The British driver lost his chance at making history in Abu Dhabi but it shouldn’t matter that much.
The chances either Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen were not going to win the F1 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was extremely low. With the high stakes on who was going to make history as a world champion, it had to be one of them.
And so it was for Verstappen for the very first time, the third driver to win a first championship under the age of 25 after Fernando Alonso, Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
For Mercedes and Hamilton fans, they are still hurting from the manner in which Sunday’s race was concluded, believing their icon was robbed of the chance to make history by winning an eighth world championship which will be the most for any driver in F1 history.
Hamilton had the race under his grasp until Verstappen started to claw his way back with two safety car periods some think were doctored to favor Verstappen. As much as there is a lot of grievance over what should easily have been Hamilton’s day, there is really no need to make a fuss about it. The conspiracies as to whether the race was plotted to work against Hamilton will be in the discussion for years to come. What is sport without controversial moments anyway?
An eighth world championship would have been extraordinary but even with seven, Hamilton has his name at the very top of F1. Here is a man that racked up his seven titles within a 14-year period. Compare that to a Schumacher, who did his over a career span of 25 years. Hamilton’s career records such as race wins (103), pole positions (103), podium finishes (182), career points (4165.5), total points-scoring races (249), consecutive points finishes (48), consecutive points scored (998), average points per race started (14.46), most championship points in a season (413 points in 2019), most consecutive race finishes (48), total laps led (5,396 laps), longest total distance leading a race (27,482km), among many other records puts him way above any other driver in the sports history.
These are simply things to be proud of and feats that will take a very long time to surpass. Not even Verstappen will be getting close to these in the coming years. Why? Because Hamilton is clearly not done yet. Also there are a couple of young drivers from other teams such as McLaren’s Lando Norris, incoming Mercedes driver George Russell and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, all with championship-winning potential should they have a competitive car. This makes any hopes of Verstappen becoming a dominant force a little difficult.
Some might say Hamilton has been blessed with having a very fast and dominant car but it requires immense skill and talent to be able to ensure the maximum is extracted from the machine. How he was able to bring his Mercedes back to life just when it seemed Verstappen and Red Bull were running away with the drivers and constructors championship even when his rival was up with some aggressive and dirty tricks, is an example of how extraordinary a driver Hamilton is. His motivation and determination to succeed is still as high as ever, another trait that sets him apart from the rest of the grid.
Some of Hamilton’s supporters think he should retire and walk away from the sport. That is clearly a defeatist mentality and something not associated with his kind of personality, certainly not with how he was raised by his father Anthony, who has been by his side for his entire racing career.
Mercedes are equally primed to start 2022 on a high judging by the massive gains made towards the end of 2021. They are still the standard of the Hybrid V6 turbo era.
Credit has to be given to Hamilton for how he handled the defeat in Abu Dhabi. He kept his head up and still congratulated Verstappen on his championship win even when the Mercedes team were protesting how the race ended.
Hamilton’s demeanour in the midst of the fierce championship battle was nothing but cool, calm and gentlemanly. That is the hallmark of a champion and true great. He is Sir Lewis Hamilton, MBE, after all.
There is the opinion that Hamilton being the only black driver in the history of F1 makes him a lone ranger in a sport that has traditionally been dominated by white drivers. His disruptive nature such as calling for more diversity in the sport, environmental awareness, LGBT awareness among other social causes, is not something that pleases all as F1 is not a sport that pays keen attention to societal issues especially as regards race. However Hamilton has built an incredible amount of influence to be able to dare the norm and challenge the establishment.
All of these things make Hamilton F1’s most iconic name and face. He does not need to be loved by all, but those who understand the value of what he has brought and changed in the sport have a generational figure to look up to and admonish.