Hamilton pays tribute to Black Panther superhero Chadwick Boseman

The six-time F1 champion, Lewis Hamilton, said it was hard to regain focus after hearing of Boseman's passing.

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton dedicated his 93rd pole position at the Belgian Grand Prix to American actor Chadwick Boseman.   -  REUTERS

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton dedicated his 93rd pole position 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.”

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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.

"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.”

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.”

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