Lewis Hamilton has equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Formula 1 World Championships. Sam Broad reviews Hamilton’s achievements that will finally result in a knighthood at the end of the year.
What is Lewis Hamilton’s Formula 1 track record?
After the Turkish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton became the joint-most successful Formula 1 driver for World Championship victories, alongside Michael Schumacher. Earlier in the season, Hamilton also overtook Schumacher’s 91 race wins.
In terms of statistical achievements, Hamilton is superior to nearly every driver to have graced the sport of F1.
Winning a Championship is recognised to be a noticeable achievement, but the sheer dominance to reign as World Champion on seven separate occasions displays a remarkable consistency to perform at the highest level.
In 2012, Lewis Hamilton left his boyhood team McLaren, with one World Championship to his name. It was considered a questionable decision with McLaren deemed to be an F1 giant, while Mercedes were very much background players. Mercedes soon found their grip, with Hamilton winning the team’s first of seven consecutive Championships in 2014.
In 2016, Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg just nipped in front of Lewis Hamilton in the rankings. To the humiliation of many, Hamilton has become a true great, winning six World Championships in seven years. This has meant Mercedes have become the most dominant team in F1 across the last decade, with their unrivalled consistency making them the team to beat.
Their relationship with Lewis Hamilton has only blossomed since the driver’s arrival in 2012, leading the two parties to accomplish one of the greatest sporting achievements of all time.
Schumacher is the only competitor to Hamilton’s recent greatness. Although, for some time it looked as though fellow German driver, Sebastian Vettel would challenge Schumacher’s record. Vettel achieved four World Championships in a row, announcing the emergence of Red Bull to the F1 scene.
Since Vettel joined Ferrari in 2014, the German hasn’t been able to reproduce the same finesse he had with Red Bull. This only magnifies Hamilton’s achievement, as he knocked Vettel off his perch while showing the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with his team, Mercedes.
Hamilton’s knighthood compared to athletes from other sports
In recent years, several athletes from the sports industry have received knighthoods for their achievements. Andy Murray was knighted in 2019 for his services to tennis and charity. The two-time Wimbledon winner was the first British player to win the tournament since Fred Perry in 1936.
Sir Mo Farah received the honour after winning a double gold medal at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill was recognised for winning Olympic gold in the Heptathlon at London 2012, as well as being a three-time world champion.
Although, it’s a challenge to quantify the difficulty of winning the most prestigious events across different sports. Wimbledon and the Olympic Games are traditional competitions that are extremely marketable, meaning they attract global attention. Therefore, when an athlete wins the highest honour in their sport, their greatness is rewarded immediately.
This is not to say that F1 doesn’t have a global fanbase, it does by default with there being F1 races all over the world. The sport just doesn’t have that one event that pulls mainstream viewers in, especially now that F1 is behind a paywall, with live events being televised on Sky Sports.
A measure of mainstream popularity is the sports personality of the year award. While Hamilton won the award in 2014 after his second World Championship. The F1 driver has finished second on four separate occasions. It’s remarkable that even in years of World Championship wins, Lewis Hamilton remained a secondary thought.
This could infer why Hamilton’s knighthood took so long to arrive because there’s the possibility that either F1 or the driver’s likability has dwindled in recent years, as mainstream popularity refuses to acknowledge Hamilton’s achievements.
Why did Lewis Hamilton’s knighthood take so long?
There is much speculation surrounding Hamilton’s lack of knighthood. Many people infer that Hamilton’s race is what held him back from being knighted. However, over 10% of the recent honours list comprised people from an ethnic minority background. This figure is roughly in line with Britain’s demographic.
In recent years, Hamilton has been a divisive figure within the F1 circuit. Like many drivers, Hamilton resides in tax haven Monaco, when he is not touring the world with F1. Over the years, concerns about his tax commitments have been brought to the forefront of speculation. Although he earns money in a variety of locations across the globe, meaning he must legally pay tax in several places, including Britain.
Hamilton has also taken part in a fair share of athlete activism. The 35-year-old has recently confirmed he will continue to lead the fight against climate change. To the public, who know Hamilton to be a successful motor sports driver, this statement contradicts his actions of competing at up to 20 separate F1 events in a season across the globe.
Many won’t take kindly to a global celebrity encouraging them to change their lifestyle habits, especially when Hamilton competes in a sport that isn’t eco-friendly, this could therefore alter public perception of Lewis Hamilton’s integrity.
However, the reasons put forward to discredit Hamilton of a knighthood, don’t compare to what he has achieved on F1 racetracks.
Sir Jackie Stewart remains the only other F1 British world champion to be knighted for his achievements. The three-time world champion was knighted in 2001, several decades after his retirement from the sport. While Hamilton will only have to wait until the New Year for his knighthood, delaying the award to this stage of his career has allowed for his racing career to be put into context. Lewis Hamilton will be knighted while being recognised universally as the greatest F1 driver of all time, then the pursuit will be on for his eighth World Championship.
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