2019 saw Lewis Hamilton inch ever closer to the astounding seven world titles earned by Michael Schumacher. It’s not hard to imagine 2020 will see the Brit match the record and clinch championships across three decades.
In 2018, Hamilton matched the five championships Fangio recorded, an outstanding accomplishment. His 2019 triumph means he is outright in second place, with Schumacher’s record the final step to ascend.
It seems almost unfair that Schumacher’s record-breaking championships and race wins are now the barometers for Hamilton’s success. The German’s prolific career was judged insurmountable by many fans after his (first) retirement in 2006. That we mention Hamilton alongside the Schumacher records is an achievement in itself.
If, as many expect, Hamilton does make it to seven titles in 2020 (or beyond), his sixth title in 2019 may get overlooked as just another championship won in superior machinery, against challengers who couldn’t consistently compete. It’s an overly simplistic view, but it’s not entirely wrong.
However, any world championship won is a monumental achievement, especially in a 21-race season. So instead of comparing Hamilton to Schumacher or any other great, let’s rank his titles against each other instead.
6th — 2015 season
Points — 381 (59 ahead of 2nd place Rosberg with 322)
Race wins — 10 (53% of 19 races)
Podiums — 17 (89%)
Pole Positions — 11 (58%)
The entire turbo-hybrid era appears to indicate Mercedes being on top for the duration. It’s not as clear when looking closer. Ferrari arguably had the better car at multiple points since 2017. But 2014 to 2016 was a completely different story. From Q1 at Melbourne this season, it was clear there wasn’t going to be any match for the Silver Arrows. Disappointing as it was for a fan, it was hard not to be impressed by the supremacy of the team.
The title fight was over by the end of the Austin Grand Prix, with three races left on the calendar. The ten victories and eleven poles Hamilton accumulated on his way to the title were all in the 16 Grands Prix, where the championship battle was still alive. Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel won three races each during this time; a combined effort that was still way off the record of Hamilton. With the title wrapped up, Lewis took his foot off the gas, almost literally. No wins nor poles from then on out.
It was the drive of a champion up until he secured his crown. The rise of Rosberg took the form of victory in the final three races of the season, giving him momentum to seize the first four race wins of 2016 too. Hamilton won the 2015 title at a canter, but he might’ve inadvertently lost 2016 in his celebration races at the end.
5th place — 2019 season
Points — 413 (87 ahead of 2nd place Bottas with 326)
Race wins — 11 (52% of 21 races)
Podiums — 17 (81%)
Pole Positions — 5 (24%)
Valtteri Bottas may have been his closest rival through the 2019 season, but in all honesty, there was no opposition throughout the year. By the midseason break, Hamilton had eight wins, and the brief Ferrari resurgence did nothing to prevent the inevitable.
You can only beat what’s in front of you. Hamilton’s racing was as consistent as it has ever been throughout 2019. His usual impeccable qualifying record did take a downturn this season though. It was the only season, aside from 2014, in the turbo-hybrid era when Hamilton didn’t take at least half of the pole positions over the year.
4th place — 2018 season
Points — 408 (88 ahead of 2nd place Vettel with 320)
Race wins — 11 (52% of 21 races)
Podiums — 17 (81%)
Pole Positions — 11 (52%)
The winning margin of the 2018 season is the greatest Hamilton has enjoyed so far, and mainly a result of his consistent driving in the second half of the season. Bottas had no wins this year, leaving Hamilton to battle Vettel with effectively no rear guard. By the chequered flag at Belgium, it was five wins apiece for the two title contenders.
From then on out, it was Hamilton in near-constant “Hammertime” mode until Abu Dhabi. He won six of the remaining eight races; five of these from pole position. During the same period, Vettel managed zero of each. It was a decimating victory by Hamilton. He showed what he would do when anyone was audacious enough to dare to challenge his throne.
3rd place — 2017 season
Points — 363 (46 ahead of 2nd place Vettel with 317)
Race wins — 9 (45% of 20 races)
Podiums — 13 (65%)
Pole Positions — 11 (55%)
This season was the first of the Vettel vs. Hamilton head-to-heads. It speaks volumes about Hamilton’s ascendence when we realize that only three seasons ago, Vettel had more titles than him. After finishing runner-up to the now-retired Rosberg, as a result of his Malaysian engine failure, Hamilton was now the undisputed number one at Mercedes. The team was now his to lead.
Vettel led the championship for the first half of the season with both champions matching each other for wins by the midseason break. Just as it would be in 2018, Hamilton took it all in the second half. Ferrari did have that incident in Singapore, which some say was the nail in the coffin. But Hamilton did turn on the afterburners too. It was just as much his triumph as it was Ferrari’s capitulation.
2nd place — 2008 season
Points — 98 (1 ahead of 2nd place Massa with 97)
Race wins — 5 (28% of 18 races)
Podiums — 10 (56%)
Pole Positions — 8 (55%)
After the heartbreak of 2007 and losing out on the opportunity to become a rookie champion, Hamilton quickly showed it wasn’t just a fast car that propelled him so high in the championship. Gone was Fernando Alonso, and McLaren had two drivers just exiting their first F1 seasons. Ferrari had the better car, and Felipe Massa had the better teammate. There were seven race winners throughout the year. It may have ended up a Massa vs. Hamilton showdown, but it was a full four-way fight with Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen until halfway.
2008 was a real unpredictable scrap for the crown, in particular throughout the closing rounds. Massa was gifted a victory at Spa from steward penalties, despite finishing 15 seconds behind Hamilton on track. The Brazilian was leading the Singapore Grand Prix before the bizarre fuel hose incident resulted in no points. The nailbiting final race had Hamilton hold his nerve in the changing conditions to snatch the title away from Massa on the final corner of the last lap. If it weren’t for this title, many could consider Hamilton only capable of winning in a dominant car. It may be his least dominant championship, but it was his most challenging.
1st place — 2014 season
Points — 384 (67 ahead of 2nd place Rosberg with 326)
Race wins — 11 (58% of 19 races)
Podiums — 16 (84%)
Pole Positions — 7 (37%)
The points do flatter Hamilton more than they should for 2014. Not that the championship was undeserved, but this was the season of “double-points”; where the final race was seemingly twice as important as the preceding eighteen to “heighten the spectacle”. It was a terrible idea in theory and even more so in practice with Hamilton getting a whopping 50 points to Rosberg’s zero in the finale.
But Hamilton’s half-decade wait to have his name on the champion’s trophy was won in style. He had to overcome more reliability issues than his teammate. A pit-lane start in Hungary from which he fought to finish ahead of Rosberg in the race was a particular highlight. He may have been out-qualified by his German rival over the season, but his Sunday performances were immense. Hamilton was on the podium in every race his car finished. He won four of the first five races and six of the final seven to triumphantly lift the title.
Originally published at https://www.fortloc.com where you can find more motoring news and reviews.