Column | Has the 2021 season proved Hamilton is still in his prime?

13-12-2021 12:00
Column
Column | Has the 2021 season proved Hamilton is still in his prime?

Lewis Hamilton's incredible efforts for the 2021 season have allowed him to come close to clinching his eighth world title, a record matched by none in this sport. Beaten to it by a last-lap dive from Verstappen, he missed out on the plaudits this year. With yet another year of incredible performance as proof, we can truly see that he has reached his prime in Formula One.

Questions of retirement 

Difficult times faced the seven-time world champion, as it was only at the beginning of this year he was genuinely out of a drive. With contract talks consistently delayed due to Covid-19, as well as focusing on the seventh championship, neither he nor team principal Toto Wolff could table a discussion for the contracts in the coming season. As such, some rumours did the rounds, saying that talks had stalled, with Hamilton even considering walking away from this sport. Then, it was announced before the season started, that the Briton would extend his tenure at the German marque for another two years. A wise decision for both parties in order to continue the dominant run in the turbo-hybrid era.

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a temporary shutdown of the sport, with each of the drivers finding unique ways to rest and recoup from their previous hectic seasons. It turns out that with this rest, the Briton was able to find clarity and a future passion to fuel his desire to remain in the sport. Thus, he brought a newfound energy and determination, which he continues to utilise to this day.

Outshining an underperforming car

From the get-go in preseason testing, the Mercedes W12 seemed to be not only off the pace from leaders Red Bull but also struggling with a nervous rear end. Uncharacteristic spins from both Mercedes drivers curtailed some of their sessions, as it was evident that work had to be done. While potential patches may have come through the season to settle the issue, Hamilton would’ve likely had to adapt to the uncomfortable system to maximise his chances in the season.

While this season he did suffer from uncharacteristic mistakes during the season (brake lock in final laps of Azerbaijan GP and his pitlane collision in the Russian GP), we did see an all too familiar sight. Once in the lead for races at Qatar and Portugal, Hamilton was difficult to catch and pass by the charging Dutchman, Max Verstappen. He was also able to adjust to his rival’s level of pressure, as SkySports commentator Martin Brundle noted: “ I think Lewis has toughened his game up”. Growing accustomed to and accepting the challenges, the Briton has pushed through the difficulty to reach new levels.

Experienced & youthful

Holding 7 championships in 13 years is an incredible record for any sportsperson. Yet, F1 is different in its constitution and structure. Rapid changes in technical/sporting regulation, team structures and even the car itself from race to race mean that a driver needs to be cognizant of even the minuscule adjustments each week. To sustain such performances under such an environment displays the mental fortitude that a successful driver must have in order to succeed in the world’s fastest sport.

With an incredible bank of experience as well as a body fresh enough for the fight, Hamilton feels the energy and desire to continue fighting in the sport. While he states that he “honestly hope I’m not racing at 40”, he still has passions outside of racing which he strongly enjoys.

His achievements

With seven world championships to his name, he is equal to Micheal Schumacher with the most of any driver in F1 history. With his wins and poles pushing beyond previously held records, he now stands (statistically [barring the world championship measurement]) as the greatest driver of all time. Narrowly missing out on the eighth crown means that he is yet to break the significant metrics of greatness in motorsport. With the new regulations in the following season being targeted by the Mercedes team throughout the 2021 season, as well as the evolving Hamilton, both would be eyeing a continuation of their success into the future of F1 and collecting that highly desired award.

Onwards and upwards for the valiant veteran of Formula One.

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