The first Portuguese Grand Prix in twenty-two years will be remembered for a defining moment in F1 history, believed untouchable after Shanghai 2006, Lewis Hamilton now holds the record for the most Grands Prix won. In a remarkable career, which has seen the Englishman already become Britain’s most successful driver.
When Hamilton won in only his seventh Grand Prix in Montreal in 2007, James Allen said, “he’s rewriting the books of what possible.” A week later at Indianapolis, he was the first British driver to win in America for twenty-four years.
In his debut season, Hamilton was in contention until the final lap of the race at Interlagos and missed out on a championship by just one point, having won more Grand Prix’s on countback than Kimi Raikkonen just pipped him to the title and he finished ahead of outgoing champion and teammate Fernando Alonso.
2008 was a breakthrough year for Hamilton, a first win in Monte Carlo, and an incredible drive at Silverstone saw him win his home Grand Prix in wet conditions by over a minute and lapping all but two cars, saw his wet weather skills prevail.
The win in Portimão in 2020, was a similar dominate win around half a minute ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton has over the past few years, since losing the 2016 championship to Nico Rosberg, I from what I’ve seen throughout his career come back stronger following defeat.
It was thought untouchable, Michael Schumacher’s ninety-one wins and seven titles, but Schumacher always said, “I always thought records were there to be broken.”
Where does he stand records?
Most wins – 92
Most pole position – 97
Most consecutive race and points finishes – 45 (ongoing)
Most consecutive races started – 261 (ongoing)
Number of wins at different circuits – 27
Number of home and British Grand Prix’s won – 7
Most wins at the same Grand Prix – 8 (jointly held with Michael Schumacher)
Hawthorn Memorial Trophy (Highest place British or Commonwealth driver in Formula One) – 10
Number of seasons from debut with at least one win – 14 (on going)
Number of seasons from debut with at least one pole – 14 (on going)
Longest distance led – 25,259km
(as of 27th October)
Hamilton place in history both F1, sporting and British, I feel is too early to be fully assessed at this point. But it certain he will go down on the same page as Schumacher, his hero Ayrton Senna and Juan Manwell Fangio. Hamilton its often forgot he wasn’t born into wealth; he grew up on a council estate in the UK.
Hamilton can always find something, looking back over his career as also shown in Portimão, he can be on the back foot and then get it together in both qualifying and the race. There are not many drivers who can do that repeatedly.
Moving to Mercedes, was either going make or break his career, like his main rival in his debut season teammate Fernando Alonso. Unlike Alonso, Hamilton made the right decision, yes in 2012 we were questioning that move to Mercedes.
At the time Mercedes had only won one championship, and no one knew what was going to happen with the 2014 turbo-hybrid era. Looking at the race in Bahrain, we saw what a hard racer and defender Hamilton is. I think what has been remarkable has been nearly eight years at the top battling for titles, winning all but one.
This year, Hamilton I think has changed, with environmental and social activism as well as his exploits in music and fashion. The events with the death of George Floyd he criticised the figures in Formula One for their silence, writing on Instagram:
“I see those of you who are staying silent, some of you the biggest of stars yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice. Not a sign from anybody in my industry which of course is a white dominated sport. I’m one of the only people of colour there yet I stand alone.”
Even before this, in January which feels like another world now, he donated towards the bushfire crisis. He also spoke out against the Melbourne race going ahead, saying “I am very, very surprised that we are here, I think it’s great that we have races, but for me it’s shocking that we’re all sitting in this room.”
“So many fans here already today and it seems like the rest of the world is reacting, probably a little bit late, but already this morning we’ve seen [President Donald] Trump shutting down the borders from Europe to the States. We are seeing the NBA being suspended and F1 continues to go on.”
This year has been one of the most dominant seasons I think, of course, it has been one of the strangest seasons in F1 history, it hasn’t unsettled Hamilton. At one stage we didn’t know if it was going to be possible to have a championship.
This could have unsettled him, but the ‘part sabbatical’, has he said during the long break between testing and Austria could have been the key for him. Lockdown was used by most drivers to improve themselves and have a break from travelling the world.
Hamilton has been one of these drivers who has come back throughout his career stronger from defeat, most notably after losing the 2016 championship to Rosberg. When fired up and when there is no distractions the Englishman is unbeatable.
Hamilton reminds you of Senna, he has great ability in mixed conditions, races which always comes to mind is Silverstone and Monaco in 2008, Singapore 2017 and Hockenheim in 2018. We know that is because when he was karting his father couldn’t afford wet tyres.
I think he learnt that during 2011, the only time other than 2016 he has finished behind a teammate, shows what a distracted Hamilton has done. But he has I think learnt how to manage off-track activities and still be winning races.
It shows what making the right decisions can do, he left McLaren taking a huge risk. At the time, it would define his career for a driver who could have risked his legacy or become one of the greats. Its yielded so far five championships, so the risk paid off.
F1 needs a star, Hamilton has been largely on the track uncontroversial, unlike Schumacher he hasn’t run people purposely into the wall, he hasn’t used dirty tactics to try and win. The only time you could say that was the case was in Abu Dhabi in 2016, when he tried to push Rosberg off the podium to take the championship.
Recently, Toto Wolff said ‘We will never understand why the relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg got so bitter, and that began earlier than it appeared on the outside.’
His relationship with Valtteri Bottas has appeared to be friendly, but we know that it could turn at any point, Bottas has been a team player. Hamilton couldn’t have achieved what he has if we had Bottas driving for himself.
Some will say it’s the car, but its always been the case the best driver ends up in the best car. Hamilton has always been regarded as a great driver, you can make your own decisions on where he sits on that list. Hamilton wouldn’t be on the brink of history, if he didn’t leave McLaren, it shows intelligence.
Look at Alonso’s career, since Hamilton’s debut he has made the wrong decisions and missed out on two titles with Ferrari in 2010 and 2012. Alonso, I think will never be able to match Hamilton because of his arrogance and actions, there have been questions about his actions.
Hamilton, is a great driver but we can never truly compare drivers from different, but he is the greatest driver of the 2010s and the turbo-hybrid era.
The question facing Hamilton, how long does he feel he carry on performing without risking his legacy? I think he will go for eight next season, but with the 2022 regulation change does he think that’s too risky?
It’s an unknown, he still doesn’t have a 2021 contract, but reading the language around it, I believe it is not having the time in this short and intense season.
Hamilton’s career we can’t assess yet, but when he does it will be a sad day for the sport…