Cape Town – Already 34-years-old and with five World Championships to his name, is there anything left for Lewis Hamilton to accomplish in Formula 1?
We think quite a lot actually, even though it feels like the guy has been around forever.
He came to Formula One in 2007, joining McLaren after winning the 2006 GP2 Championship – though in unusual circumstances – claiming the final point he needed after Giorgio Pantano was stripped of the fastest lap in the Monza feature race.
2007 almost brought him a debut Formula One World Championship, but his slide into the Chinese GP’s pitlane gravel trap proved disastrous, with Hamilton’s 7th place finish in Brazil, allowing Kimi Raikkonen to win the title by a point.
The drama would return to South America a year later, as Felipe Massa thought he was top-dog after winning the Brazilian GP, with Hamilton not running in a crucial top-five position.
But we all remember that famous overtake on Timo Glock in the final corner, promoting Hamilton to 5th and making him the youngest ever Formula One World Champion in the process.
I don’t think we will ever forget that look of horror on the Massa clan’s faces either – sorry Felipe.
Skip forward to 2014 – the turbo-hybrid era strolled into the sport, and Hamilton has since claimed a further four World Championship’s while winning 51 of the 100 races to have been held.
We are all living in a Hamilton wonderland right now, but the topic of conversation for folk at the dinner table has long been how much longer he will be here?
So, let’s take a look at some of the short, medium and long-term goals which may still remain.
Well, you would have to be rather brave or stupid to argue the fact that Lewis has had every guy’s number in recent years – Nico Rosberg could raise a complaint based on his 2016 exploits, but overall, nobody has come close to Hamilton’s dominance.
In the short-term then, just continuing that ruthless stranglehold on the sport has to be the goal.
Sebastian Vettel has faded away from the title-fight for the past two seasons now, while the always talkative Max Verstappen continues to pop in a good performance here-and-there, while reminding Hamilton seemingly on a daily basis, that he is coming for his throne.
Valtteri Bottas has done little to convince the powers that be to see him an Lewis’ equal, so it all appears pretty cushty heading into 2019 right? Well, not necessarily.
See this year, two more hungry young guns in the form of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly, have their eyes set on grabbing that brass ring.
Leclerc has long been talked about as Formula One’s next big thing – claiming GP3 and F2 World Championship’s back-to-back, before putting in a very impressive stint with Sauber, which ultimately landed him his seat at Ferrari.
Gasly has certainly gone more under the radar, but you just cannot rule this young Frenchman out.
His 2018 season included a 4th place finish in Bahrain with Toro Rosso, while running out 13-6 winner over teammate Brendon Hartley in the qualifying battle.
The goals in the meantime then are pretty clear – crush the young challengers and show you are still the master.
Looking a few years down the line, dare we whisper it? Lewis could beat Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Formula One World Championship’s!
That achievement had never been reached before and has not since, simply for the reason that it’s almost impossible.
Key word there though – almost. Because right now our guy is saying: “oh yeah, it’s possible alright.”
That Mercedes is showing no signs of giving up the ghost, getting stronger with each new challenger that dares to step up to it.
Smashing Schumacher’s records have been a feature for Lewis anyway, with the Brit taking over as the driver with the most race wins at different circuits after victory at the 2018 French Grand Prix, to name an example.
All the while further Schumi records are on the menu for Hamilton, with the legendary German’s 91 Grand Prix wins the only total currently bettering Hamilton’s 73.
The holy grail of records, however, is still to be obtained.
Major rule changes are planned for 2021, but it’s hard to bet against the 2019 and 2020 titles making themselves at home in the Hamilton household, so a bit of quick math shows that Hamilton and Schumi would be tied at seven-a-piece.
Surely then, Lewis would not be able to walk away without giving it a shot at becoming the one and only eight-time World Champion.
Now, we have to think what will be Lewis’ legacy? How is he going to finish his career and where will it be?
Judging by the current rumblings, two likely scenario’s seem to be on the table.
The first of these is that he rides off into the sunset, with the Mercedes team showering him in rose petals and singing his name as he vanishes into the sunset. Okay, maybe not that dramatic, but you get the point.
Lewis could easily walk away while still at the top, leaving fans, colleagues and enemies alike with no knowledge of what kind of driver he would have been past his prime.
He has hinted at this possibility before, with his love for fashion and music growing ever stronger, so it’s safe to say the pay cheque’s would not vanish from his life if Formula One was no longer a part of it.
Living in Monaco, paying zero tax and often seen at one of his very expensive looking parties, Hamilton has consistently said as the Formula 1 calendar grows that he will walk away from the sport when it starts impacting upon his quality of life.
The Vietnam Grand Prix is set to feature on the schedule from 2020, with a race in Miami also strongly rumoured to be on its way.
Would these additions finally be enough for him to say thank you, and goodnight?
Or let’s flip the page, perhaps he jumps ship for one final challenge?
Ferrari have said to be in his ear for several years now, picture it as that age old scene where the individual has the angel on one shoulder telling him one thing, while on the other is the devil painting a different picture.
There are no angels or devils here, we hope, but it is a good analogy for the situation.
The Scuderia would likely pay big bucks to land the five-time champ.
As the saying goes – if you can’t beat them, join them.
Imagine that, Lewis winning that eighth World Championship, after jumping ship to the red team, surpassing Schumacher in his own back yard.
Formula One is unpredictable, and that’s why we all love it. Who could bet against him taking a similar path to Kimi and dropping down the grid for the thrill?
Who knows what this bloke from Stevenage will decide to do, but we’re just happy to be along for the ride.