Hamilton is ‘wasting away’

Lewis Hamilton is getting older—a fact that creeps up on all of us at one time or another. When Hamilton entered Formula One he was touted as the man to eclipse Michael Schumacher’s records. Hamilton was going to leave such a comprehensive mark on Formula One that he was afforded the accolades before he’d even won a single championship.

At the time, I was labeled a hater and racist for not joining in the fevered pitch of Lewis-mania but I let those accusation roll as I knew that time would be the grand equalizer for such allegations. As Lewis has discovered, over time, I was right. Gifting Hamilton titles and wins he has yet earned is just nonsense and I called it out at the time but that doesn’t make it racist or hateful…it’s just common sense.

Formula One is an incredibly difficult sport and it takes a combination of driver, team and car to win titles. Schumacher had all three working in order and he was a large part of the success but so too was Ferrari and the team behind him.

Lewis experienced this lethal combination just once so far but McLaren were unable to bottle that lightning and create a multi-championship run for Hamilton. What has happened instead is that Adrian Newey and red Bull have teamed with Sebastian Vettel to create the kind of domination Hamilton was dreaming of. Three titles later and the German seems capable of eclipsing Schumacher’s record with the car and team to support him.

Hamilton said that he is getting older and wasting away:

“I got to F1 and nearly won in my first year, then won I won in my second year,” Hamilton reflected. “I’ve never had a car to really compete since then. The car makes such a big difference so you’re just wasting away your best years.”

It is a sobering fact and while I can understand Lewis’s concern, one has to spare a thought for Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Alonso is, arguably, the best driver on the grid and has only won two titles—neither of which has been with Ferrari. He’s older than Hamilton and has less time to claim more world championships.

To Lewis’s point, however, Alonso does have two titles to his name:

“There are a lot of drivers that haven’t won a World Championship, so I feel at least grateful that I have one, although one is less prestigious now because so many people have won a championship. Now the people who have two or three or four: [that’s what] makes you special.”

Like life, Formula 1 is all about timing—the right team and car at the right time. Senna, Prost, Schumacher and even Lewis have experienced that. When Hamilton entered F1, he was with the right team and the right car. He didn’t spend his Freshman and Sophomore years toiling away at a small team like Schumacher, Alonso or Vettel did. He was plopped into one of the best cars on the grid. Failing to make the most of it is partially Lewis’s fault as well as the team.

Fellow countryman Jenson Button also has a title to his name but has toiled in some pretty dodgy cars in his days. If you compare careers, Lewis has had the best opportunity to hit the ground running for titles but it is, after all, about timing and Red Bull rose to the top eclipsing what otherwise would be a dominant McLaren. Button suffered Williams and Honda before seeing the light of a title with Brawn in 2009. Alonso suffered Minardi and Renault before seeing the French team rise to the top while Vettel took Toro Roso to new heights even though they were a mid-field team on the best of days.

Now Hamilton has a chance to become an integral part of Mercedes AMG Petronas and could help the team rise to the occasion. They have the resources and he has the talent but it is, after all, about timing. Will Lewis start to create a legacy he can be proud of? To be honest, I am proud of him for even being in Formula 1. Thousands of drivers dream of that opportunity and he not only did it, he’s won a title to prove his merit.

Lewis is a fantastic driver of great skill. Titles, for me, won’t define how I think of Hamilton. Just as they don’t define the way I think of and recall Gilles Villeneuve, Stirling Moss and Jochen rindt.

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