Lewis Hamilton entered Formula 1 as a fresh-faced 22-year-old and now, 11 years later, he is about to embark on a legacy defining drive in Austin, Texas.
In his debut season, Hamilton set and tied several records. They included Most Wins in First Championship Season (4 – tied with Jacques Villeneuve, who accomplished the feat in 1996), Most Pole Positions in a Debut Season (6), and Most Consecutive Podium Finishes from Debut (9).
Since then, Hamilton has won a World Championship with both McLaren and Mercedes and is on the verge of becoming a five-time champion tied with Juan Manuel Fangio, and only two behind Michael Schumacher.
With what seems to be an insurmountable lead in the title race, it is only a matter of time before Hamilton is crowned a five-time World Champion, but it could all be done and dusted this Sunday in Austin, Texas.
During practice sessions, Hamilton’s closest title challenge, Sebastian Vettel, was given a three-place grid penalty for disobeying rules and not slowing down quickly enough after the session was red flagged – effectively being called off.
If Hamilton wins on Sunday, Vettel needs to finish second for the title challenge to continue.
Hamilton could retire after this season and his legacy would be cemented. However, with Mercedes still leading the field and new regulations being proposed for 2021, there is the chance Hamilton could reach six or even seven world titles.
Hamilton is a driver that comes along once in an era. He’s the Schumacher of my era as I was too young to fully understand the greatness Schumacher possessed in his prime.
People will comment Hamilton has had the fastest car and the technology has made Formula 1 cars easier to drive, but when you’re doing speeds in excess of 150 mph for over 40 laps there is a mental toughness which comes with the sport.
This is all hypothetical and we just never know in sport. In a few months’ time, I could be writing about how Vettel managed to secure his fifth world title away after a remarkable comeback in the title race, but I’d be more than happy to bet all my prized possessions on Hamilton securing the title this year.
Hamilton will go down in history as one of the greatest drivers ever. The only thing left to find out is if he will be one of the greatest or the greatest. That is a question that can only be answered after Hamilton retires. If his hunger and passion for the sport does not subside then there’ll be a long time to wait before it is answered.