There may have been six winners from six races this year, yet one name in particular stands out as an absentee. Lewis Hamilton is in an ultra-rare class of driver, having won at least one race in every F1 season he has competed in. That may even be a class of one.***
It also represents a level of consistency comparable with his as yet winless 2012 season, where Hamilton has not yet finished lower than 8th – something nobody else in the field can claim. And that’s even with a few pretty chunky hiccups along the way. He’s also by far the best qualifier in the field in 2012 to date, as discussed here.
Yet even his biggest fans would surely concur that Hamilton’s career has been marked by peaks and troughs, perhaps more than most? As brilliant as he is at his best, there have been more than a few races where he has made his own life tricky in the past.
The Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Montreal is the track that most consistently reveals all the extremes of Lewis Hamilton.
In 2007, Hamilton arrived for the first time ever, again riding a wave of consistency. Driving that, erm, contentious but undeniably brilliant MP4-22 (Spygate, anyone?), Hamilton had five podiums from five career starts going into the Canadian Grand Prix. He put the car on pole, then he won for the first time in his short F1 tenure. Hamilton took the lead in the title hunt for the first time too with the 10 points scored. He also doubled his money seven days later at Indianapolis, and the rest of that turbulent debut season – as they say – is history. (Incidentally, if you unify the scoring systems, 2007 remains Lewis’ best ever in terms of points scored.)
Hamilton’s 2008 showing in Montreal is history too, but for very different reasons. The race made my top five of the past five years on our special anniversary podcast in part for those images in the pit lane. That red light, the stationary red car, and the silver arrow piercing it. Whoops, indeed. Heartfelt apologies, Kimi Raikkonen – hadn’t realised you had stopped there. For any who weren’t watching, Lewis retired when fighting for the lead, hitting Kimi Raikkonen at a red light at the end of the pit lane – present due to the safety car that had caused the leaders to box. To be fair, Nico Rosberg did exactly the same thing and squirmed into the McLaren’s rear end in a Williams.
2009 is a candidate for worst year of the century to date; there was no Canadian Grand Prix.
Sanity prevailed in 2010 and F1 went back to invariably one of the best-attended motor races in the entire world, in any category. (Seriously, I think that after Spa, Montreal probably tops my “I implore you, Mr Ecclestone, just please don’t touch it” list. That or Suzuka, but the racing’s better at Montreal usually.)
The return was great for Lewis, too. He qualified on pole and looked favourite for much of the race, despite a bold attempt at a one-stopper from Mark Webber – who led for a long but doomed period. Ultimately Hamilton controlled the race from pole and won, textbook. Jenson Button rolled in second to complete a grand day at the office for the lads from Woking. With that win, Hamilton took the lead in the championship race.
2011’s rain-delayed Canadian Grand Prix, the longest in history if memory serves, was a little shorter for Lewis than the others. Hamilton and Webber collided at the slippery start, costing Webber dearly and Hamilton a little, at the first corner. Six laps in, Hamilton and Button came together on the start-finish line with Hamilton seeking to slide down on the pit-wall side. The pair clashed, Hamilton hit the wall and was forced to retire with major damage, Button went on to drop as low as 18th but eventually come back to win – even after that somewhat critical radio message in the early running.
So there we go, I give you the hit-and-miss tale of Lewis Hamilton in Canada. Could he be due another hit? That “one win in every season” record (is it a record?***) is still theoretically under threat, after all. But do any of us really expect it to fall? It could be preserved within a week.
***I checked Jim Clark, he didn’t get there. Fangio would have but for his swansong season. Vettel has won a race in every FULL season, including this one, but there’s the back half of 2007 to consider. All the obvious multiple-champ contenders miss the mark – though kudos to Prost for winning at least two Grands Prix in 11 out of 13 career campaigns. Can anyone think of another driver/drivers to manage this? Please do say if so, I’d love to know!