Hamilton’s extraordinary feat is built on daunting consistency and he will now want to beat Michael Schumacher’s record
A sixth world championship is an extraordinary achievement by any standard but in reaching it Lewis Hamilton has indisputably proved he is the best driver I have ever seen. People speak about the greats but the way Lewis has gone about racing I believe makes him the greatest. I am in awe of what I see, even as an ex-racing driver.
From everything I know from the history of F1, from competing and watching racing, from Juan Manuel Fangio through Jimmy Clark and Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and all the other guys in between, I think Lewis is the best.
It is his ability to drive on the edge which captures me. He is, simply, exciting to watch and just gets everything out of the car, while possessing a mental strength that I have not seen in other drivers. He is different, special and has the “wow” factor. There is more “wow” to Lewis than all of the other drivers I know. The best driver I have ever watched on track, he has the ability to dig something special out, to pull it out of the bag when needed but his race craft and race brain have simply got better and better. He might make it look easy. It most definitely is not.
Nor has it come easily to him, the natural talent he possesses has not been wasted, only worked on and improved. People should enjoy what they are watching. It is something that only comes around very, very rarely and right now is probably the peak of Lewis Hamilton.
He has always been able to pull off extraordinary laps and races but Lewis now does it with formidable regularity. He has found a balance in life off-track that allows him to perform exceptionally on it. He is thoughtful, he feels the tyre, he feeds back information, when there are choices that are marginal he questions them. This is a driver thinking of every aspect of a race even in the heat of battle.
Nor has he gone about his business without a fundamental sense of sportsmanship. He is the toughest man and the fairest man on track. He wants to do it in a way where he does not get an advantage. He wants a good battle. Lewis has the mentality to want to beat people in the fairest way he can, just to show how good he is. Which is a very powerful mindset. That aura he gives off means it is tough to beat him and as his rivals have discovered, even match him.
He has of late also delivered with daunting consistency. He is consistent through the whole year. If he has a bad weekend he might be fourth at worst and that is deceptively impressive, to keep that mental strength going for a whole season and especially when going for his fifth title in six years.
Moreover I like Lewis as a person. Some people say he can be difficult sometimes but I understand how difficult his life must be. I won three grands prix and not many people wanted a real piece of me but every single media person and every single fan wants a piece of him and he has to manage that. I know what it means from what Damon Hill has told me. It changes your life in a big way and people forget that. Lewis has had to deal with it and at the same time always tries to make sure he has time for the fans and in doing so he has been very good for F1.
Yet I think there is still more to come. At only 34 years old he is still strongly motivated and I believe he wants to beat Michael’s record of seven titles. I know for a driver in the form he is in now it must feel almost effortless. From my experiences, when you are in the zone that he is in, this bubble, it seems easy and that is hard to explain when watching from the outside. He knows it is there, everything he touches in the cockpit will work for him, that’s how he goes out on track and does the job.
Next year will possibly be tougher. Ferrari should challenge but does Lewis want that challenge? Absolutely. Does he want a wheel-to-wheel battle? Absolutely. Just to prove he is the best again.
That is what I find special, to get to seven for Lewis is easily possible and his desire is still there after all these championships. The only other time I have seen that is with Schumacher, who had that similar urge just to win and win and win. Lewis has that and, as he races on, we should revel in this unique talent while we have the chance.