Apr 23, 2007
Despite its efforts, NASCAR has been remarkably unsuccessful in recruiting African-American and Hispanic drivers to broaden the appeal of its series. No African-American drivers have ever had an impact on NASCAR, and the only major Hispanic presence these days is Juan Pablo Montoya, a refugee from Formula One who seems yet to feel comfortable in a Nextel Cup car. Meanwhile, the newest sensation in Britain is Lewis Hamilton, a Formula One driver of African descent.
We've written about Hamilton before in this space, but the Hamilton phenomenon seems to grow bigger with each passing day. And happily, it seems to have little or nothing to do with his mixed race background and everything to do with his colossal talent. Most recently, racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart was quoted by BBC Motorsport as saying that the rookie driver could win the F1 title in his debut season.
Frankly, that's a tall order since Hamilton has yet to win his first Formula One race. On the other hand, the 22-year-old Englishman has already demonstrated remarkable skill and poise, finishing on the podium in his first three Grand Prix, an unprecedented achievement.
Stewart is a believer in the young driver's talent, and, despite the fact that Stewart is definitely an F1 insider, he believes Hamilton could actually overcome the traditional bias in favor of each team's number one driver to capture the championship. In Hamilton's case, that number one is Fernando Alonso, who has won back-to-back Drivers Championships, so a Hamilton F1 title would be a huge upset for a number of reasons. Still, Stewart feels Hamilton has the goods to win the championship.
"It's not inconceivable it could be done this year because McLaren looks like the team to beat. If not, expect it within the next three," he said. "He is, of course, driving for one of the best teams in the world with a competitive car, but nevertheless, he's been able to accomplish more in a shorter time than any driver I've ever seen enter Formula One."
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