The 2020 Turkish Grand Prix concluded with a scene we’ve seen in Formula 1 numerous times in these past seasons – Lewis Hamilton taking the chequered flag as the winner of a Grand Prix. But this was no ordinary race victory, it was a race victory for the record books, as Hamilton claimed the 2020 Formula 1 World Championship and equalised Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven world titles.
We will all remember this moment as the coronation of a champion and sporting history being written. As the sporting world erupted, a visibly teary Hamilton declared, “We dreamed of this when I was young, when we were watching the Grands Prix and this is way, way beyond our dreams…”
HAMILTON 7 F1 TITLES – A DREAM COME TRUE
It almost feels like Hamilton’s entire tryst with Formula 1 has been nothing less than a dream. Hamilton came from humble beginnings in Stevenage – a world far removed from the glitzy world of Formula 1. Unlike most Formula 1 drivers, he didn’t have a racer dad, a famous surname or rich parents. A chance encounter with former McLaren supremo Ron Dennis at the age of 13 paved the way forward, and clichéd as it sounds, the rest is literally history.
When Michael Schumacher retired, most expected his record to stand tall for many decades, if not forever. But Hamilton took the sport by storm, picking away at one glorious Schumacher record after another: maximum pole positions (2017), maximum race wins (2019), and now, the holiest record of them all – maximum world championships, a record he shares with the German.
THE MAKING OF A CHAMPION
This brings us to the question that the world of Formula 1 will continue to discuss for countless years to come, what makes Hamilton the invincible racer that he is? Of course, the starting point is unbelievable amounts of talent. As an outsider, there’s really no way to enter the sport apart from being exceptionally quick. This talent was on show at the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix, for example, when Hamilton claimed victory after starting in sixth place in what was probably his best championship-winning race ever. For once, his Mercedes racing car wasn’t the class of the field and victory was achieved after digging deep into his talent and experience.
The beauty of Hamilton’s talent is that it is not an erratic flash in the pan, he is able to deliver results with mind blowing perfection and consistency. In a sport marked by variations and vacillations, the predictability of Hamilton’s success is special. As Mercedes Technical Director James Allison, said on the At The Controls Podcast, “… he has been at the extraordinary level of perfection for year after year after year. We know if our car isn’t quick enough, it’s not because he is having an off day. He doesn’t have off days, it’s because we screwed up.”
This has contributed to his longevity, which is a critical factor in creating all-time records such as this one. Testament to this is the fact that he is the only driver to have won a race in every Formula 1 season he’s competed in (a total of 14 seasons since 2007). The 2020 Turkish Grand Prix marks a record 47th consecutive race where he’s scored points, and has now scored points in 80 of the last 81 Grands Prix. In the current landscape of F1, no driver can strive for records without a race-winning car at their disposal. Hamilton’s partnership with the Mercedes team has been extraordinary in this regard. Allison explained that, “Lewis is properly integrated in this team the same way Michael was in his Ferrari days.”
A look into the mind of Hamilton, the champion is incomplete without acknowledging his steely determination, overpowering sense of purpose and ability to ‘win mentally’ irrespective of the actual racing circumstances. To quote Hamilton as he reflected on his seven world titles, “I know often I say ‘it’s beyond my wildest dreams’ but I think my whole life, secretly, I probably have dreamt as high as this, you know, but it felt so far-fetched.” As they say, luck favours the bold, and Hamilton has also had his fair share of good fortune over these years. There is no better example than the 2020 British Grand Prix, where he managed to win with only three wheels on his car.