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Lewis Hamilton: A British Great, but More is to Come

Yesterday in Abu Dhabi, Lewis Hamilton became the Formula 1 Drivers’ World Champion for the second time in his career, ending the six year wait for another world championship title.

The Briton went into the final race of the 2014 season seventeen points ahead of team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg. The controversial Double Points system for the final race meant that Rosberg’s pole position put him in the driving seat (quite literally) to snatch the championship off his team-mate, but if Hamilton could prevent Rosberg from winning, it would require something of a disaster for him to lose the title.

Hamilton lifted most of the pressure on him off his shoulder within the first few seconds of the race; his brilliant overtaking manoeuvre at the start saw him take the race lead, where he stayed for the rest of the Grand Prix. Though Felipe Massa was gaining on the champion-to-be towards the end of the race, Hamilton sealed his second world championship win in style by winning the race and picking up the fifty points to go with it. The celebrations began as soon as he crossed the line: Prince Harry congratulated him over the radio; Hamilton had to sit down and cry after the race, before going out onto the winners’ podium to a wall of cheers; his family and partner Nicole Scherzinger were all present to be as emotional as possible.

Lewis Hamilton’s career has been filled with “what-if” moments. Even in his debut season in 2007, he had a huge chance to win the title, but a retirement and seventh place finish in the last two races of the season saw him surrender his seventeen point lead to Kimi Räikkönen, who beat the rookie by one point. The very next year, Hamilton himself won by one point, overtaking Timo Glock on the last corner in Brazil to snatch the title from Felipe Massa, who’d won the race and, so he thought, the championship as well before Glock’s crash.

Alas, the next five seasons would not bring glory for the youngster. 2009 saw Jenson Button dominate proceedings, as Hamilton finished fifth in the standings, winning just two races. One of the lowest ebbs in Hamilton’s career came at the beginning of that season in Australia, where Hamilton was disqualified from the race after managing to surge up the grid from eighteenth to third, after Jarno Trulli was penalised for overtaking him during a safety car. However, it transpired that Hamilton had deliberately let Trulli past him, something McLaren denied at first. When the stewards realised that McLaren had given “misleading evidence,” Hamilton was disqualified.

2010 was slightly more successful, but just as frustrating as the year before. Driving alongside world champion Jenson Button for McLaren, Hamilton managed three race wins and finished fourth in the standings, as Sebastian Vettel broke his record of being the youngest world champion ever. Hamilton matched his number of wins with retirements, as his win in Belgium was sandwiched between “DNFs” at Hungary before and Italy and Singapore afterwards. 2011 saw Sebastian Vettel dominate and Hamilton drop down to fifth in the drivers’ rankings yet again; he managed three wins once again.

2012 could be considered Hamilton’s most maddening season in F1 to date. Despite qualifying on pole position seven times, Hamilton managed only four race wins and five retirements. Almost every race, particularly towards the end of the season, followed the script of Hamilton qualifying on pole, staying in the lead until he pitted, where a slow stop would see him drop down the field or some kind of mechanical would force him to retire. He finished fourth in the standings, 91 points off the pace, but lost over 100 estimated points due to retirements and other mechanical issues.

McLaren’s technical difficulties played a part in Hamilton’s decision to leave the team who discovered him and join the new Mercedes AMG Petronas team in 2013. His first season with his new team was one of transition, as the Mercedes car was yet to reach its full potential, but Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg showed what was to come in 2014 as the two were very strong on qualifying, getting pole position five and three times respectively. Lewis only  won one race in2013, whilst Nico managed two, but much more was to come from the duo and Mercedes the following season.

The season just gone by has seen Lewis Hamilton finally come into his own: he won a staggering eleven races; qualified on pole seven times; and broke the British record for most Grand Prix wins in the process. There is no question that he could’ve won at least one more championship in his career, but in this season Hamilton made up for lost time and has the chance to build on this and attain legendary status before he retires. His friendship with Nico Rosberg has taken a number of bumps along the way, but the German took defeat admirably and there is a chance that the two will be able to work together effectively for a number of years.

Hamilton is without doubt a British great already, but he still has a few questions to answer before he can truly be considered a world great. Mercedes have helped to put him back on the road to greatness, but at least another world title is needed him to put him on Formula 1’s top table.

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