by Alex Hall
After Lewis Hamilton’s second-place finish in Austin last week, he has now overtaken Argentine legend Juan Manuel Fangio on the all-time leader board. This becomes his third consecutive title and puts him one world championship behind the record of seven set by Michael Schumacher. But has Lewis Hamilton already proven himself as the best F1 driver of all time?
In my opinion, when it comes to the question of whether Hamilton is the best F1 driver of all time, his only credible challengers can be Schumacher and Senna, with their domination in their respective eras. Synonymous with Hamilton, is his noticeably clear record when it comes to fair racing and I believe this is what puts him at the top of the greats of the sport.
Even though there are arguments to suggest Lewis’ previous world championship wins are his best, the 2019 season has enabled him to prove he is a great champion as nobody could consistently match him over the season in qualifying or the race.
He had to show patience in the early stages of the season with the opening four victories shared evenly with his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. But, then he dominated, winning the next four races as other teams came back into the fold. The team challenges that he faced this season from the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari were strong and winning 10 of the 19 races this year has gone some way to show how good he has been.
Hamilton is quite simply the complete package. His blistering pace around the track and one lap qualifying technique has resulted in the most pole positions in history (87). From these pole positions, he has managed to win 18 of these leading from the first lap to the last and this extraordinary figure puts him one behind the record of Ayrton Senna.
When Hamilton is in the lead at the start, we know he will win. This was most prevalent during the 2019 season and whilst on the one hand, it’s not that exciting, it goes to show just how high a level he’s operating at.
It hasn’t been a smooth ride all the way for Hamilton either. Battling performances in Bahrain and Canada where he pushed Vettel to make mistakes and in Budapest where passed Verstappen in the closing stages after race-long pressure. When anyone else leads a race, you know it isn’t over until Hamilton is out of contention.
The only real factor that detracts from Hamilton’s success has been his lack of any real rival in recent years. Vettel and Leclerc of Ferrari have not come close to the Mercedes team this year and even though Bottas has had a successful season personally, Lewis was still able to wrap up the title with races to go. The argument for this is simple. He’s beaten off the competition in such a commanding manner that it appears that he is in a league of his own.
In an interview after his victory, he emphasised that he is working on his masterpiece which is alarming for his rivals as he shows no sign of relenting. He will line up again next year once a new contract is agreed as he aims at chasing down Michael Schumacher’s record and proving his doubters wrong.
Entering his 13th season at the pinnacle of motor racing, Britain’s greatest driver has inscribed his name among the immortals of all sport as a six-time Formula One world champion and I think there is still more to come from him in the near future.