In many ways, winning Formula 1 championships is all about timing. When Michael Schumacher left Benetton for Ferrari, many thought he was daft in doing so. A few years later and Ferrari would come to dominate F1 handing Schumacher an armload of titles. Things seemed poised for Renault and Fernando Alonso and after claiming two titles, the bloom fell off the rose.

It was then up to Red Bull to start its domination handing the team four titles and allowing Sebastian Vettel to become a rare driver indeed with more championships than Senna, Clark and Stewart. While the Austrian company was pummeling the competition, Mercedes were starting their own campaign.

Back in 2009 it all began, harmlessly enough, with Brawn GP. Team owner Ross Brawn had acquired Honda’s orphaned F1 team and promptly secured a Mercedes engine supply. This was a massive move and one that would ultimately find McLaren walking away from their long-term relationship with the German carmaker.

Mercedes had eyes on building a F1 empire and after a few years of toiling away and convincing the series to move to an engine format they really wanted, they have achieved an incredible performance advantage winning the Constructor’s and Driver’s championship in 2014.

Like Schumacher before, many wondered if Lewis Hamilton had made a mistake by leaving McLaren and his title-winning performance on Sunday was really a big answer to a question that has plagued him for two years. Lewis knew he made the right choice and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was his public statement on the matter.

Unlike Schumacher, Hamilton only toiled for one season in an evolving car. It took Schumacher from 1996 to 2000 before he saw the results of all the hard work. Mercedes, on the other hand, had been ironing out the wrinkles long before Hamilton arrived and Schumacher, as it turns out, was one of the drivers helping them do so.

What it provided was a more immediate trip to the top for Hamilton if he could deliver—and deliver he did! The 2008 champion won 11 races in 2014 leaving the British press to suggest that he’s now better than Schumacher and a host of other F1 greats including Clark, Hill and Stewart.

I’ll chalk that up to British exuberance as Lewis is the freshly crowned F1 champ but let’s be realistic here—Clark, Stewart and Schumacher are in a different league and with some luck and hard work, Hamilton could join them but first he has to surpass Vettel to be taken seriously as being better than some of F1’s legends. The good news is that he just might have every chance to do so. He has the race pace and skills needed.

I saw a different Lewis Hamilton in 2014. Once the kid who over-drove his car and torched his tires and lacked car sympathy as well as heads-up race craft has now come of age in the F1 world and chosen to leave his personal drama at home. There were some odd statements from Lewis about his family not being at the race but then allowed at the last minute. I suspect that is by design from team management, as they know that his family and friends could be his single biggest distraction.

Lewis was more focused this year. His eyes and mind were at the office and he managed to win 11 races using less fuel than most of the drivers on the grid as well as remain calm, collected and sympathetic to an all-new car that even the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebstian Vettel are struggling to get on top of.

No, this is a different Lewis. This is the Lewis many knew existed. The good news is, this is a different Mercedes and Lewis’s fortunes could be very bright indeed because of it.

Mercedes have been planning since 2009 and this planning has now delivered a baked-in performance advantage over the entire grid to the tune of 1.5 seconds per lap. Unless the regulations change dramatically over the next 3-4 years, there is every reason to believe that Mercedes will be the dominant team over the life of these new hybrid regulations.

What this could very well mean is that Hamilton could be poised to win multiple titles just as Sebastian Vettel did at Red Bull Racing. Some, including Sir Jackie Stewart, believe that the field will bunch up and that competition will grow stronger next year with Honda and McLaren combining with Fernando Alonso to take the fight to Mercedes as well as Ferrari getting on top of their program with a raft of staff changes and a new driver in Vettel. However, Stewart said:

“It’s made it slightly dull this year,” said Stewart. “Everyone expected Mercedes to win the races. Complete domination by any particular make of car is always boring for the spectators.

“Fans would like to see more competition and I think next year there will be more competition.

“Honda are coming in, to provide engines for McLaren, while Williams will hope to build on their tremendous performance this season and Red Bull will come back strong.”

That may be true but I tend to think that Mercedes have such and advantage now that it will take time for McLaren or Ferrari to gain purchase. This leaves me thinking we might just see a couple more titles for Hamilton over the next two years because he’s clearly chosen to leave the personal drama at home and get back to his goal of winning championships and he’s honed his race craft into a title-winning machine. It’s all about timing and Lewis has played it perfectly just like Vettel, Schumacher, Prost and Senna did before him.

Hat Tip: BBC

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solutionc
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solutionc

Is it the car or the driver? I don’t think anyone rated Nico in the top 5 drivers coming into this year but i think he has proven VERY worthy competition to Lewis & i think you would be hard pressed to name 3 better drivers this year, making Lewis drive out of his skin to win the championship & a worthy champion. On the other hand I know this is controversial but i for one don’t think the same can be said for Vettel, or Schumacher, team orders & second tier support drivers leave question marks on their legacies,… Read more »

Mike
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Mike

They’re all ‘great’ and worthy champions in different ways, JS has never been too warm on Lewis, he’s not saying anything new:

Schumacher – Titles with different teams, helped rebuild Ferrari, sheer consistency
Vettel – Sheer consistency, young champion
Hamilton – Titles with different teams, long gap between championships, winner in every season

adaptable1
Guest
adaptable1

I find it very interesting that not much is made about Lewis’ ethnicity. In a sport that is run by a white aristocracy I think one of the greatest untold stories of Lewis’ career has got to be breaking through “race” stereotypes. How hard would this incredible accomplishment have been for someone of his ethnicity in NASCAR or Indycar? Instead he did it in the pinnacle. Well done, Lewis.

Steven Gross
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Steven Gross

The history of Formula One is replete with best drivers in the best cars. Timing was great for Lewis, but he had the talent to take advantage of the Situation. Hopefully Alonso will be doing same with McLaren-Honda so we can see some competition with another team involved.

Matthew Royer
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Matthew Royer

Could we have a source for your claim that the “British” press has claimed Hamilton has surpassed Schumacher and a host of other F1 greats? Ive been reading British press and I havnt heard anything like those hyperbolic statements anywhere. Also, it would be good if we could resurrect what F1blog.com said about Lewis’ departure from Mclaren. I was especially put off by a comment from Paul Charsley, who in discussing Sebastian Vettel’s move to Ferrari, claimed it was less likely to be about money with Seb, whereas Lewis’ move to Mercedes was “probably” about money. I can remember Grace… Read more »

dude
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dude

I watched both the post race coverage by BBC and Skysports and I have to say Sebastian leaving Red Bull didn’t seem to be very emotional. The team did say thanks, but I thought there would be something more special for what they achieved together. And Sebastian response during interviews about his leaving seems pretty moot and indifference.

Whether it’s Lewis or Sebastian, imo this is F1 and they are the most sought after drivers, big moneys are always involved.

mini696
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mini696

I woudn’t put the Hamilton/Merc teaming on the same par as Schumi/Ferrari. I don’t think Hamilton’s move was “inspired”, it is just right place, right time. Merc woud have still outdone everyone around them in the new regulation era with or without Hamilton.

mini696
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mini696

Additionally – Mechanical failure corrected – Hamilton completely dominated Nico this year.

Rapierman
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Rapierman

I don’t think it was “completely”. Nico popped his head up in the race before, and still had other wins. “Domination” implies either very few or no wins. This is obviously not the case.

Matthew Royer
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Matthew Royer

Sebastian Vettel didnt help his legacy at all this year by getting thrashed by Ricciardo. Plenty of us put him in that bracket of top drivers in the sport. He’s probably still there, but his reputation has been sullied. Raikkonen hasnt come out of this season looking especially good either. The measure of a great driver is his adaptability to different types of cars. Neither Seb nor Kimi have shown that they can win in cars they arent comfortable with.

Ben tetteh
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Ben tetteh

So this is just a truism. From Mandela to Obama, from Ali to Maywhether, and from you having this privilege to write and do podcasts here to me sitting using this computer to reply to your post are all down to timing. Period.
All of these people could have been somewhere else and therefore missed out on the opportunities that came their way (including you and I)

Eddie Cho
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Eddie Cho

So only Hamilton can win titles over the next years with Mercedes? Really? Had he had an ERS failure it would be a different story. Hamilton is a quick driver, but from what Schumacher achieved he is still light years away. It took Hamilton some years to get his shit together, good for him, but hardly stuff from which they build legends.

Stan
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Stan

Legacy TBD. A mature Hamilton is a pretty formidable package for sure. It sort of feels like a return to the old normal with a driver peaking around 30.

Damn kids get off my drivers championship.