FORMULA 1

Lewis Hamilton’s fifth title seals his place in the pantheon of F1 greats | John Watson | Sport

Posted on

When I first became aware of Lewis Hamilton at one of the Autosport award ceremonies he was little more than a child coming through the karting ranks. But even then there was a sense that here was a young guy who believed his destiny was to be arguably the greatest driver in the history of our sport. He is already the most successful British grand prix driver but his fifth world championship indisputably puts him in the pantheon of motor racing’s greats. Lewis did indeed fulfil his destiny.

What we have witnessed this season is Hamilton at the peak of his powers. He is in a part of his career which as a driver you aspire to reach. Ascending to a plateau where you might have four, five or six years to perform in what might be described as an effortless manner because you have learned from your mistakes and simply become better and better.

I believe he is in the best place he has ever been in his life. I imagine he is happier than ever, too. He has gone from being a boy to a man, to a fully rounded, mature and successful grand prix driver. He seems able to manage his private life so it has no effect on his professional career and his driving is better than it has ever been.

Lewis realises that winning a world championship is not just about being the quickest guy in the field or taking pole – although these things certainly help. It’s about scoring consistently, not making mistakes and not doing silly things of the sort we have seen from Sebastian Vettel this season. Lewis, in contrast, has reached a level that places him above everyone else in the field.

This has not come about by accident but by talent, hard work and a remarkable personality. Lewis has evolved as a man. He has interests in music and fashion. He simply does not follow the concept of what might be considered a “typical” grand prix driver.

Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks.

When he is out of his race car he spends time promoting his clothing line. He is non-stop. I don’t know where he gets the ability to race as he has been doing this season and at the same time be here, there and everywhere in an environment a million miles away from motor racing. It makes his achievement even more outstanding.

He has managed to balance this almost Jekyll and Hyde personality, being the ultimate professional driver with five world championships – up there with Juan Manuel Fangio as the second‑most successful driver in F1 history – and pursuing an active and varied life outside the cockpit. More impressively, Fangio’s record may not be the last: he could still go on to match or better Michael Schumacher’s seven titles.


Lewis Hamilton: my fifth F1 title is a testament to my family – video

His journey began at my old team McLaren and they were crucial. In Lewis’s early days his education was McLaren and he was taught a great deal about how to handle success and fame by how Ron Dennis presented himself and his team. Ron called it the “ultimate team”. Ron used that word a lot: “ultimate team, ultimate driver, ultimate professional”. That’s what Lewis went through. It will have helped shape his character.

What Lewis did in his opening year, when he had Fernando Alonso as his teammate, was just pure motor racing. He drove in the most pure manner I have seen any young guy do in his opening season in F1. He was so well prepared and mature beyond his age in a race sense that, when he got into F1, the step forward was not the gargantuan leap it could have been. He adapted to it and absorbed all the pressures and responsibilities like a duck takes to water.

When he won his first title in 2008 there was no doubt at that point he would become a multiple world champion but whether it would be two or three or more no one could predict. He has made it five, which may be beyond what anyone imagined at the time.

I believe part of the reason Lewis has had such a wonderful year is that he won his first title at McLaren, then went through the dip in McLaren’s form. That coincided with his need to grow and part of that was his desire to be a freer spirit.

The decision to switch to Mercedes ensured he was in the right place at the right time, an informed choice made by many multiple champions. He had long discussions with Ross Brawn, who was able to give Lewis insight into the future of Mercedes, and also spoke to Niki Lauda. He chose to go somewhere that gave him the best opportunity and four more titles later the choice has been vindicated.

His fascinating character and skill and the manner in which he has claimed an almost flawless fifth title mark him out as one of the greatest British sportsmen.

John Watson drove in Formula One from 1973-83 and 1985

Source link

Facebook Comments