By Tony Robertson (@TonyRob84)
With Lewis Hamilton looking to claim his seventh World Drivers’ Championship in the upcoming 2020 Formula 1 season, we here at Overtime thought we would look back on the Brits career so far and see what the future holds for the six time world champion.
Speaking on Hamilton’s career, F1 journalist Phillip Horton said: “the promise and talent was there from the very first days of his single seater career” and in his debut F1 season in 2007 he certainly showed his talent.
“He came in like a meteor”
Hamilton came within a point of the championship and was nailed on to win an unprecedented title in his rookie year, but a puncture in the penultimate race of the season opened the door for Kimi Raikkonen to snatch the title away in Brazil.
Hamilton could only muster a seventh-place finish as Raikkonen claimed back-to-back victories to put him on 110 points, a point ahead of the Stevenage-born Briton.
Mark Gallagher, who has more than 30 years of experience in F1 including working alongside the likes of Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, said: “Lewis came in like a meteor.”
In 2008, Hamilton went one better and won his first championship to become what was at the time the youngest driver to ever win the drivers’ championship, pipping Felipe Massa to the championship by one point.
“There was a fear that he could even just fizzle out.”
Following his 2008 success, Hamilton failed to get into the top three between 2009 and 2013 finishing fourth three times and fifth twice. Mr Horton said: “there was a fear that he could even just fizzle out.”
Fellow Brit Jenson Button won the WDC in 2009 with Brawn, who were later renamed as Mercedes-Benz.Embed from Getty Images
He then moved to McLaren to partner with Hamilton, but they were unable to compete with Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull who won four back-to-back titles from 2010 and 2013 while Hamilton moved to Mercedes for the 2013 season to pair up with Nico Rosberg.
The introduction of new rules in 2014 brought an end to Red Bull’s dominance with the V8 engine as Hamilton and Rosberg, who had previously been teammates when they were karting in the early 2000s, preceded to dominate the season, winning all but three of the 19 races.
But it was Hamilton who emerged as the eventual winner. A collision at the Belgian Grand Prix between the two Silver Arrows led to a public censuring of Rosberg. Hamilton consequently went on to win six of the final seven races, giving him a total of 11 race wins from 19.
Once more, Mercedes dominated the 2015 season, again winning all but three of the 19 races, although this time it was Vettel rather than Daniel Ricciardo who was the sole challenger as he won the other three races in the new and improved Ferrari V6 turbo engine, finishing third overall.
Hamilton and Rosberg were once again the two dominant drivers as their friendship-turned-rivalry continued into a second season. Ultimately, Hamilton won his third title with three races to spare at the US Grand Prix, as Hamilton finished 59 points ahead of Rosberg.
“He is one of the top drivers of the last 30 years… probably top two.”
Mr Gallagher described Hamilton as: “a very rounded guy who has a deep, deep, deep passion for what he does,” adding that he believed Hamilton’s formative years in coming from a mixed race family and being bullied growing up to have helped him develop his mental fortitude.
In 2016, Rosberg bucked the Hamilton trend by winning the WDC by just five points thanks to a second-place finish in Abu Dhabi, but Hamilton won the final four races of the season to keep the pressure on his teammate.
Despite Hamilton winning more races (10 to nine), claiming more pole positions in qualifying (12 to eight) and achieving more podium finishes (17 to 16), Rosberg went on to clinch the title, thanks in large part, to an engine failure for Hamilton’s car in the Malaysian Grand Prix. However just five days after winning his first title Rosberg announced his retirement from racing.
Since then, Hamilton has been partnered alongside Finn Valtteri Bottas. Bottas was Hamilton’s final challenger in 2019 and spoiled his ‘victory parade’ by overtaking him in the US Grand Prix and finishing first rather than allowing Hamilton the win.
Hamilton’s biggest rival since 2016 has been Ferrari’s Vettel, who finished runner-up in both years except for 2019.
“We’re still in the Lewis Hamilton era of Formula 1”
Hamilton’s three back-to-back titles have been largely down to his and his cars consistency. He has only retired once in the last three seasons and has achieved points in every other race taking the chequered flag in 31 of the 62 races and scoring a total of 1,184 points.
Mr Horton and Mr Gallagher both expect Hamilton to reach seven titles and overtake Michael Schumacher’s win tally of 91 at some point. But Hamilton’s future has been cast into doubt as rumours continue to circulate that he may join Ferrari, with his contract at Mercedes up at the end of the season.
The first of his seven #F1 titles was perhaps one of the hardest-fought 💪
— Formula 1 (@F1) January 3, 2019
However, Mr Gallagher believes these rumours are rubbish, saying: “He won’t go to Ferrari because they are an inferior team,” citing reliability and driver management issues alongside Charles Leclerc signing a long-term contract at Ferrari as key factors why the rumoured move won’t happen.
With new rules and car designs coming into play from 2021, new challengers will certainly be emerging to take the crown, likely being in the form of Max Verstappen and Leclerc who were both described as “exceptionally talented” by Mr Horton.
But he also expects Hamilton to continue his success into the new era “so long as he is committed.”
“Lewis Hamilton remains the best driver on the grid.”
Though Mr Gallagher said: “We’re still in the Lewis Hamilton era of Formula 1.”
Mr Horton added: “Hamilton remains the best driver on the grid” while Mr Gallagher supported this claim, saying “no one is as good as Lewis.”Embed from Getty Images
While the topic of whether Hamilton is the best of all time for Formula 1 racing drivers is hotly debated, Mr Gallagher said: “Lewis Hamilton will always be in the discussion in the next 50 years, as the best driver of all time.
“Of the last decade obviously Lewis.
“He is one of the top drivers of the last 30 years… probably top two drivers.”
So even beyond the upcoming 2020 season, Hamilton, despite being 35, looks set to continue to be a leading figure in Formula 1 for years to come and will be hunting down even more records with Mr Gallagher saying: “the guys only gonna get better.”