SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS – SPA-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. “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.
“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.”