LEWIS Hamilton has moved one step closer to equalling Michael Schumacher’s record seven Formula One world titles after sealing his sixth championship at the United States Grand Prix.
Despite finishing runner-up to team mate Valtteri Bottas at the Circuit of The Americas, Hamilton’s hefty championship points advantage going into the event meant the second place finish was more than enough to secure title number six with two races in the 2019 season to go.
Despite starting fifth on the grid and running the one-stop tyre change strategy, which proved less advantageous than two-stoppers, who enjoyed a faster final stint, Hamilton came close to holding off his team-mate for race victory. However, Bottas, on fresher rubber, passed Hamilton with four laps to go and crossed the finish line less than five seconds clear of the championship-winning Brit.
With his sixth title in the bag, Hamilton is now the second most successful Formula One driver in terms of championship wins, moving ahead of the five-times champion Juan Manuel Fangio he matched last year. The only person with more titles during an F1 career is Michael Schumacher, who managed an astonishing seven drivers’ championships — a feat that, at the time, many considered unlikely to be matched.
With Hamilton in imperious form and part of the conquering — Mercedes team Mercedes has won 88 of the 119 races since F1’s “turbo hybrid era” began in 2014, with Hamilton accounting for 61 of those victories — that could change.
While the extensive regulation shake-up and budget cap rules in 2021 mean it’s less clear cut whether Hamilton will win a record-breaking eighth world championship two years from now, he’s well on the way to smashing other Schumacher-held accolades.
With 83 victories already under his belt, Hamilton only has to be the first to the chequered flag another eight times to become F1’s most successful driver ever in terms of grand prix wins, and stand on the podium another six times to beat Schumacher’s record run of 155 top three finishes.
While the case for Lewis Hamilton being one of the greatest grand prix drivers of all time is exceptionally strong, some have suggested the Brit’s accomplishments don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Is it just me, but seems the world has not quite saluted the greatness of @lewishamilton?. My former newspaper devoted 2 pages to a six-times world champ today, but 7 to the losing England rugby team. Now for the New Year honours list to see what happens there https://t.co/Qeo3hlXowu
— Kevin Eason (@easonF1) November 4, 2019
He certainly doesn’t get the credit that his amazing achievements deserve. Why?
— Edmund King OBE (@AAPresident) November 3, 2019
Autocar magazine’s editorial director Jim Holder put forward a variety of reasons why this could be the case — including a perceived car advantage and limited overall awareness in the UK due to the restrictive TV coverage. He also suggested Hamilton’s skin colour and lifestyle may put off what he called F1’s “core of old, white fans”.
1. Sky deal = minority sport
2. Perceived (and real) car advantage
3. Casual fans can’t see what makes him special (cars on rails, races dull)
4. Brits prefer underdogs
5. Lifestyle/personality/skin colour (sorry, but true) rub up sport’s core of old, white fans https://t.co/mS0CyQIbiy
— Jim Holder (@Jim_Holder) November 3, 2019
Hamilton’s accomplishments have also come under fire from the three-time champion Sir Jackie Stewart (formerly Britain’s most successful F1 driver, before Hamilton won his fourth title in 2017), who suggested on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the six-time champ’s success can’t be attributed entirely to skill behind the wheel.
Though Stewart said there is “no doubt” the six-time champ is “an extremely talented driver”, he said: “Man and machine are important, but at the same time when there’s greater money and spending [by a particular team], sometimes that changes whether the greats were the greatest, if you understand me.”
When asked if he thought it was possible Hamilton could win more titles than Schumacher, Stewart added: “Of course it is, but when you are driving in a team that probably spends more money than anybody else and they’ve got the right people, that makes it a hell of a lot easier.”