As Jenson Button dominates the headlines following his fourth consecutive win this season, Alex Walters defends Lewis Hamilton’s legacy and reassures us all that he will return to form…
Formula One World Champions are like Rome: spectacular when they’re finished, but rarely built in a day. Even the legendary Ayrton Senna, perhaps the greatest natural racing talent of all time, took 5 seasons and 77 races to win the first of his three crowns. Nigel Mansell, so long Britain’s favourite sporting son, took an astonishing 13 seasons and 176 races. And so Lewis Hamilton, who achieved the feat in merely his second season, has a fair bit of leeway to bag a Shufew more. You can bet on him grasping the opportunity with both hands.
Whilst hope is still alive, just, for a miraculous turnaround for him this season, Hamilton may have to settle for a disheartening year. The naysayers will already be circling around Hamilton, whose attitude has occasionally set him at odds with the press. Nobody doubts his talent, but some question his integrity. In reality, what a driver does outside of the car is utterly irrelevant. Mansell was a whining bore, Schumacher arrogant and aloof. Even Senna, the eternal gentleman, would brook no challenge to his style (as one memorable interview with Jackie Stewart will testify). It is what the driver does in the cockpit that counts – and Hamilton’s actions speak for themselves.
The true mark of a great racer is how they respond to adversity. Charges from the back of the grid, dangerous drives in the rain, completing a race whilst stuck in 5th gear (Michael Schumacher did it, coming 2nd, in 1994), these are all the signs of a legend, and they are feats that Hamilton is capable of. So what if Button’s taking the spotlight for a few months? Hamilton could be around for another 15 seasons, and we have a front row seat in the apotheosis of a genius. If the tragedy of Ayrton Senna taught us one thing, it is never to take that privilege for granted. Greatness, like life, is fleeting, and I for one will be savouring every moment of Hamilton’s.