Lewis Hamilton – Inside the mind of a four times champion

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Lewis Hamilton became Britain’s first four times champion in 2017, arguably one of the best drivers of his generation. He burst into F1 in 2007, proving his talent straight away with podiums in the opening races following on with his debut win in Montreal.

He managed to push the Spaniard all season, with an impressive run of nine podiums from nine Grand Prix’s. That meant he had equalled the record number of consecutive podiums for a British driver.

During that impressive run, he dominated to take the first wins of his career allowing him to take a ten-point lead over teammate Fernando Alonso and becoming the youngest championship leader in the history of the sport. It was becoming clear that Hamilton was going to find much success in his career.

The fact that a rookie was beating Alonso must have been hard. Throughout his career, Hamilton had proved that he is a well-rounded driver on the track, as he is a fierce fighter during races; good over a single lap, which saw him break the record for number of poles in 2017.

That 2007 season, was an impressive start to his career and at the final race of the season in Sao Paulo the 22-year old remained in the hunt for the championship. However, bad luck cost him victory at the penultimate race in Shanghai, which would have seen him seal the title. It slipped away.

It was a comeback with success at the opening race in 2008, Hamilton dominated Melbourne to take victory from pole. That season Hamilton started with constant podiums and took his first win in Monaco, however a year on from that first win Montreal turned into a disaster. He crashed into the back of Kimi Raikkonen in the pit lane.

At Silverstone a few races later, he put in an impressive drive in extremely wet conditions to take his first win at his home race. It was a rocky mid-season, as Hamilton and the team made mistakes seeing his lead cut to a point.

In Asia, Hamilton bounced back with third in a dramatic Singapore race which saw Massa failing to finish. Victories in Fuji and Shanghai put him in a position to win the title with fifth place in Brazil.

That race was again dramatic and while Massa won the race, the final laps in mixed weather conditions saw Hamilton pass Timo Glock for fifth place at the final corner to seal the title.

2009, must have been a wake-up call for Hamilton that despite his easy ride over the past two years Formula One can be cruel. McLaren had delivered an underperforming car and at the first race in Melbourne, he was disqualified from an impressive third having being found to had misled the stewards about an incident behind the safety car with Janro Trulli.

Hamilton did not give in, his first win came in difficult circumstances in Budapest. His 2008 rival Massa suffered a head injury after being hit by a spring during qualifying. The next day it was a race favouring Hamilton, starting in fourth used strategy to get ahead of Alonso in the first round of pit stops.

Soon the results came in, second in Valencia, another win in Singapore and third at both Suzuka and at Interlagos. It was shaping up for a last hurray in Abu Dhabi, however, he was forced to retire on lap twenty because of a brake failure.

Hamilton was joined by Jenson Button in 2010, McLaren had got the car together. It was a shaky start third in Bahrain, a collision with Mark Webber in Melbourne, and a misjudged qualifying in Sepang saw his title hopes narrow.

But he bounced back in Shanghai finishing second. He was handed victory after both Red Bull’s collided in Istanbul before going on to another win in Montreal and Budapest, plus his first win Singapore. That put him into title contention with the slimmest chances.

However it was an outside chance and he needed luck, plus he needed results to go his way. He finished fourth in the championship.

The following season had the wheels come off his driving, that year seemed to be plagued by errors and misjudgement. These often involved his former title rival Massa. There were wins in China, at the Nurburgring and Abu Dhabi. Button proved more consistent, so for the first time in his F1 career, he was beaten by a teammate.

2012 would be his final season with McLaren, he lost points early on despite being strong in qualifying he failed to convert that in the race into points. Wins did come again in Montreal and Budapest, however, he was taken out in Spa in a first corner accident.

A dominant race in Monza saw his title hopes remain open, however, retirement in Singapore became the symbol of his time at McLaren, not good enough. Days later it was announced he would leave after thirteen years, one more victory for McLaren saw him take back to back (abite five years apart) in America.

Mercedes upped their game as they reunited Hamilton with friend and former teammate Nico Rosberg. It was a strong start for the team, third in qualifying in Melbourne and fighting for victory in Shanghai. His first win for Mercedes came in Budapest with a dominating victory. But, Mercedes soon dropped off and however, Vettel managed to seal fourth in the championship.

The team were the clear favourites in 2014, Rosberg dominated in Melbourne while Hamilton was forced to retire, but when on to win the next race in Sepang. Before going head to head with Rosberg in Bahrain.

Bahrain, was just a taster of the battles between the two over the next three years as they fought hard for the win. That would become the story of the next few races, with Hamilton winning in Barcelona, Montreal and Silverstone. While Rosberg won in Austria and Germany.

Following the summer break, the title race would over boil as a collision with Rosberg gave him a punctured his rear tyre and he later retired from the race. He then won the Italian and Singapore Grand’s Prix each from pole to take the lead in the Drivers’ Championship.

That run of wins continued to Austin, allowing Hamilton to open a twenty-four point lead with seven five remaining. Rosberg won in Brazil, meaning it would go down to a desert showdown in Abu Dhabi.

But luck was on his side, as Rosberg encountered reliability problems dropping out of the points allowing Hamilton to sail off into the sunset and seal his second title.

Hamilton carried the momentum through the winter and started the season off with a dominating victory in Melbourne and back to back wins in Shanghai. Another dual in Bahrain once again saw Hamilton come out on top seeing him lead going into the European season.

Rosberg fought back with wins in Barcelona and Monaco before Hamilton took total control for his fifth win in Montreal. He sailed to victory despite being jumped by the Williams in wet conditions at Silverstone.

Wins followed at Spa and Monza. But Mercedes and Hamilton were left scratching heads in Singapore when they were beaten by both Ferrari and Red Bull. However, he bounced back in Sukuza and in Sochi with total control if the race. With Rosberg’s retirement in Sochi, it meant that Hamilton could wrap the title up in Austin.

The qualifying for the US GP was delayed until Sunday morning thanks to Hurricane Patricia. That meant the session took place in extremely wet conditions causing Q3 to be abandoned as the weather closed in meaning Rosberg took pole.

In the best conditions of the weekend, the Mercedes duo fought throughout the race with Hamilton making the move on Rosberg in the closing stages to take the lead when it mattered. Before that all important move the two had fought hard all race, swapping the lead. But it was Hamilton who came out on top and sealed his third title.

Hamilton had achieved his boyhood dream equalling hero Ayrton Senna now the chase was on for his fourth world title to equal Senna’s rival Alian Prost and Hamilton’s own rival Sebastian Vettel.

Rosberg had upped his game when 2016 came around, he fought with Hamilton in the opening two races before Hamilton suffered reliability issues at the following two races. That allowed Rosberg to win and take a forty three-point lead over Hamilton when F1 arrived in Europe, desperation might have set in as he crashed into his team-mate on the opening lap in Barcelona.

But that was the beginning of his fightback began with wins in Monaco and Montreal, but Hamilton still behind Rosberg on points. Baku saw both Mercedes suffer technical problems with Rosberg solving the problems earlier in the race.

Hamilton’s momentum didn’t waver, back to back wins in Austria, Britain, Hungary and Germany saw Hamilton lead into the summer break. Those engine failures caught up with him at Spa, where he started from the back row.

Hamilton made a terrible start from pole in Monza, losing five places and then had to fight with Rosberg through the race. Finishing second, the momentum had begun to swing away from him, as Rosberg went on to win in Singapore.

Malaysia looked as if it would be Hamilton’s he had dominated qualifying and led most of the race until an engine failure while leading. If he managed to take that win it would have given him the lead of the championship. But, what would be called the story of his year “Oh no! oh no, no, no” that fourth title was looking increasingly unlikely.

Hamilton wouldn’t give up, wins in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo meant he would still have an outside shot at the title in Abu Dhabi. Hamilton appeared to have the momentum on his side taking pole and the win.

His win was not enough to see him seal a fourth title, he needed to get Rosberg of the podium. Hamilton tried to bring Verstappen and Rosberg closer to him and that was a sign of the Englishman’s tactical drive. His plan did annoy his team and Rosberg, but didn’t stop Rosberg beating Hamilton for the first time in ten years.

Following Rosberg’s shock retirement, Hamilton was joined by Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes. Many expected Bottas to be walked over by the three-time champion but soon proved himself with pole in Bahrain and the win in Russia.

Mercedes were not having it their own way, Vettel and Ferrari had arrived winning in Melbourne. Immediately mutual respect was on show throughout the first six races, by the time F1 arrived in Baku Vettel and Hamilton had three wins each.

When fighting for the lead on the restart of the race the pair collided behind the safety car. Vettel claimed he had been break tested, but Hamilton claimed the Ferrari had hit him. That arguably was the shift towards Hamilton in 2017.

They both won one race each before the summer break.

Hamilton was at his best at Spa, getting the better of Vettel in a close fight. The Mercedes defended off Vettel throughout the race and went on to win. Hamilton again dominated at Monza, taking pole and the win giving him the lead of the championship.

Vettel though knew he had the opportunities to fight back in Singapore, however that turned into a crash fest at turn one taking him out of the race. Hamilton then did not have to work or fight for the win taking victory in an unlikely place.

At Sepang it was not Vettel that Hamilton had to fight with, it was Verstappen. The two fought hard as Vettel fought from the back following an engine failure in qualifying from the back. Verstappen v Hamilton we hope to see more off in the future.

Hamilton was in form in Suzuka beating Vettel by a second in qualifying. But come race day, Ferrari’s Asian nightmare continued as Vettel was hindered from the start and was forced to retire. Hamilton was now on the brink of a fourth title, he needed just a win and a podium in four races.

Austin turned into a tactical battle between the two title contenders, but Hamilton retained his edge only losing the lead once. Taking victory and moving nearer to the title.

Moments after the start in Mexico both Vettel and Hamilton made contact as they made their way into Turn One. That saw them both needing to make a pit stop, dropping them to the back of the field.

It was Hamilton who made the better progress through the pack before the move on Ocon for fifth place. With Vettel failing to make as much progress as Hamilton, it gifted him a fourth world title.

Hamilton a master of mind, wet weather, determination, driving. He is great of our sport, he under-delivered at McLaren and should have more titles and wins. But he continues to break records, which he did on his debut in 2007.

He could continue to deliver and what is the next chapter for the four-time champion?

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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