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The classic road to Formula 1 via karting, Formula Renault, Formula 3 and Formula 2, was taken by the now seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton. The young Brit appeared at the start of the first Grand Prix in 2007 and would shake the grid from that moment on. In 2020, Hamilton statistically became the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time. He equalled Michael Schumacher's World Championship record and surpassed his Grand Prix victories tally.
|Team||Mercedes AMG F1|
The road to dominance
From the very first moment that Hamilton took control of a race car, the British driver raked in successes. His victories in the European Formula 3 series and his immediate title win with ART in his first Formula 2 season saw him qualify for a spot at McLaren in F1.
One year later, he was a major hit and from that moment on the Brit went through life as youngest world champion ever. A record that would only stand for a few years until Sebastian Vettel showed his ability in the Red Bull.
One point short for the title in 2007, but taking the title in 2008, Lewis Hamilton had a taste for the championship. But he was left frustrated for a year in the king's league. McLaren was unable to continue the strong development of the MP4-23 and did not get significant results. Hamilton didn't get any further than P5 that season, but change was on its way.
With a change of teammate next to him at McLaren, the now experienced Jenson Button came alongside Hamilton in 2010. The British racer had won the title the year before with Brawn GP, which was later renamed, Mercedes. That renaming also meant the return of Michael Schumacher in the king's class, but the departure of Button to McLaren.
Although McLaren seemed to have found the right form again, Red Bull dominated Formula 1 for four years, starting from 2010. Lewis Hamilton could not change that and took a huge risk. The British racer would move to the Mercedes factory team after the 2012 season. A race stable that was far from performing well at the time. Unlike his former rival (and teammate) Fernando Alonso, Hamilton’s decision would turn out to be the right choice.
Aboard the dominance
In the Mercedes factory team, the development of the car goes just as fast as the car itself. In the first season with the German team, Lewis Hamilton even managed to grab several podiums and a victory. He won the Hungarian Grand Prix and that was the start of a long, dominant period with Mercedes.
In 2014 and 2015, Lewis Hamilton trumped his teammate Nico Rosberg and took titles number two and three, putting Lewis on par with the legendary Ayrton Senna in terms of the number of titles won. The relationship within the team is clearly not getting any better and reaches its boiling point in 2016. That same year Nico Rosberg finally manages to win the championship. The German announced his retirement from Formula 1.
An unexpected decision, also for Mercedes, which makes it necessary to look for a replacement in a hurry. This is found in the form of Williams driver Valtteri Bottas. From the 2017 season, the Finn can be found next to Lewis Hamilton, albeit as an obvious second driver.
Lewis Hamilton again wins the title in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Competition only comes in the form of Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, not from the other Mercedes.
In 2019 Bottas had renewed optimism. However, the revival of the Finn turns out to be short-lived, as Hamilton soon finds his old form and wins race after race. Halfway through the season Mercedes loses the dominant position at the start of the year, but that doesn't stop Hamilton from taking his sixth title.
2020, a busy year for Hamilton
In 2020, the British driver statistically became the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time. The now 36-year-old equalled Schumacher's F1 career win record after victory in October's Eifel Grand Prix. He went on to achieve his 92nd victory in the Portuguese Grand Prix later that month. Hamilton is closing in on his 100th pole position, and also has the record for the number of podiums in F1.
The Mercedes driver battled COVID-19 in the final weeks of the season and was therefore forced to miss his first Grand Prix since making his debut in March 2007.
As well as winning a seventh world championship and taking Michael Schumacher's F1 career win record in 2020, Hamilton has played a key role in the Black Lives Matter movement and is fighting for further equality and diversity within Formula 1 and around the world.
If Hamilton goes on to win the 2021 F1 World Championship, he will be in a class of his own on eight world titles. The rules and regulations remain relatively the same and we can therefore expect the performance order to be similar.
Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen will continue to try and close the gap to Mercedes, but usually, the German team find an extra step themselves.
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