In his first year at Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton came second in the World Championship, setting the record for running the most races in a driver’s first season.
Since then he’s been breaking almost every record that F1 has to offer, and last Sunday in Austin,Texas he took one step closer to breaking another. He is now the second ever driver to win six World Championships, only behind the great Michael Schumacher on seven.
Hardly geriatric by motor racing standards, Hamilton has plenty of time to overtake the German and reassert the belief that he is the greatest driver in F1’s history.
Schumacher was 35 years old when he won his last title, while Hamilton doesn’t reach that age until the new year.
Judging off the Briton’s age and current rate of success, it’s very possible that Hamilton could, at the very least, match Schumacher’s wins. Advanced age has never been an obstacle to success in motor sport.
The eldest driver to have won the Championship was Juan Manuel Fangio in 1957, at 46 years old. Hamilton has shown no intention of stopping and in 2018 signed a contract to remain with Mercedes for at least the following 2020 season.
If it is Hamilton’s proverbial sand timer that skeptics point to, the history of F1 shows that to be an insignificant concern.
The American Grand Prix, based in Austin since 2010, is usually full of drama, . Due to its late place on the calendar the race is often critical in the Manufacturers Championship, this year already tied up once again by Mercedes. With that anticipation quelled, all eyes were instead trained on who would win the Championship.
Despite this, in recent years the question of victory has not concerned ‘who’ but ‘when’. Hamilton’s point gap meant that, for the American Grand Prix, all he needed was to finish eighth or above in order to get the title.
That isn’t to say that Hamilton didn’t deserve the title. Out of the 19 races this season Hamilton has taken pole position ten times. Even in last week’s race, when he started off in fifth place, Hamilton was able to quickly rise through the ranks in his first few laps.
The main factor as to whether or not Hamilton will succeed in breaking Schumacher’s record and getting eight titles is in how quickly his competition will catch up with him. There are two current racers that are creeping up the rankings, the Monegasque Charles Leclerc and Dutchman Max Verstappen.
Both are 22 years old and have showed remarkable promise in their early careers. Both have now won various Grand Prixs themselves and have begun to make their mark on the sport.
It is clear that, in the following years, Hamilton will certainly be up against it with the younger drivers emerging. This is made more certain as the engines upgrade each year, hopefully causing more equality among the teams and ridding F1 of the ‘best of the rest’ mentality that is aimed to the teams outside of the top three.
Hamilton is one of the greatest drivers we will see in our lifetimes. Of that there is no question. There are going to be difficulties as his body becomes more worn and his motivation less steely, but he does have time. That record could well be his before he leaves the grid behind.
Image: via f1world.it