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Poll And Verdict– Lewis Hamilton Gains More Ground… Investigation Reveals He May Have Won The Championship, FIA Inquiry Continues

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When it comes to statistics and records, Lewis Hamilton stands alone above the hundreds of drivers who have ever sat in the cockpit of a Formula 1 car.

Over recent years, the Mercedes driver has not just reached the dizzying heights achieved by Michael Schumacher – he has surpassed many of them.
A seven-times world champion, Hamilton is among the most well known names motorsport has ever had. Hamilton’s advocacy for social justice, outspoken promotion for more people of colour in motorsport and equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community has made him one of the most recognisable and influential figures in world sport.

 

 

On the track, with 103 pole positions, 103 grand prix victories and 182 podium appearances, Hamilton’s real world CV reads like it was achieved by a player in a computer game. Only the fastest lap record eludes him – one that will be prove difficult given that the modern era of no refueling and rapidly degrading tyres means fastest lap is often claimed by drivers who fit fresh rubber in the late stages of races.

But after equaling Schumacher in the most important statistic of all – world championships – Hamilton’s future is arguably at its most uncertain than any point through his 15-season Formula 1 career.

After losing the 2021 world drivers’ championship to Max Verstappen in deeply controversial circumstances during the final race of the season, Hamilton has been keeping a low profile as he contemplates his F1 future. While under contract for 2022, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that even he is unsure whether the team’s most successful ever driver will return to race for them during this upcoming season.

 

 

Even if Hamilton does indeed return to the grid in a quest for that eighth title, the dramatic overhaul of regulations means that there is no guarantee that the old order will be maintained in this all-new era of Formula 1. And with such a wealth of talent on the grid – include new champion Verstappen – the competition over the championship has arguably never been fiercer.

At the age of 37, having already achieved more than any other driver who has ever sat on a grand prix grid and very plausibly disillusioned over the sport he has dominated for so long, never have so many unknowns surrounded Hamilton’s career before. At the heart of this lies a key question – has Lewis Hamilton already won his final world championship crown?

All world championship reigns come to an end – even those that span multiple seasons. Success is no guarantee of future success – Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and the recently retired Kimi Raikkonen can attest to that.

 

 

While Verstappen may have taken the world title in contentious circumstances, they had nothing to do with the Red Bull driver himself. Toto Wolff crediting Verstappen as a “worthy champion” reflects how his talent and performances have become such a headache not just for Hamilton, but the entire Mercedes team. The road to yet another title for the most successful driver-team pairing in history may very well run through Max Verstappen and Red Bull again over the years to come.

There is also the remarkable level of young talent on the grid in the modern era, with Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz Jnr, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly all showing they have the skills to compete for victories and potentially championships if given the opportunity. And then there’s George Russell – Hamilton’s rapid new team mate at Mercedes – who may turn out to be quicker than Bottas often proved to be during their years together.

 

 

That is, of course, if Hamilton chooses to return to the sport at all. What happened in Abu Dhabi naturally stung Hamilton’s fierce competitive nature deeply. It’s hardly a surprise he is taking his time this off-season to ponder whether to continue in the sport after his year-long fight to win an eighth championship ended as it did last year.

Assuming that Hamilton does decide to continue racing in Formula 1, there’s little evidence to suggest the 37-year-old is beyond the peak of his powers.

Were it not for a highly unusual decision by race director Michael Masi to only allow the five lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen by the safety car at the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton would almost certainly already be an eight-time champion.

Verstappen may have demonstrated his incredible pace in recent years, but Hamilton has shown no signs of slowing down himself. He handed team mate Valtteri Bottas his heaviest defeat in their fifth and final season together. He managed to take wins against Verstappen last year even when Red Bull appeared to be faster, such as the opening race in Bahrain. His wheel-to-wheel racing abilities were shown off best during the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, where he put on a masterclass of overtaking on consecutive days to win against Verstappen.

 

 

Even if Mercedes begin the 2022 season on the back foot performance wise, the team has enough resources, expertise and experience to make it likely only a temporary dip at worst. Even if the title or even race wins elude Hamilton and his team this year, it’s almost certain Mercedes will happily continue to offer him a seat in their car for as long as he wants one. Ruling out another successful campaign over the next few years seems unwise.

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