by Adrian Mann
In two weeks’ time Lewis Hamilton could match Michael Schumacher’s record for most career wins, on Ferrari’s own testing track – the Mugello Circuit, in the middle of the Scuderia’s 1000th F1 race celebrations.
Wow. Something that seemed almost impossible during Michaels Schumacher’s period of dominance in the early-to-mid 2000s, is bound to happen sooner, rather than later. At the Belgian Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton scored his 89th race win and he is now only two wins short of matching the great German’s 91 total career wins record.
In what is turning out to be a record breaking season, Hamilton is sure to not only match, but also surpass the second most important F1 record. The most important one, of course, is the record for most F1 championships, another Schumacher record that Hamilton is well on the way of matching in 2020.
But this is not the most fascinating part of the story, oh no. The most fascinating part is that if Hamilton wins this week’s Italian Grand Prix, he will be set to match the record at the very next race that will be held on Ferrari’s home turf – the Mugello Circuit! To top it all off, the Tuscan Grand Prix will be Ferrari’s 1000th Formula 1 race!
Now, why is that so fascinating or important, you might ask? Well there are two reasons. The first one is that Michael Schumacher is the biggest idol of the Tifosi, Ferrari’s famous (or infamous 🙂 ) passionate (or rabid 😀 ) fanbase. Ever since Schumacher brought Ferrari its first Drivers’ title in 21 years, he has enjoyed an almost god-like popularity in Italy. And rightfully so, he has since become the most successful Formula 1 driver in history, with seven world titles to his name. It’s safe to say that anybody who has anything disparaging to say about the great German will not be very popular in Italy.
The second, and more important reason, is the intense dislike that the Tifosi seem to feel for Hamilton. One might even say that the level of dislike they feel for him is almost proportional to the level of adulation they feel for their great champion, Schumacher. The reason for this is not completely clear, but a few could come to mind if one was to speculate.
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Can’t we all just get along?
Firstly, it’s important to say that obviously not all Italians of Ferrari fans dislike Hamilton. As a matter of fact the Briton has quite a respectable following in Italy. However, if one is to judge solely by the reception he has received by Italian fans at Monza in recent years, it is obvious that he is not overly appreciated. A loud chorus of boos can be heard at the track (and sometimes even on TV) whenever the champ’s name is mentioned, especially during podium celebrations (and even more so if he wins 🙂 ).
The first, and most obvious reason for that, might be the fact that Hamilton has denied Ferrari many-a-win and man-a-championship during his years of Formula 1 dominance. A popular and often shared statistic says Hamilton won 77 races in the last ten years, while Ferrari won 71 races with all of their drivers combined in the last 15. Another bitter blow was dealt to Ferrari fans when Hamilton amazingly won his first world title in the last corner of the last lap of the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, despite Ferrari’s Felipe Massa being a clear favorite going into the race.
Another reason could be the fact that Hamilton is fast approaching becoming the most successful F1 driver in history, taking the moniker from Schumacher and squashing all of his records in the process. Ferrari fans will argue that these numbers don’t mean anything, as those were different times, there were less races in a season etc., but they weren’t saying those things when the German surpassed the great Juan Manuel Fangio as the most successful F1 driver ever. While skills and qualities of drivers can be debated and we will probably never know for sure who the greatest driver in history was, numbers don’t lie and the numbers could soon point toward Hamilton being the most successful driver of all time.
And finally, a more sinister reason could be debated, although never proven. Part of the hatred for Hamilton might have a more basic origin – racism. Now, of course, I’m not saying all Ferrari fans or Hamilton haters are racists, but one could make a compelling argument that racism could be an underlying reason for the hate with at least a part of the aforementioned fanbase. Hamilton is not only THE ONLY black driver on the Formula 1 grid, he is not only the most successful black racing driver in history, he is also one of the most successful F1 drivers period (and very likely soon to be THE most successful). Taking into account the world we live in, it doesn’t take a genius to deduce that this might not sit well with at least some of the haters.
The Party Pooper!
All of these reasons combined show why, if Hamilton succeeds in matching Schumacher’s record at Ferrari’s home track, in the middle of the team’s 1000th F1 race celebrations, the Tuscan Grand Prix will have strong elements of poetic justice for Hamilton fans and elements of true tragedy for his haters. In any case emotions will be engaged and if there’s anything Formula 1 needs right now, it’s emotional engagement from the fans. However Hamilton still has to produce a win at Monza for this to be possible. But if he manages to win at Monza and at Mugello, it will be a scene for the ages!
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