Lewis Hamilton is certainly on his way to achieving Formula 1 greatness, and the 2020 season can be a significant steppingstone towards that.
When the British driver came onto the F1 scene in 2007, few could have predicted that he’ll one day be a six-time champion. In his debut year, he gave McLaren-Mercedes team mate, Fernando Alonso, a genuine run for his money, and both drivers ended the year on 109 points – one point behind 2007 champion, Kimi Raikkonen (driving for Ferrari).
In 2008, Hamilton sealed the championship at the Brazilian GP after overtaking Toyota’s Timo Glock for fifth place - the position needed to beat Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. In the following seasons, McLaren-Mercedes dropped down the pecking order, forcing Hamilton to join the Mercedes works team in 2013. (Mercedes split from McLaren and bought Brawn GP in 2010, forming their own F1 team.)
In 2014 Hamilton won his second title with his new team and has been on a title-winning assault since.
Gunning for Schumacher’s mystique
When Michael Schumacher retired at the end of 2006, after his first stint in the sport, the F1 world thought it would be decades before someone will surpass his record seven F1 championships. Then came Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing, who won four double championships on the trot between 2010 and 2013. It was expected that Vettel could surpass his great fellow countryman, but that was not to be.
In 2014, when Hamilton and Mercedes began picking up momentum, the picture suddenly changed. Bar 2016, Hamilton has won every driver’s championship since 2014 and brought his total tally of titles to six. One short of Schumacher’s seven.
In 2020 the Mercedes driver will have the chance to equal Schumacher’s title record, but will also equal – or better – the German driver’s total number of GP victories. Throughout his career, Schumacher won an astonishing 91 F1 races – seven short of Hamilton’s 84. Given Hamilton’s rich vein of form and that the new season consists of 22 races, the Britain might become the most successful driver in F1 history in terms of race wins.
We might even see Hamilton become the first driver to surpass 100 race wins!
What the future holds
What we definitely know about the future, is that it is extremely unpredictable. We may expect Hamilton to break every conceivable record in F1, but his success might be halted by the emergence of F1’s young talent. I.e., Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen. It would be unwise to disregard Hamilton in this year’s championship battle, but the only certainty is that we are not entirely sure of anything.
Furthermore, Hamilton could even decide to ditch Mercedes and opt for a seat alongside Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, come 2021. Merc and Hamilton might be in advanced talks for a new contract when the current one expires at the end of this year, but nothing is set in stone yet.
Should it come down to it that Hamilton should join Ferrari, he will only further cement his legacy in the sport. He might even become the driver to bring success to the Scuderia; the first time since 2008. Ferrari has been enjoying a dry spell for the last 12 years, and Hamilton, with his vast experience and race craft, might be the one to break it. In that regard, he’d be doing what Schumacher did in the late ‘90s: ditching a then-successful Benetton for a flailing Ferrari and restoring the latter to its former glory.
Hamilton will be faced with tough challenges and decisions in the coming months. Whichever way he decides to go, he will definitely be remembered as one of the greatest F1 drivers, ever.