After his 32nd career victory Lewis Hamilton became the most successful British driver in Grand Prix history. But as he approaches a likely 2nd World Championship, is Hamilton as good as the accolade sounds, are the stats misleading? For those die-hard Hamilton fans, bear with me.
Now first and foremost I have previously never been a Hamilton fan (Raikonnen is and forever will be my Formula 1 hero), and this is mainly due to two reasons: firstly, Hamilton himself, and secondly, some of his fans.
I cannot for the life of me understand why on programmes such as the F1 Show, pretty much all of the audience said they were in favour of double points if it meant Hamilton won the championship. To choose your favourite driver over the integrity of the sport you supposedly love, to me, is baffling; which is why I’ve always maintained that I do not care who wins, so long as it isn’t because of the tacky, gimmick that is double points. Hamilton was more than justified to say that it would ‘suck’ if he were to miss out on the Championship because of it; but at the same it would suck just as much if that’s why he won. This is now much less likely to be an issue, but we shall see.
This attitude has also been apparent in those who have claimed that he deserves more than one World Championship, which quite frankly isn’t true. In 2007 he could have won, but did he deserve to? Debatable. And since winning the championship he hasn’t looked close. If there is one man out there that deserves to have won more championships in this time period, it is Fernando Alonso. If we are going to play the hypothetical “what if” game, then under normal circumstances Alonso would have won in 2007, and had he then remained at McLaren in 2008, arguably, he would have won again. If he then still went to Ferrari and things went his way in 2010 and then particularly in 2012 where he seemed to be driving his car using some form of magic, he could now be a 6-time World Champion with 3 different constructors, 2 of which in a lesser car. Such an achievement would arguably place him higher than the likes of Schumacher on all the time great lists.
Another difficult realm of hypothesi is the inevitable arguments which will ensue over who is better: Hamilton or Stewart? Hamilton or Mansell? Hamilton or Clark? Based on drivers comments, I am convinced that Jim Clark is likely to remain the best driver Britain has produced. Clark raced when there was no telemetry or simulators, but greater unreliability, much more risk, and less races per-season. 73 races, 38 finishes and 25 wins is a quite staggering record. Tragically Clark was killed at the peak of his powers and was comfortably the best driver on the grid at the time. Arguing the values of one over the other will always ignite passion, and is an interesting debate, if not a slightly impossible one. But what is now beyond debate is that Hamilton has finally shown he is more than just raw talent.
For so long it was possible to argue that his race-craft was not up to the standard to the likes of Alonso, that he relied on the same raw pace he possessed when he first burst onto the scene; and that he had not developed the craft which usually comes with experience. But this season Hamilton has shown maturity and composure, he has taken that extra step to prove that beyond doubt that he is worthy of being in the highest band of drivers, even if the order of which is still contested.
I like Nico Rosberg and there is no doubt that he has pushed Hamilton further than many would have imagined before Australia. But as the 2014 season draws to a close what is now clear is that Rosberg is a very good driver, and Hamilton is in the class above. He is clearly the faster racer and that has shown. Hamilton is smoother, finds the grip more naturally, and has more tricks up his sleeve in a straight out wheel-to-wheel dog fight. The only issue is that once again the top driver in the top team, has not been truly tested. Reliability is what has made this season interesting at the top, I’m not taking anything away from Rosberg, or Hamilton’s triumph over this particular adversity, but more often than not, in a fair fight, there has usually only been one winner.
Hopefully next season Rosberg will come back even stronger and competition will emerge from this seasons chasers, not only will it make the sport more of a spectacle, but we’ll get to see how this new Hamilton copes with the challenge of racing someone who he can’t go into most weekends confident of beating. Daniel Ricciardo has been fantastic this season, and certainly isn’t shy of a good ol’ scrap on track, so imagine if Renault could provide him with a bit more umph, and if he (and others) could take it to Hamilton. It would be great to see how this new look/attitude Hamilton would cope and would only further his already impressive credentials and reputation. Hamilton is only 29 and could feasibly be looking at finishing his career with 5 World Championships; I just hope that if he does go on to win more titles, that they will be won in a way which gets the best out of him, and proves that he is the best, and we are not left with another frustrating Alonso/Vettel situation, where most people recognised the best driver was not the one winning the Championships.
Let’s not forget there were signs of mental frailty at points this season for Hamilton: the “we’re not friends” remark at Monaco being the most obvious example. And for me this is the aspect that he needs to work on more than most, because anytime I begin to warm to Hamilton, he says or does something like this, which doesn’t endear him to neutrals. I remember telling a friend about this comment, who is a huge Hamilton fan and he was embarrassed, “did he actually say that?! For f*** sake!” I believe was the reply. I have no agenda against Hamilton, if he stops these kind of comments, I will like him more and more.
Essentially what I want is a World Champion that we can be proud for all the right reasons and not just for the irritatingly simplistic reason, that he’s British. And similarly I would like to see a more un-British attitude, that if he is Champion, people don’t start turning on him just because he’s successful. With the depressing state of the football team and with Wayne Rooney as captain, the country is crying out for a successful and truly respectable sporting role-model. And you know what? Lewis Hamilton might just be the answer.