Lewis Hamilton won the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, bringing his total Formula 1 victories to 100. After surpassing Michael Schumacher’s record in 2020, Hamilton becomes the first-ever F1 driver to achieve 100 Grand Prix victories. The seven-time world champion is aiming for a historic eighth title as he continues to break records and achieve unprecedented milestones.
Since Hamilton announced his contract extension for the 2021 season, and even more after his last two-year contract with Mercedes, there has been a sense of inevitability in the Formula 1 world. Hamilton fan or not, that sense of inevitability shouldn’t cloud the sight of an incredible feat.
Hamilton entered F1 in 2007 with a lot of expectations on his shoulders. And to some extent, the McLaren driver of the day delivered right away. He reached the podium in Australia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Spain and Monaco before winning the Canadian and United States Grand Prix. Ten races must have passed before Hamilton managed to reach the podium in a Grand Prix.
Even in today’s era, where young drivers have the upper hand, a driver still needs time to adjust to the top level of F1. A remarkable start for Hamilton, who managed to show off his skills at the top of motorsport from day one. A good harbinger of what was to come, but we didn’t know how far he would raise the bar over the next decade and beyond.
When Schumacher did his best in the 90s and 2000s, no one could believe him. And the general consensus at the time was that no one would ever come close to what the German pilot achieved. But in the relatively short period of time that has passed since then, Hamilton has taken another step forward. Despite the sudden explosion of success early in his career and Hamilton’s demonstration of skill, 100 wins were never even questioned. An incredible and unexpected achievement that should not be underestimated by the recent sense of inevitability.
Is Hamilton the greatest driver of all time?
Statistically, yes. Hamilton is without a doubt the greatest driver in the history of the sport if you look at the statistics. Hamilton is tied for most championship wins, has the most wins, has the most pole positions and has the most podiums. No one can dispute that. But the old adage “statistics never lie” is not true in Formula 1.
It’s almost impossible to compare drivers from different eras, given the huge difference between tracks, cars and technology. Today the rules and regulations are also in force, the sport currently has a record 23 Grands Prix per season, and 25 points available for the winner, plus the possibility of an extra point for the fastest lap. It certainly has not always been so. The seasons were good for 15 races and there was a very different and smaller point system.
Even comparing pilots from the same era is almost impossible. Often forgotten, F1 is a team sport and some of the strongest drivers cannot be found among the strongest teams at the peak of their careers. Again, no one can claim that Hamilton has driven the most powerful car since the introduction of the hybrid era.
But for those who want to enter the debate, it becomes increasingly difficult to argue against those who put Hamilton in first place. The 2021 battle with Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen adds even more fuel to this debate. The Dutchman puts Hamilton to the test and the Red Bull car is the strongest on specific circuits. Hamilton could have another big boost in winning this battle, and another if he wins a title in a third era after 2022.
It is a great success for a driver to take the start of 100 Grands Prix. Only around 10% of F1 drivers have succeeded in doing so. Winning 100 races is crazy. Hamilton’s legacy is sealed no matter what over the next three seasons. Over the past few years, Hamilton has shown that he is positively using this heritage to solve other issues not just in sport, but around the world. Sustainability, diversity and inclusiveness to name just three. The Hamilton committee is a very important part of that.
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