Gran Turismo 7 really loves Lewis Hamilton. It loves him so much that it’s willing to overlook a lot.
Gran Turismo 7’s dedication to the Church of 44 is such that it has constructed a kind of shrine to his greatness within its Brand Central museum. There’s a series of video documentaries about his input as a driving model consultant on the game. He’s even credited in the opening titles as “The Maestro” (a title he’s held since contributing to Gran Turismo Sport).
Within the Brand Central museum, players are given a guided tour of Hamilton’s life and career. The timeline covers all the most well-known parts of the Lewis Hamilton story. His childhood in karting. That fateful meeting with McLaren boss Ron Dennis. His meteoric rise to Formula 1, and his rookie season at McLaren in 2007. It covers several of his Drivers’ World Championship wins and speaks honestly about how Hamilton’s move to Mercedes in 2013 was widely regarded as a bad move.
It’s this last point where the cracks begin to appear. Though the game notes that Hamilton’s decision to leave McLaren was met with doubt at the time, the game frames it such that everyone who doubted Hamilton was wrong and should stand there in their wrongness and be wrong and get used to it.
What it does not include are some of Hamilton’s lower moments. Those moments remind us that even the greatest and most decorated Formula 1 driver of all time is still, ultimately, human. In its rush to venerate Hamilton, Gran Turismo 7 makes the same mistake that people invested in the Schumacher legacy often make: it forgets that his flaws. The things that make him fallible are a part of what makes him so interesting.
For instance, Gran Turismo 7 makes no mention of Hamilton’s early clashes with McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso. Nor does it mention his proximity to F1’s Spygate controversy of 2007.
There’s nothing about his vicious title fights with teammate Nico Rosberg at Mercedes. It omits that those clashes destroyed their lifelong friendship, leaving the two estranged and Hamilton isolated in the paddock. It barely mentions the intensity of his rivalry with a Ferrari-borne Sebastian Vettel at all.
What’s stranger still is that the history of Hamilton’s achievements, weirdly, ends with his fourth World Championship win in 2017. This is very strange because he’s won three more of them since (or four, depending on who you ask). He notched a record 100 F1 career race wins in 2021, an achievement so titanic that only one other driver, Schumacher, comes close. This also goes unremarked upon.
Indeed, the entire 2021 season, which saw Hamilton lose a bitter, year-long championship fight with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, is omitted entirely. Hamilton lost the race to Verstappen following a contentious and unexpected last-second twisting of the rules in the dying laps of the Abu Dhabi finale. His loss led to months of social media ire, threw the sport into disrepute, and even caused Hamilton to reconsider his future in F1. His social media profiles, updated with personal posts every day during the season, went dark until shortly before 2022 pre-season testing commenced. It was a seismic, polarising event that will linger in the sport’s memory for years to come.
GT7 has nothing to say about it.
Below Hamilton’s list of achievements is a concurrent list of world events that help place his wins in a broader context. Weirdly, that calendar does run all the way up to the end of 2021. So the game is willing to acknowledge events from these intervening years, it just doesn’t seem to want to talk about what Hamilton was doing.
Humanity, empathy, and understanding are a huge part of Hamilton’s brand and the persona that he presents to the world. The sole black face in a sea of white European money. The poor kid from British council housing who rose become the greatest driver the world’s most expensive sport has ever seen. Off the track, he is considered by all accounts a very nice guy – kind, personable, fiercely intelligent and determined to lead by example. On the track, he’s a shark, a missile. Capable of a ruthlessness that exists nowhere else in his life. GT7 is giving you a single, highly curated side of that story. There’s a lot more, and all of it is interesting and revealing.
The goal is obviously veneration, but that flies in the face of everything Hamilton has ever used his platform for. In tripping over itself to fawn over the Hamilton the legend, GT7 does Hamilton the man a disservice.
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