Sport Comment: Why Lewis Hamilton shouldn’t worry about popularity contest

Hamilton is not universally loved despite his two F1 world titles
LEWIS Hamilton will draw a measure of comfort if he fails to become BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Becoming Britain’s first double Formula One world champion in more than 40 years, plus a bumper new contract likely to earn him more than £100m, will provide a soothing balm.

Yet this is a shame. For Lewis gets a bad rap from some of my colleagues in the media. That may, in turn, lead to at least a degree of public indifference. He deserves better.

Let’s return to that measure of comfort. It’s another way of saying Quantum of Solace, the title of the Bond movie that Lewis watched in Stevenage with his then new girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger, as they celebrated his initial 2008 world crown 48 hours after winning the title.

Hardly big-time-Charlie stuff, but Lewis wanted to show Nicole the lowlights of his own backyard: downtown Stevenage – the poorer parts where he was raised – then on to Stevenage Cineworld with a £2 box of popcorn to watch Daniel Craig’s blockbuster. The whole evening cost him just £15.

Lewis, then 23, drove by his first school and the council house where he’d lived with his natural mother, Carmen. Their home had a hostel next door.

“We went to see Peartree School, went up Peartree Way where the hostel is on the left and the house on the right and just looked in it,” said Lewis soon after his trip down memory lane.

“The hostel had a lot of stuff going on there, a lot of commotion. When I was there it was full of youngsters, drug dealers, youngsters who had kids. There was always something going on. To go back and see it and think: ‘This is where we started – and this is where we are.’”

He was grounded then and he’s grounded now. Moments after Sunday’s victory, his father Anthony said he was still the same kid who began with a “rusty go-kart in Stevenage”. Stretching a point slightly, but he’s right.

Yet he remains neither universally loved nor appreciated. He’s endured sickening racial abuse in Spain and even a couple of days after his second title win, savvy media operator Sir Max Hastings said Hamilton may be expected to pick up a knighthood but he was not worthy of such a title – bestowed on the likes of Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss (and Hastings himself) – because Lewis is a “skulking” tax exile, not paying his fair share to the Revenue.

Do me a favour. With racial tensions back on a knife-edge in Britain, Hamilton could not be a finer role model.

He may or may not be knighted nor win Sports Personality of the Year, but he will be a champion of champions to many.

A Quantum of Solace? Yes, Sir Max. Lewis Hamilton can take a measure of comfort from the indifference of a few by counting his blessings. And they are considerable.