By Carol M. Creasey
It has been noticeable from the onset of this season that the Mercedes car is no more than third fastest on the grid. Ferrari and Red Bull seem to be fairly evenly matched in speed, but reliability seems to be affecting Max Verstappen, as he has failed to finish in two races, although he won in Jeddah.
Mercedes openly admit their car is not fast, but such is the determination of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, they have both already been on the podium in third place. In fact George stands second in the Drivers’ Championship at this time, and Lewis is fifth. But Sir Lewis has stated that he is not giving up on the championship because there are so many races, and anything can happen. He has been in this position before, and over the years he has learned to believe in himself and his team, and to be consistent.
Back in 2016, after winning the championship the previous two years, Lewis had so many reliability problems with his car, but he kept believing he could win. His team-mate Nico Rosberg had a bullet proof car, with no reliability issues, and he attempted to romp ahead in the championship. But such was the strength of Lewis to fight back from his disadvantages, that Rosberg was only able to beat him by five points, and win nine races to Lewis’s ten.
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People say that Mercedes has been a dominant car during the hybrid era, but that is not strictly true. By 2017 Ferrari was more than a match for them, being able to go fast on every track, whereas Mercedes’ car has always been a bit of a handful to drive, and doesn’t go well on certain tracks. At this time Sebastian Vettel was driving so well, and in 2017 and 2018, at the halfway stage of the season, Vettel was leading in the Drivers’ Championship, but Lewis came back in the second half of the year and beat him. All the while he was in with a chance, he never gave up.
In 2021, it was clear to see that the Red Bull was much faster than Mercedes and, at one point, Lewis was some 33 points behind Verstappen in an obviously slower car. Then Verstappen had crucial DNFs, and his fans will always argue that without them he would have won the championship much earlier. However, that can be true about any driver, but crashes, DNFs and bad luck with the Safety Car are all parts of racing, and a driver has to take it on the chin and rise above it, as Lewis always does.
By the time Mercedes got to fully understand their car, there were only four races left and Verstappen was 21 points ahead. In those last races Lewis hauled those points back until they reached the last race on equal points. What Lewis had achieved in a lesser car was amazing. In the eyes of his fans he clinched his eighth championship, even though the record books will say he lost it to Verstappen. However, the contentious circumstances surrounding that last race will never be forgotten, no matter which driver you support.
This year is proving to be even more difficult for Lewis so far, but write him off at your peril! His consistency will keep him in the fight, and once his car becomes a contender, he will be up there in the fight. I have seen many sneering remarks on the internet towards Sir Lewis and Mercedes, but they will have the last laugh at the end of this season. ‘Still We Rise’ and ‘Never Give Up the Fight’ is his mental attitude, and it has worked for seven championships in the past.
And to those who believe he will retire this year, don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions. Lewis is an honourable man, and his contract runs until 2023. Ferrari are going well so far this year, but Lewis remains the GOAT, and until someone else gets eight championships or more, he is still the man to beat. He has nothing left to prove, but I guarantee you he will reach new heights before he decides to retire.
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