Lewis Hamilton has gone to great lengths to cultivate a public-facing image and a rabid fanbase – but what will happen if he loses the Championship?
Lewis Hamilton, arguably more so than most driers on the grid, has gone to great lengths to cultivate a celebrity status among his fanbase. His fans are among the most vocal, fervent, and actively engaged across many forms of media. His rise in popularity has in part been to his time with Mercedes in what has arguably been their most successful period in Formula One. But what happens when what goes up must come down?
It’s an unfortunate inevitability of life that all around us is in a constant state of flux. It is equally true in the world of Motorsport – and at the pace which racing happens, things tend to shit abruptly. That’s why it’s even more impressive that Mercedes has managed to reign supreme over its competition for so long. Whatever they found in the wind tunnel has proven that they can extract legendary performance out of their car.
Alas, they will inevitability be toppled. The name – no name – can live on in glory forever. Mercedes, alongside Hamilton and Bottas, are fighting for the championship win with everything they’ve got. Ferrari have emerged as not only the dominant contenders, but as a very real threat to dethroning Mercedes and ending their streak. The streak which has kept Lewis Hamilton’s popularity surging throughout the years.
Apart from the enigma that is Fernando Alonso, celebrity culture tends to obsess over who’s the “hottest” at any given point – directing the wholesale attention of the masses like a laser-hot beam that will readily expunge all that there is to be seen on any given celebrity. It’s an unpleasant truth, but an integral way in which the machine further perpetuates itself: the young, hot upstart goes in one end, gets tumbled around within the vortex of events and paparazzi, and then gets quietly shuffled off-stage as their replacement steps up.
That is not to say that Hamilton’s fanbase is wholly fickle. A loss could very well embolden his following to support their favorite racer even more, but there have been far too many cautionary tales of celebrities who faded into obscurity the moment their lucky streak ran out. Hamilton is, by and large, one of the most accomplished drivers out on the F1 grid, but Mercedes’ dominance can’t continue eternally. Hamilton losing to Vettel may not spell the death of his career or celebrity status – but it would spell the death of an era at Mercedes.