Lewis Hamilton cemented his position as one of Formula One’s true greats when he equaled Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 7 world titles on Sunday, November 15, another staggering achievement for a boy who grew up in modest circumstances.
His victory in Istanbul – the 94th of his career – allowed him to add the 2020 title to his championships of 2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The Briton matched Schumacher’s haul of drivers’ crowns with 3 races of the season remaining.
The 35-year-old sealed his latest title 12 years after his first with a typically measured masterclass, handling treacherous wet early conditions to claim his 94th career win.
It was widely declared as one of his finest triumphs and entirely appropriate on the day he drew alongside the legendary German in the record books.
“That’s for all the kids out there that believe in the impossible,” said an emotional Hamilton on Mercedes’ team radio. “You can do it.”
Hamilton admitted he found it difficult to express his feelings afterwards. “I’m definitely a bit lost for words,” he said.
“Naturally, I have to start by saying a huge thank you to the guys here and the guys at the factory. The journey we’ve been on is monumental. I want to also thank ‘Team LH’ for sticking with me, and my family.”
Hamilton, who sealed his first title in 2008, added to his unprecedented roster of records – most wins with 94, most pole positions (97), most podium finishes (163) and most consecutive points finishes (47).
He added: “We dreamed of this when I was young.
“I remember watching Michael win those world championships. To get one or two or even three is so hard.
“Seven is unimaginable. There is no end to what we can do together, me and this team.
“I feel like I’m only just getting started. Physically, I’m in great shape.”
Blew away rivals
He lapped his teammate and only remaining title rival Valtteri Bottas, who finished 14th after a desultory outing, to claim his 10th victory in 14 races of a season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Hamilton came home over half a minute clear of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez. Both chose to make only one pit-stop and spent most of the race on a single set of intermediate tires as their rivals pitted several times to cope with the slippery conditions.
Hamilton’s old rival, four-time former champion Sebastian Vettel, finished 3rd ahead of his Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz of McLaren and, after a wild and impulsive afternoon, Max Verstappen in the leading Red Bull.
Alex Albon came home 7th in the second Red Bull ahead of Lando Norris in the second McLaren, Lance Stroll, who had started from his maiden pole position for Racing Point, and Daniel Ricciardo of Renault.
This latest triumph gave Hamilton an unassailable lead over Bottas, with two races in Bahrain and the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to come.
Vettel, who grabbed a podium finish on the final lap, was the first man to congratulate Hamilton in the pits, leaning into the Englishman’s cockpit to tell him he had made history.
The son of a black father and a white mother, whose parents separated in his youth, Hamilton grew up on a municipal housing estate. His father Anthony at one time held down 3 jobs to fund his son’s embryonic racing career in karting.
Hamilton’s journey was unprivileged and without luxury, but it was clear from an early age that he had an outstanding gift for speed and all the gutsy natural instincts of a born racer.
In 1995, aged 10, and wearing a jacket and shoes borrowed from his predecessor as British Formula Cadet karting champion, he went to a glittering awards ceremony in London where he met McLaren’s then-boss Ron Dennis.
He asked for an autograph and told him “one day I want to race for you”. Dennis replied: “Phone me in 9 years and I’ll sort you a deal.”
Bold, determined and individual, he almost won the title in his first record-breaking season as he reeled off 9 successive podiums from his debut in Melbourne, rocking the establishment along the way with his speed and his style.
On and off the track, he was fast, somewhat mercurial and occasionally tempestuous and the combination led to a fierce rivalry with teammate and two-time champion Fernando Alonso at McLaren.
That was a signal of how tough it was to be for all his future teammates as Hamilton, who narrowly missed out on the 2007 title, returned to triumph in 2008 with a dramatic last-gasp fifth-place finish in Brazil.
He also showed frustration as McLaren failed to deliver the speed to beat Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, who reeled off 4 straight title triumphs from 2010 to 2013, by which time Hamilton had departed for Mercedes.
Escaping the management regime of Dennis and his father, Hamilton found freedom at Mercedes alongside teammate Nico Rosberg, his teenage karting friend and rival.
This enabled Hamilton to express himself with a headline-grabbing trans-Atlantic lifestyle, mixing with musicians and ‘fashionistas’.
He showed little love for any duty to obey conventions and, for many observers, gave his sport a welcome injection of freshness and diversity as champion again in 2014 and 2015.
Rosberg broke Hamilton’s sequence of supremacy in 2016 and then retired, leaving the Englishman to dominate.
His former McLaren teammate Jenson Button summed up Hamilton’s pure speed when he said: “For me, over one lap, I don’t think there is anyone as quick as Lewis and I don’t think there ever has been.”
That speed, which has always been a natural talent, has in recent seasons been allied to a more mature attitude to his job as team leader.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff once summed up: “He is never satisfied. He never settles. He is never happy with where he is as a racing driver and a human being.”
Having achieved so much as his sport’s best-known ambassador, Hamilton’s interest in social issues has emerged more frequently.
Last season, he began voicing his concerns for the environment and revealed a fleeting despair at the state of the world when he used Instagram to declare that the planet was “a messed-up place” and he felt he wanted “to give up.”
That commentary, including revelations about his vegan lifestyle, led to the man who frequently used private jets and occupies a sport hardly known for its green credentials being accused of hypocrisy.
“I’m only human,” he retorted. “Like everyone, we have up and down days. That’s what I’ve been really trying to convey.”
This year has seen him press for greater diversity in the paddock, a push sparked by his vocal support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
His own career and his quest for self-expression and freedom has shaped his advice for young drivers.
“What I can definitely advise any kid that’s out there trying to race is don’t listen to people who tell you that you need a mental coach or you need someone to help control your mind,” he said.
“You need to let it run wild and free and discover yourself. It is all about discovery. And only you can do it.”
When Hamilton wrapped up his sixth world title in Texas last year, his father summed up his son’s achievement: “It’s absolutely amazing and not bad for a boy from a Stevenage council house.” – Rappler.com