So here we are again, at the business end of the season, Japan is this weekend, practice is on right now, and it’s the same old story (how many times have we all said that?). There was a time when I used to say this and I was referring to Michael Schumacher, then there was a time I used to say this and I was referring to Sebastian Vettel, well now I am referring to Lewis Hamilton.
Such as been the Briton’s domination that he has been in the title fight for five years running in which he has been the victor three and is on the cusp of a fourth.
I have to tell you the truth, I really wanted to write a post in which I raked Ferrari and Vettel over the coals. I wanted to again point out both party’s mistakes and missteps in bold upper case letters, and how, in the context of F1, even one is too many. I wanted to remind everyone how Vettel and Ferrari are their own worst enemies with the best car on the grid (or for most of the year anyway) and get a quip in about 2010 and 2012, ring a bell anyone? Ferrari almost won championships with a sub-competitive car in the hands of someone from Oviedo… Then I thought about it and decided that there has been enough of that already and by the way one should never kick a man (or car) when he’s down – at least not until the season is completely over ;-)
So we focus on the good, the positive, and the incredible and right now that has just one name. Well, make that two, maybe three, in fact four: Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton.
There is a scene in one of the Tom Cruise MI sequels, installment five, Rogue Nation. Here is the set-up: Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and one of his cohorts played by Jeremy Renner are about to drug the Prime Minister of England and get him to unlock some impenetrable file, a virtual red box, that contains dark money which the bad guy Lane and his Syndicate will use to terrorize governments and take over the world – what a shocker…
Cruise, while in one of those cool insta-face disguises, listens to his boss, the head of the CIA played by Alec Baldwin (Baldwin has no idea Cruise is in disguise) as he explains to the PM that he is in grave danger and that he must take immediate action to protect himself. The PM, in that very nonchalant and English way, dismisses Baldwin’s warnings to which Baldwin replies:
“Sir, I urge you not leave this room. Hunt is uniquely trained and highly motivated, a specialist with no equal and immune to any counter measures, there is no secret he cannot extract, no security he cannot breach, no person he cannot become, he has most likely anticipated this very conversation and is waiting to strike in whichever direction we move. Sir, Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny and he has made you his mission.”
Now just replace the words Hunt with Hamilton, specialist with driver, “no secret he cannot extract” with “no track he cannot conquer, “no security he cannot breach” with “no car he cannot drive to victory” and “no person he cannot become” with “no person he cannot beat (even when his car can’t)”.
Right now Lewis Hamilton is destiny and his mission (and oh yeah he has chosen to accept) is a fifth WDC and why stop at five? Of course the season is not over and of course Vettel most definitely could win his fifth title, he just has to win-out. That included Sochi, which, oh, did not happen. OK, no big deal, I’m sure there is some crazy permutation that sees Vettel win.
Regardless of this year’s championship outcome, what is painfully clear whether you’re Ferrari, Vettel, a pundit, a casual fan, another driver, or a team principal, is this: Lewis Hamilton is driving at the highest level of his career. The Mercedes driver has taken the win in his last five of the last six races in a car that was arguably less competitive than that of the Ferrari of Vettel, and if you know F1 as we all do, this is not a fact to nonchalantly, in that English way, dismiss.
Hamilton has not put a foot wrong since coming back from the summer break, there were maybe few mistakes early on, coming together with Max in Bahrain, a blown start in the British GP which then left him open to contact with Kimi Raikkonen (the stewards deemed it was the Finn’s fault) which resulted in Hamilton facing the wrong direction and motivated a superb comeback drive to second place, but when it has counted most he has keep his cool in every situation on track and found a way to win. It is what champions do.
I would be remiss to not mention the effort Mercedes has put in since the break – they really raised their game as well. But remember, Valtteri Bottas is in the identical car and where is he? Basically nowhere. So one could say that while the WO9 is the song, it is Ham that is singing and making the words take flight.
Since Ham is in the catbird seat to take that, puts-you-in-rareafied-air fifth title, it would be a good time to take stock of just what Lewis Hamilton has achieved in F1 thus far. After all he has been winning for so long one does tend to forget just how many wins and achievements he has. Here are some of his records in no particular order:
Youngest driver to lead a world championship [22 years, 126 days]
Neither Sebastian Vettel nor Fernando Alonso where able to do this and Max Verstappen could do this next year if and it is a big if the Red Bull transforms itself with Honda power, Charles Leclerc could do this as well, but do we really think he will out perform Vettel??? My guess is this record will stand for some time (
Most points in a debut season 
I remember that year, I was saying to myself, who the hell is this kid? I’m sure Alonso was saying the same thing while ripping the door off the McLaren Hospitality center in the paddock…
Most wins in a debut season 
Yowza, has this happened since and did this in fact ever happen prior?? as Charlotte would say “S-o-m-e K-i-d”
Most career points [2916 as of Sochi]
This warrants repeating. Lewis Hamilton is the all-time points leader and he is not even close to being done. Seriously, look it up, not Michael, not Vettel, not anyone… That alone right there is making me dizzy… smelling salts anyone???
Most consecutive podium finishes from debut 
It was quite a run in Ham’s rookie year, race wins, poles, a podium run that had everyone freaking-out about the newcomer…where did that left jab come from???
Most podium finishes in a season 
Despite all those years that Vettel dominated with Adrian Newey’s Red Bull chariot, Lewis has made his time at Mercedes count in a big way… The percentages of other drivers reaching the podium is dramatically reduced when #44 is on the track…
Most consecutive points finishes 
Ask anyone or any driver for that matter about points finishes and they will all tell you most drivers are excited if they finish in the points just a few times a year even if it is one sole point for 10th – Lewis finds ways to do it not just all the time but for this stretch, that was basically a whole season and half of another. Remarkable…
Most front row starts 
This number is so incredible I can’t even imagine what the drivers of the seventies must think, the reliability, the pure dominance, and Ham’s one lap speed on Saturdays, just mind-boggling…
Most pole positions in a debut season 
The kid was something special right from day one, there was no doubt about it. Those battles with Alonso where the Spaniard would go out and set a blistering time and then the Ham would find a tenth or a hundredth and take pole were really something to watch.
Most consecutive seasons with a pole from debut season 
Similar to another record further down the list, to have the kind of raw speed year in and year out even when your machinery is not the fastest, can you say, “Show me the money????”
Most pole positions at most different grand prix 
Go somewhere new, same old, same old. I have to ask, why do the other drivers get out of bed on Saturdays anyways ….
Pole positions at most different circuits 
Different city, different circuit… Same old story…
Most pole positions 
Take stock of this one folks, it is a doozy, Hamilton is the pole king, the big Kahuna, the man with the plan, a one lap master blaster, a Saturday specialist, and in this corner, the-un-dis-pu-ted-heavy-weight-champion-of-the – (qualifying) – world…L-E-W-I-S—H-A-M-I-L-T-O-N….
How incredible is this you ask? He was presented with one of Ayrton Senna’s famously liveried helmets (one worn during his days driving a Lotus) by the Senna family for matching Senna’s pole record, that is some heavy stuff, if you ask me…
Most consecutive seasons with a win from debut season 
No one from any of the last few generations of drivers can say this and since Max Verstappen did not win in his debut season this record is also safe for quite some time. Is anyone tired yet???
Wins at most different grand prix 
Different day, not such a different day apparently… Good grief Charlie Brown is this guy for real??
Wins at most different circuits 
Lewis has won at every circuit that F1 has raced at, except the French GP, which was at Magny Cours. He did however win at this year’s French grand prix at Paul Riccard. So we can forgive him for circumstances out of his control and just basically say, no matter where the Briton goes he wins…. Do any of the other drivers just want to quit right about now???
Most wins in one calendar month 
The guy is unstoppable, pure and simple – I’m not even sure I knew there were four races in four weekends, was that last year the year before, this year, who knows, but hey at this point, I’ll believe anything with this guy…
Most wins from pole position 
Man and machine in perfect harmony, boring for some, frustrating for others, but for us hardcore F1 fans, this is the stuff of legend…and look, it’s his lucky number! (Until Saturday…)
Most grand slams in a season 
Wow, Lewis is so good he is now playing baseball and hitting grand slams dontcha know…
Unbelievably, all of the above pales compared to this next stat which is not the record (yet) but really and truly speaks to what Ham is doing right now in motorsport’s hardest formula to excel in. Career race wins:
1. M. Schumacher 91
2. L. Hamilton 70
3. S. Vettel 52
4. A. Prost 51
5. A. Senna 41
6. F. Alonso 32
7. N. Mansell 31
8. J. Stewart 27
9. N. Lauda 25
10. J. Clark 25
Are you kidding me??? Lewis is a mere 21 race wins away from the unthinkable. I remember the Schumacher years well, and what I remember the most about those years, and especially when he retired, was the thought that this record will never be broken – neither his race wins or the seven WDC’s.
I remember telling anyone who would listen, which sometimes were very engaged peeps I would meet at parties or while watching racing on the weekends… and then again sometimes it was just lame Americans that would say Formula what now ????. Anyway, I would tell them, on the heels of how incredible Michael was (be-grudgingly), that these records will never be broken, ever. Ever-ever. No, really, they will never be surpassed.
I know Lewis gets a hard time for some of his lifestyle choices – I happen to like the playboy/jet-set image although its far more tempered than the jet-set of the 70s. He at times has made the off-color remark either about his team or other drivers – what did he say about interesting driving tactics at Silverstone? Not his best choice of words. Sometimes he has been called out for his aggressive driving especially when he starts down the grid due to penalties or some other issue in qualifying – doesn’t bother me in the slightest. If I’m honest, I wish F1 was bit more rough around the edges. But when it counts the most, when the pressure is on, time and time again he delivers the goods.
Very few drivers are as exciting to watch when they get behind the wheel. Alonso, Vettel, now Verstappen, they can all light it up. It is a small group of drivers that impact the sport in a way that is lasting and profound.
Lewis Hamilton is the most successful British driver in the history of the sport and while there are some points of disagreement as to Jim Clark or Jackie Stewart or Hamilton and their actual ranking, different poles and articles will never really agree to who is the best of these three, just as there will always be disagreement between the likes of Michael or Alain or Senna and which one of these drivers are the best.
However, one thing is not under dispute, Hamilton is on paper the best of the Brits and appears to be just getting better and better, faster and faster – where did that lap come from in Singapore really???? Soon, if the car and his mindset are up for it, he’ll be the best period, move over Michael, step aside Alain, sorry to say Ayrton, because his driving is just on another planet and someday I might be telling anyone who will listen and that includes you Americans that Hammer Time, #TeamLewis, #44, aka Lewis Hamilton’s race wins and total WDC’s will never be broken, ever, ever-ever-ever. Did I happen to mention ever???