Lewis Hamilton is, arguably, one of the greatest drivers F1 has ever known. He’s now a six-times world champion and holds most of the records that stand in the sport.
People generally remember the glorious moments of his career: from his remarkable rookie season in 2007 against the reigning double world champion, to his back-to-back championships with Mercedes. Those are just some of the memories that might give you the impression that Lewis has had it easy. You can often hear some people say: “Lewis Hamilton is the luckiest driver to ever grace the face of the sport” or “He’s not that great, it’s all in the car”.
However, when I think about Lewis’s career, a lot of heartbreaking moments keep reminding me not to take any of his achievements for granted. Among them, three instantly come to my mind: the Chinese Grand Prix 2007, the Singapore Grand Prix 2012 and the Malaysian Grand Prix 2016.
I’ve always loved sports, all kinds of sports, however F1 was never one of them. Before you even ask, yes, I’m still ashamed of myself for having thought that! Back in 2007, I had absolutely no idea what the sport was about, apart from going vroom vroom in high tech cars. Yet, I did hear about some wonderkid who was giving his illustrious predecessors and fellow competitors a run for their money. I was intrigued, so I started following. As I said, I wasn’t really into the sport at the time, but I just wanted to witness a history making moment… I wanted to see if this rookie could do the unthinkable and win a world championship in his very first season, against such formidable opponents.
I wasn’t watching the races, but I followed the results closely. The kid was doing great. Arriving at the Chinese GP, he was leading the championship with 107 points, 17 points ahead of third-placed Kimi Raikkonen and 12 points ahead of his teammate, the double-world champion Fernando Alonso. How promising it looked! Only two races left and Lewis was leading with 12 points ahead of his closest competitor, with only 20 points on the cart. Only a catastrophe could take away the title from him. Everything looked to be under control, Lewis was going to do it! Just following the results wasn’t enough anymore, I needed to watch it live, with my own eyes! So I settled behind my telly and waited for that epic moment to happen… Unfortunately, a tyre strategy took away his championship title hopes! The sight of Lewis stuck in the gravel keeps breaking my heart to this date! I then decided F1 wasn’t a sport for me… Until his championship title win a year later. Yet again, I went through other tough moments. I can’t chase away that image of Lewis standing next to his car at Singapore, realising he won’t be able to fight to the end. Or the sound of him screaming “Oh no! No!” at Sepang, with his engine on fire.
As Lewis often says, the lows help us appreciate the highs better. But one has to wonder: what if he hadn’t landed in the gravel in China? What if his car didn’t let him down at Singapore? What if that engine hadn’t blown in Sepang? Surely, he would have had more championships to his name. I consider him very unlucky in that regard.
To be fair, there really is no luck in F1. Or, to put it differently, luck is hard work and dedication meeting opportunities. It takes a lot to win a championship, let alone multiple championships. Obviously you need a great car, since we’re talking about motorsport, but that is just one of the ingredients. It also requires, among other things, a lot of talent, a strong mentality, a great team, great management, smart career choices, but most importantly – hard work; consistently delivering week in week out, no matter the amount of pressure, no matter how good the competition is.
So, is Lewis Hamilton the luckiest driver of the modern era like some say here and there? I can only reply with this: luck favors the brave.
Sarah, now a big Formula 1 fan, says “Lewis Hamilton was the teaser and Mercedes the key element that dragged me into loving the sport wholeheartedly”. Be sure to follow Sarah on Twitter @sidneylandsam!
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