After clinching the record-extending 93rd pole position of his distinguished career, Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton stood proudly on top of his all-black Mercedes and crossed his arms in memory of a hero of his own.
The British driver dedicated his latest exceptional drive at the Belgian Grand Prix to American actor Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer on Friday at the age of 43.
“A superhero died last night so that was really weighing heavy on me today,” Hamilton said from Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. “I was so driven to deliver a good performance today so I could dedicate it to Chad.”
Boseman played Black American icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown before inspiring audiences as the regal “Black Panther” in Marvel’s blockbuster movie franchise. The film inspired the cross-armed “Wakanda forever” salute that became a pop culture landmark.
“This was an important pole. I woke up today to the saddest news of Chadwick passing away,” Hamilton said. “That news broke me, so it wasn’t easy to get back focused. For what he’s done for our people and super heroes — to show the kids what’s possible in life. Wakanda forever.”
The salute was so resonant that California congresswoman Maxine Waters stood up and did it at singing legend and civil rights activist Aretha Franklin’s funeral two years ago.
Hamilton, the only black driver in F1, explained the impact both Chadwick and his film character had on him.
‘Huge Marvel fan’
“I was really, really lucky I got to meet him once and tell him how awesome he was. Because I remember when I was a kid, Superman was the hero, didn’t look like me and I still thought Superman was the greatest,” Hamilton said. “And so when Chad became the king, when he became a superhero, it was such a special day for so many people. Because I know that young kids would be able to now look up to him and see that it is possible.”
WATCH | Lewis Hamilton leads every lap at Spanish GP:
Boseman’s death prompted an outpouring of grief and Hamilton fondly recalled the time they met.
“In New York during Fashion Week . we were out at the same dinner. We actually kind of partied away together because we were on the same table. It was an incredible scenario,” Hamilton said. “I remember when ‘Black Panther’ came out and I’m a huge Marvel fan. So just knowing how Hollywood has been for a long, long time and to see the first Black superhero come out, everyone was so proud.”
Hamilton dominated qualifying once again, setting a track record at the seven-kilometre circuit located in the Ardennes forest, finishing .511 seconds ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and .526 clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen
Hamilton, who is chasing a seventh F1 title to equal Michael Schuamcher’s record, leads the standings by 37 points over Verstappen and 43 over Bottas.
“That’s one of the cleanest qualifying sessions I’ve ever had,” Hamilton said proudly. “It’s a phenomenal feeling driving around this track, how fast this track has become.”
But Bottas has not given up hope of closing the gap with a victory on Sunday.
It was a strong performance from Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo, who starts from fourth. But things are going from terrible to abysmal for Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc in 13th and Sebastian Vettel 14th.
Ferrari’s lack of form was such that Leclerc, who won last year from pole position, was happy to qualify in 13th.