All eyes in the motorsport world and beyond will be on Texas today as the Formula One season nears its climax, with Lewis Hamilton able to capture a fourth World title.
Should his nearest rival; Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel fail to finish in the top five, the Brit will be crowned Formula One World Champion for a fourth time, eclipsing the great Jackie Stewart and solidifying his place among the legends of the sport.
Trailing by 59 points, once again Ferrari and former three time world champ Vettel struggled to match the power of the Mercedes, with Hamilton recording the fastest lap ever at the Circuit of the Americas and taking yet another pole position this season in the process.
He will, however, be joined by the German in the front three; at a tricky track where both men have enjoyed success in the past. Vettel was first through the chequered flag in 2013 in the Red Bull car while this was the Grand Prix venue where Hamilton won his last World Title in 2015. The race is perfectly poised.
But the drama may likely start even before the green flag is waved to start the race in Austin.
There has been some speculation leading up to the weekend that Hamilton would be the latest superstar of the sporting world to take a knee during the US national anthem.
It’s been impossible to ignore the momentum and controversy behind the peaceful protests that has forced issues of racial injustice to the fore in American sports and beyond, since then San Francisco 49ers quarter back, Colin Kaepernick, knelt during the performance of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ during the 2016 preseason.
Initially observed by few, the numbers following Kaepernick’s lead, amongst athletes of all backgrounds, ethnicities and disciplines has swelled significantly, even translating into the Bundesliga last weekend as players from Hertha Berlin showed their support.
Ever since president Trump’s criticism of the practice thrust its profile beyond sports into political discourse and intense media coverage, the issue and argument has taken on a whole life of its own.
It's somehow become confused with notions of nationalism, patriotism, freedom of expression and alleged disrespect for the US Military.
Every week, start of another sport it seems, take their turn at the latest round of fixtures. Not so Formula One this weekend it would seem.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has doubted the prospect of Hamilton, who is believed to support the movement, following suit ahead of Sunday’s race. Wolff revealed he has advised his driver to steer clear of a now highly politicised statement.
Though sympathetic with Hamilton and “very much aligned (with him) on human rights” the team's leader is apparently sensitive to the consequences for Hamilton’s image and likely fallout for him and Mercedes, given the complexities.
“We discussed that even if you feel strong (sic) about showing your support against racism and human rights, that is not our country, it is not our anthem and you are offending many Americans that have a strong view on the flag. The conclusion was that it is probably better not to do it”.
He went on to add “to help fight racism is the right thing to do. Does he and do we, as Mercedes need to get involved in that discussion? No.”
However, Hamilton has famously defied team orders before. He will no doubt feel conflicted by his boss’s thinly veiled instruction.
In a race that could see him become World Champion once again, it is this remarkable 'will he won't he sub plot' that may come to define and form the greatest historic importance.
The US Grand Prix in the heart of Texas could yet be the latest event to be transcended by the actions of a lone star.
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