Greatness has beckoned for Lewis Hamilton, his victory in Istanbul ensuring he is statistically Formula One’s most successful driver.
The Briton secured his seventh world championship at the weekend, placing him alongside the legendary Michael Schumacher at the pinnacle of F1.
Now with a ludicrous record of 94 wins and 97 pole positions to his name, he sits three victories and 29 poles ahead of the German. The scary thing is that he is not finished yet.
At 35, his achievements to date are monumental. Schumacher’s records seemed incomparable. Uncatchable. Now, Hamilton is standing at the summit.
It is 12 years since his first championship triumph, a closely-fought battle with Felipe Massa on the final corners of the last race of the season in Brazil.
Even lifting the world title that day in Sao Paolo as a 23-year-old, Hamilton never envisaged the success he would go on to achieve in his now storied and decorated career.
Today, his skills are finely-honed like no other, a seasoned campaigner who is unfazed by his entry into the history books. Every time he steps into the W11, he extracts the maximum from it, always showing a willingness to improve.
In treacherous conditions at Intercity Istanbul Park on Sunday, the Stevenage man produced one of the strongest drivers of his career to clinch a record-equalling seventh crown.
It was a wet-weather masterclass from Hamilton who kept his cool and managed his aging tyres effectively for 50 laps while other drivers spun around him on multiple strategies.
He picked off Sergio Perez on lap 37 and pulled away to win the race by a commanding 30 seconds, his teammate Valtteri Bottas a further lap behind. An incredible drive.
In a car and team that is relentlessly chasing the edge, people just presume Hamilton can triumph on any given weekend because of his machinery. But it’s not that easy.
One of sport’s great talents is consistency and that is something Hamilton possesses in spades. Anybody can have the finest equipment but the key difference is his mental strength, ability to manage pace and, when opportunities do open up during races, he can nail them without any error. When pressure is at its highest, he always steps up.
All the superlatives in the world can describe Hamilton’s class. He is a peerless talent and has repeatedly proven to have the skill plus racecraft that is unmatched on the current grid.
Bottas, lying second in the drivers’ standings, has been exceptional this season but has found difficulty in taking the fight to Hamilton on a regular basis, sealing just two wins.
Further down the grid, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has all the tools to be a future world champion such is his prodigious talents and colossal determination.
As it stands though, there is no driver charging forward to topple Hamilton as he attempts to stand alone on eight world titles in 2021.
Since 2014, the Monaco resident has averaged 10 wins per season, a remarkable record considering there are 20-21 races on the calendar each campaign. However, this year he has been even more imposing, reigning supreme in 10 of the 14 grands prix to date with three races still to go in Bahrain (two) and Abu Dhabi.
Winning nearly 50 per cent of the races every year for the last seven years is mesmeric, and further proves that consistency and class needed to stay at the top of his game.
Sporting careers are short and fruitful. That time at the summit commands headlines, cameras and constant publicity. Hamilton is using that time as F1’s poster boy for a broader cause rather than self-promotion.
While most athletes focus on their job and fulfil various sponsorship requirements around it, Hamilton continues to fight and inspire off the track. That’s another thing that has perhaps made his latest world championship success extra special.
In a year where he knew the history that would come with clinching a seventh title, he possessed depth and character beyond the circuit, using his platform to advocate change in an array of subjects from racial equality and diversity. He showed a willingness to speak out, to defend what he believes in.
Hamilton has taken a knee before every race this season, donning a black shirt that says Black Lives Matter. Before September’s Tuscan Grand Prix, he sported a shirt, which was emblazoned with the words Arrest the Cops who killed Breonna Taylor.
Making history in a Mercedes car which, thanks to his conviction, ran an all-black livery in a defiant message against racism, a radical departure from the iconic silver colours which had been on the car since 2010. Hamilton and Bottas also raced in black overalls for the season.
Credit is due for his rise to the top of F1 from a modest upbringing in Stevenage mixed with his precocious talent and steely determination to be the best. Along the journey, he never seemed content with anything short of domination.
With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he remained confident a deal would be struck to extend Hamilton’s career with the Silver Arrow.
A three-year agreement looks set to be finalised next month, keeping him at the team until a few weeks short of his 39th birthday. Money is not expected to be the issue with the delay in signature, it is more a reassurance in writing that he will still have his own time and not be bombarded with sponsorship or media duties.
Overall, his greatness within F1 cannot be doubted, and questions have already turned to where Hamilton will set the mark for future generations of drivers to aim for.
Greatness is open to opinions after all, but numbers don’t lie when one looks at his race wins and pole position record. His world title haul of seven is certain to be stretched further in 2021.
For now, we should just appreciate such athletic dominance for the duration that Hamilton is still involved in the sport. These generational talents don’t come around too often and shape the world of sport. He has inspired so many and will continue to do so in his constant pursuit to be the best.
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