Lewis Hamilton is traditionally less-than-bothered about statistics. He lacks Sebastian Vettel’s deep knowledge of Formula 1 history, and admits to having poor memory. Hamilton often says he can barely remember his most recent race, let alone recall the precise details of seasons past.
The way Lewis absolutely lives ‘in the moment’ is a key part of his enduring success, as this Michael Schumacher-esque run of dominance continues. It feels as though F1 is reliving the early years of the new millennium: records being relentlessly smashed while the opposition flounders.
But those post-Mika Häkkinen years were tedious for fans who longed to see Schumacher tested to extremis. When a worthy successor finally came along – in the form of Fernando Alonso and Renault – F1 became more interesting again.
With the likes of Vettel, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc all racing against Lewis on the current grid, Hamilton should be finding things tougher. But Vettel – who has been magnanimous as the defeats have piled up – has unfortunately been found wanting in Ferraris that have been less than perfect, while Leclerc is still finding his feet and Verstappen’s Red Bull-Honda is a tool still too blunt to consistently cut through the silver.
The fact Hamilton says he imagines chasing a “ghost” while striving to go faster – like he is playing an F1 version of Gran Turismo – says all you need to know about the only other driver with identical equipment to Lewis. To his credit, though, Valtteri Bottas is improving.
Meanwhile, Hamilton marches relentlessly on and we are left to talk about numbers and legacy rather than how he’s prevailed in epic, down-to-the-wire title battles against the best drivers in the world. Hamilton has of course won two final-race showdowns, as Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg well know, but that’s not quite the same as saying you saw off Michael Schumacher at his peak…
I don’t mean to do Hamilton a disservice. He is clearly a special driver who works extremely hard to succeed (off-track as well as on it; seepage 34). Anyone who claims Lewis has it easy, and is effectively winning a two-car championship, need only look back to 2013 when Mark Webber failed to win a race in the best car.
The true greats make it look simple, but there's something greater about seeing them tested to their limits and winning anyway. Lewis was unbelievable during the run-ins of 2017 and 2018, but a lack of consistent opposition has made life easier this year.
Hopefully F1’s 2021 rules revolution (page 16) will create the conditions needed to broaden the scope of battle at the front. Then, if Lewis truly wants what by then could well be title number eight, he will need to rise even higher than he already has. No one would enjoy that challenge more than him.