Words by Tony Robertson. (@TonyRob84 on Twitter)Embed from Getty Images
Welcome back to Overtime Online’s Formula 1 column Life In The Fast Lane.
It’s been two weeks since the previous edition due to the two-week gap between races. Two weeks was also the time Mercedes had to wait to claim even more success in F1, as Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record seven World Drivers Championship at last weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix.
However, you would be mistaken in believing that was all that happened of significance over the last two weeks. Without further ado let’s dive in.
Hamilton: The GOAT of our eraEmbed from Getty Images
Hamilton is now without a doubt, even though it’s been hard to deny for a couple years now, one of the greatest drivers to ever grace the track in Formula 1.
His win in Istanbul this weekend really proved his championship quality. Starting from P6 after a disappointing qualifying where Mercedes were far off the pace of the front runners Racing Point and Red Bull who occupied the top four, Hamilton drove a brilliant race in treacherous conditions which saw many other drivers spin at various points, including Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas.
You can read the full race report by clicking here.
Hamilton has a whole host of records. Schumacher’s infamous “records are there to be broken” quote from many moons ago has aged well in the sense that most of those records have indeed been broken.Embed from Getty Images
Although, I doubt he would have believed his records would be broken so soon. So many believed we would never see a driver in the calibre of Schumacher for a few years yet to come. But such a driver shared the grid with the German when he returned to F1 for his second stint.
It would be nigh on impossible to list every single one of his achievements since he now holds so many. But, most significantly he broke the race wins record of 91 and currently sits on 94 and of course equalled the World Drivers Championship record.
Hamilton also broke the barrier of 5000 laps led in F1 another significant achievement in itself. Other records he holds outright are the most pole positions, most podiums, most points finishes, most races led from start to finish, most consecutive seasons with a win since debut (proving it cannot simply be the car), most circuits won at and most career points.
For a boy from Stevenage to come up through the world of professional racing and not just compete at the pinnacle of the motorsport world as the first black man to do it professionally, but to also completely dominate it in the emphatic fashion he has would have been simply unthinkable back in 2007 when he made his debut in F1.
He has also been very outspoken and involved in discussions which drive the point home about the lack of diversity in his chosen career path and discrimination in wider society.
It is impossible not to consider Hamilton as one of the greats of his sport. Statistically, he is the greatest of all time. Time is often an ally in terms of a sportspersons legacy and the same will likely be applied to Hamilton.
Some F1 fans, especially those on the older side, still believe Schumacher to be the greatest of all time, and there can certainly be an argument made for the German. Speaking to F1 media, Sebastian Vettel said: “I think every era has its driver or its drivers, and Lewis is certainly the biggest, greatest of our era,” but did add Schumacher was his GOAT for emotional reasons.Embed from Getty Images
But this is what I mean when I refer to legacy. Hamilton is currently the man to beat, number one, top dog. He is the one everyone wants to see toppled. Schumacher has now had many years since his days of fighting for F1 championships, but his legacy is as strong as ever. Of course, everyone is still wishing him a strong recovery from his tragic skiing accident back in 2013.
Another great driver whose legacy is incredibly strong is Ayrton Senna. Another GOAT contender but one whose career cannot simply be measured by his statistics due to his life being tragically cut short at Imola back in 1994.
Regardless of what the future holds, Hamilton’s legacy will likely blossom when he eventually retires. He may be seen as a pioneer, or as an indomitable driver, but he will certainly be referred to as one of the best to take a seat in a Formula 1 car.
The calendar for the 2021 season was announced in the week leading up to the Turkish Grand Prix.
However, a week before this there was also the announcement that F1 would be visiting the city of Jeddah for the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. This race will be the penultimate race in the calendar before Abu Dhabi rounds off the calendar. It is also understood the race will be a street race in the city done at night, which is understandable considering the sweltering conditions the drivers will be likely to find out there.
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix adds an extra race to an already stacked calendar. 2020 was supposed to host a total of 22 races, but due to Covid-19 making it impossible to fulfil many of these races, the calendar was obviously cut down, with many races being replaced by circuits which were not scheduled to be raced at this season, such as Imola, the Nurburgring and most recently Istanbul.
Next season could see 23 races, but because the Vietnam Grand Prix has dropped out of next season’s calendar, meaning we will need to wait another year for Hanoi, there is one vacant spot.Embed from Getty Images
Whether the spot will be filled by a track which has been visited this year, one which hasn’t been visited this year but is looking to host F1 again if they can afford it, such as Malaysia, or whether we will see an experimental sprint race for that weekend remains to be seen.
F2 and F3 changes:
Structural changes have also been occurring in the feeder series to F1, with F2 and F3 jointly announcing a change to their weekend structures as part of cost-cutting measures to help ease the financial pressures on the teams.
Most significantly for viewers, the changes will involve only one of F2 or F3 competing during a race weekend alongside F1. But both levels will be increasing the number of races which they do per weekend, rising from two to three per weekend. Unfortunately, this will also mean there are fewer circuits to race at for the feeder series.
For the teams, cost-cutting measures extend to retaining the current car designs going forward until the end of the car chassis cycle. F2’s next three-year cycle will start in 2021, while F3’s will begin in 2022. Furthermore, the cost of engine leases and spare parts will be slashed to further help teams keep to their budgets.
W series partners with F1:
It has been announced that the W series of motorsport, the international single-seater championship for female drivers, will be partnering F1 for eight Grands Prix in the 2021 season as part of a new partnership alongside Formula 1.
Fine details are yet to be announced, but this announcement should bode well for F1’s inclusivity goals.
With only one woman driver in the top three levels of Formula motorsport, that being 19-year-old German Sophia Florsch who currently competes for Campos Racing in F3, this is a positive step in the right direction in increasing the sport’s accessibility for people not typically involved in it.Embed from Getty Images
And with that, we can bring the curtain down on another edition of Life In The Fast Lane.
The next Formula 1 race isn’t until the end of November, but you can expect there to be news to talk about before that, with the driver market being on a knife edge for as to who goes where.
Alex Albon and Daniil Kvyat are under serious pressure at Red Bull and AlphaTauri respectively. Sergio Perez is still looking for a seat for next season despite claiming a podium this weekend and scoring points in every race he has started this season (take a wild guess at who the only other driver to do that is).Embed from Getty Images
Nico Hulkenberg has shown he is a capable driver when he has been called upon by Racing Point this season. Rookies Mick Schumacher, Callum Illot, Yuki Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin have also all been heavily linked with seats in the top step of motorsport.
My advice would be to keep a watchful eye. As things could develop at any moment.