23 January 2021 05:34 PM



Hamilton Clinches an Emotional 7th World Title

“I feel like I am just getting started.”

A visibly emotional Lewis Hamilton was left speechless after a dizzying race at the Istanbul Park. Making a comeback despite the odds, Hamilton broke down after pulling off a master strategy, making it seven for driver honours in a disruptive season of many ups and downs.

The Turkish Grand Prix proved to be a slippery race for more than one driver, including Hamilton’s team mate at Mercedes, Valterri Bottas. Bottas, the only driver technically in a position to halt Hamilton’s run for the drivers’ championship in 2020, was left dealing with a spinning car on the skiddy, rain-afflicted race track.

While sixth on the grid might not seem like the worst position to be in, especially for a driver of Hamilton’s calibre, with the Turkish Grand Prix proving to be a risky adventure, it took some bold strategizing from Hamilton and his engineers at the Mercedes pit garage to pull off the unthinkable, with three races still remaining.

Having already eclipsed Michael Schumacher’s record for most race wins, Hamilton ushered in his 94th win and with it, his seventh drivers’ championship title in a memorable Turkish Grand Prix, played out under erratic weather. Even with rain looming on the horizon at the end, it was a cool, composed, determined, thirty-five year old behind the wheel of the Mercedes car that showed how it is done.

Running on the same tyres for the better part of 50 laps, Hamilton pushed his car into competing in a race that was fortunate enough not to see an actual safety car on the ground, despite more than one car spinning off the track every so often.

The irony of his peers on the podium was also not lost on the Formula 1 spectators.

Hamilton was not the only astute driver to use the rain conditions to his advantage. Sebastian Vettel found another gear under wet conditions, ending up on the podium besides the man he will replace next year at the Racing Point/Aston Martin garage.

It must have been an ironic moment as any for Sergio Perez who, not unlike Vettel at Ferrari, was given the shock boot by the Stroll owned Racing Point. Lance Stroll, the son of billionaire owner of the team, who started the race on pole, found himself falling further down the order and eventually out of contention as Hamilton took command of the race.

Perez, finishing third after Vettel’s team mate, Charles LeClerc, suffered a rare mistake three-fourths into the final lap, stood on the podium, knowing he is still to secure a seat for next season, to the astonishment of many.

Vettel himself had two moments to celebrate. Since LeClerc joined him at Ferrari, it has been virtual curtains for the four time champion who has struggled at Ferrari to replicate his success at Red Bull. With the Monegasque rookie outpacing the German at every turn, it was a sweet comeback for Vettel even at the late stage of the season with his first podium finish of the season.

As he came in following the final lap, the Briton driver broke down in his car and remained seated with his face in his hands, soaking in the incredible achievement. Vettel was the first to congratulate him and comfort him, reminding him of the enormity of the occasion, his place in history etched forever.

The German, who had previously expressed his discomfort at the idea of his idol, Michael Schumacher, being displaced and of his own non performance contributing to it, was effusive in praising his compatriot, calling him “the greatest of our era” while explaining the near impossible task of comparing champions across eras.

Vettel complimented Hamilton by stating that “everyone was witnessing history” and that Hamilton deserved all his success because he had managed to “pull another out of the bag,” referring to the tricky Turkish Grand Prix.

Indeed, for Hamilton to have come into his own in his stint with the Mercedes in 2013 following his maiden drivers championship win with McLaren in 2008 is quite remarkable given that the next six titles have coincided with Mercedes taking seven consecutive constructors’ championship which is quite remarkable given Ferrari’s dominance when Schumacher was on show between 2000 and 2004.

Hamilton will undoubtedly renegotiate to continue that partnership with the German team that replaced Schumacher after his second retirement with the British race driver. He may be the only driver to be in the privileged position to be able to negotiate in a season where the pandemic has also been a catalyst in forcing some changes upon both teams and drivers, particularly with the 2022 changes to rules and regulations around the corner.

With ten race wins for the season, Hamilton has managed to make even a chaotic season, given a restart after an aborted attempt in Melbourne which now seems eons ago, an outstanding one.

Despite three back-to-back triple headers which had his younger competitors such as Max Verstappen raising doubts over the long term feasibility of such gruelling race step ups, Hamilton spoke about the sacrifices he has had to make and stay without celebration or family gatherings in order to stay completely focussed on the task ahead.

Ironically at a time when Hamilton had added purpose to his passion, he seems not to have won over the hearts of all his compatriots back home. He is still being viewed with a fair bit of skepticism as a sports icon and also, as the emphatic strong emblem of the rise of the black man even as he champions for black lives matter.

Even as the world debates the merit of whether it is unwise to hold back the knighthood from the boy who dreamed the impossible to use his own words, Hamilton has been credited by Toto Wolf, team principal at Mercedes, and other engineers at the team for his dedication and passion, to the point of dissecting the race after the Turkish Grand Prix instead of taking the day off, albeit without mega celebrations.

When queried if Hamilton had any thoughts of retirement at the end of the race, he spoke softly, “I feel like I am just getting started.” Although his younger compatriots are catching up, Hamilton’s hunger, focus and consistency separate him from the rest of the pack, making him hard to ignore and even harder not to respect.

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