When will Lewis put it all on red?
Who will remember the scrappy race for a P9 finish that confirmed Lewis Hamilton as 2017 world champion? Probably not too many F1 Racing readers, I’d venture – unless they’re ardent fans of dominant race winner Max Verstappen of course.
It was a flaccid title conclusion to a season that has been positively thrilling for two thirds of its duration – that is until lap 4 of the Japanese Grand Prix, when a spark-plug failure on Sebastian Vettel’s SF70H ushered him into retirement and simultaneously banished his title hopes to the realms of ‘mathematical possibility’.
What a reversal! Vettel had led the drivers’ world championship for 12 uninterrupted rounds, from Melbourne to Spa. But since the summer break and Hamilton’s win in Belgium, he and Mercedes have been dominant, winning five from six, with P2 in Malaysia and only that one slip-up in Mexico.
As the most successful Brit by any statistical measure, he is worthy of the admiration of every fan.
No question, then, that the right man won – and F1 Racing will be celebrating Hamilton’s stunning achievements in full next month. As the most successful Brit by any statistical measure, and surely one of the fastest men ever to have driven an F1 car, he is worthy of the admiration of every fan.
Yet Lewis’s claim to greatness would be further enhanced if he did one thing: race for Ferrari. Indeed, I’d go further, he must drive for Ferrari to establish himself as an immortal, for in embracing the Scuderia he would embrace the possibility of failure and imperfection. These qualities may be anathema to the titans who’ve marched through F1 over the years, but they’re intrinsic to the magic of the scarlet team and essential to understanding why ‘The Reds’ and their drivers are so revered: they appeal to our souls as much as to our heads.
Nigel Mansell, heroic though he always was for Williams, only became Il Leone at Ferrari. The Schumacher legend was written in red ink. Gilles Villeneuve: the Ferrari archetype. Senna, we know, had agreed to conclude his racing career in cars from Maranello. Imagine the power of a Hamilton-Ferrari combination, were he to make the switch.
By 2021, Vettel’s contract will have expired and Kimi Räikkönen will surely have retired – so an opportunity is likely to arise whereby Hamilton could join Ferrari as a five-, six- or even seven-time champion. It’s an enticing prospect, even if all these conversations are rendered moot by the emergence of Verstappen as The Man.
Enough romanticism already! Though, maybe not… We make no excuses for painting F1 Racing red this month, to celebrate Ferrari’s 70th year.
Long may they rule our hearts.