Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Lewis Hamilton – Britain’s Greatest ever sportsman?

The curtain has closed on the Austin Grand Prix, as it has the Formula One world championship race, as Lewis Hamilton claims his sixth title – putting him second on the all-time list. Now one of the all-time greats in his own sport, is it now time we put Hamilton in the conversation for the greatest British sportsman of all time?

It’s been a topsy-turvy season for the Brit, beginning back in Winter testing when he claimed the Ferrari’s were “half a second faster” than his own Mercedes. It’s not a whole lot in real terms, but in F1, half a second is something of a gaping chasm. Despite that, Lewis qualified on pole for the opening race back in Melbourne, but eventually lost the race to the other silver arrow, piloted by one Valtteri Bottas – who very quickly became the obvious pest for Lewis to fend off in 2019.

Lewis Hamilton 6-time Champion

The Fin started the season in fine form, topping the drivers championship after a few races. However, as Bottas started to fade, Lewis went the opposite way, winning four straight races – a spell which put the boy from Stevenage in a great position to win that sixth world championship.

The second half of the season was tougher for Lewis, with his last pole position coming way back in July at Hockenheim, Germany. Despite that, Hamilton found a way to keep winning races and getting on podiums, so much so that the title was something of a foregone conclusion four races before the end of the season. In the end, it came down to Austin, the third to last race of the year, where it would have taken a small miracle for the Brit not to win the title.

It really is testament to the character of the man that on a day where he needed only finish eighth, he pushed the car and his tires to their absolute limits in a bid to win the GP. Ultimately, that didn’t happen, but who cares? He’s the champion of the world once more. There’s now two races left, but they’ll be something of a procession with both the constructors championship and drivers championship having already been settled. Here’s the highlights for anyone who may have missed the race yesterday:

As I mentioned above, this title puts Lewis second on the all-time list, surpassing the late, great, Juan Manuel Fangio and moving just one title behind the legendary Michael Schumacher. To even be mentioned in the same breath as those two is enough to make your knees weak, but Lewis has every chance to go and break the record – even if he says never been a target for him.

“I have always said reaching Michael’s was never a target for me. I am not really one to think of records and those kinds of things. I definitely thought getting anywhere near Michael was so far fetched. It was so far away and now it seems so close – and yet it is so far away I still can’t comprehend it.

“I believe I have the ability to continue to grow and to do more with this team and within F1. That would be the target but time will tell. Right now, I am just focused on trying to be as fit and healthy as I can be, smile as much as I can and enjoy this beautiful journey they call life.”

With all of this in mind, is it now time we start putting Lewis Hamilton in the conversation for greatest British sportsman of all time? I certainly think so. I, personally, can’t think of any other British sportsman for a long time who has had such unparalleled levels of individual success. Maybe Phil The Power Taylor? Mo Farah? Nick Faldo? Sir Alex Ferguson? All worthy inclusions but for me, this sixth world championship edges Hamilton ahead of the lot.

With double the amount of world championships the legendary Jackie Stewart picked up throughout his career (3), it’s about time we started respecting the monumental achievements of this man. As far as I’m concerned, if Sir Alastair Cook and Sir Andy Murray have done enough to earn a knighthood, I’m absolutely dead-sure Lewis Hamilton should be able to expect one in the new years’ honours list.

For me, there is no greater achievement in sports than to gain the respect of your peers, here’s what Hamilton’s have had to say about his achievements.

Sebastian Vettel: “Now is the time to write as many good things as you can. If someone wins the title six times, then he deserves all of it. That’s what I told him as well. I am happy for him. I am not happy we were not in contention, but you need to respect what he achieved the last years and this year together with his team, how strong they’ve been.”

Charles Leclerc: “Only one title is already a huge achievement. To win six is just incredible. He deserves it. He has done an incredible season. I grew up watching him on the TV and just huge congratulations to him.”

Daniel Ricciardo: “It’s impressive, of course. As a fellow racer all you can do is really respect what he’s done. They’ll always be people saying great car, great team, all of that – and yes, maybe. But to hold that level week in, week out… there’s so much more involved in this sport than just driving. There’s the circus. And for him to hold that level for all these years, at the top of the circus, you can only respect that. Six titles, not many at all have done that so I tip my hat to him.”

Valtteri Bottas: “Obviously big congrats to him. I personally failed with my target this year, but he deserved it this year. He had some season.”

Pierre Gasly: “For me he’s a legend in Formula 1, one of the best if not the best-ever in the sport. For me, he’s proved it once more. I think it’s not the last time he’s going to win, so yeah it’s really impressive what he’s achieved in Formula 1.”

Lando Norris: “I’m happy for him – I don’t know what it feels like winning one world championship! I congratulated him after the race. He’s the second ever driver in history to get to six world championships and I’m sure he’s going to go on to win more. I’m very happy, he’s done an awesome job and he’s beaten his team-mate in every single F1 season bar two. So he’s pretty handy! Congrats to him.”

George Russell: “Obviously incredible. Amazing driver who puts a huge amount of effort in. Obviously he’s had an amazing car beneath him to achieve this over the last number of years but he’s still got to do the job week in, week out, and he’s definitely delivering.”

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