the best at what we were doing at that time," he said. "Getting to F1 was just the next step that came along. We never, ever look ahead and say, 'Right, we are going to do this, this, this and this.'
Wouldn't it be really painful if you start setting your heart on winning the championship and it doesn't happen? We have plenty of time to win that championship, and if it happens this year, then that is a bonus.
"You can't do that. You just get egg on your face if you do. You never know what is going to happen."
OK, so the Hamiltons are not looking far ahead, but you couldn't blame Lewis for thinking about winning the World Championship in his rookie season. After all, he is leading the points.
"I am not going to stop him!" Anthony said. "But we are not going to think about it. What Lewis is going to think about is bringing the car home. Keep your mind straight, keep your feet on the ground, and just bring the car home every time you take it out.
"And if we get a win along the line, that is brilliant, and if we win the championship, that would be great."
Anthony added: "But wouldn't it be really painful if you start setting your heart on winning the championship and it doesn't happen? We have plenty of time to win that championship, and if it happens this year, then that is a bonus."
In Montreal, three-time World Champion Jackie Stewart said that Hamilton is the best young driver he has ever seen break into the F1 ranks. F1 legend Stirling Moss rates Hamilton as one of the top three or four drivers in the past 60 years.
Needless to say, we will see Hamilton win again soon.
Dan Knutson covers Formula One for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.
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