Lewis Hamilton has been the dominant force in Formula One since the new F1 power unit regulations came into force in 2014. The Mercedes team built the best V6 hybrid power unit and the team has dominated the constructors’ championship for the past 8 years.
Never before in Formula One history has a constructor had such a consecutive period of dominance, which of course reflects on Lewis Hamilton’s achievements.
Whilst statistically the best ever F1 driver in terms of race wins and podium finishes, the debate continues as to whether Lewis is in fact the greatest of all time.
Mercedes benefit from unprecedented regulations
The stable regulations from 2014 to 2021 saw Mercedes competitive advantage retained through the era, whereas F1 history shows regulations on the whole are altered more regularly if only to prevent such a period of dominance by one team.
Max Verstappen claimed his first F1 driver world title in 2021, when Mercedes were still the dominant team and winning the constructors’ title. However, since the FIA car design regulation changes this season, Ferrari and Red Bull have significantly outperformed the Brackley squad who are currently just third in the F1 manufacturers championship race.
Hamilton has been significantly outperformed by his new young team mate this season and is currently P6 in the F1 driver standings 27 points behind George Russel in P4.
Verstappen race craft surpasses Hamilton
Dutch racer and F1 pundit believes Lewis Hamilton has lost some of his race craft and argues Max Verstappen is now displaying superior abilities on track over the 7 times world champion.
Renger van der Zande takes no pleasure in the demise of Lewis Hamilton but believes he is “over the hill”.
“I come back to Hamilton: I don’t think it’s cool to see, but you have to wonder if he’s over the hill,” Van der Zande told Dutch magazine Formlae 1.
“His car is less [capable], but his overtakes are no longer as convincing as before, you see doubt in his driving. Perhaps it’s a combination of age and that he has lost momentum.”
Max Verstappen just getting better and better
Yet der Zande believes Max Verstappen is in fact on the up. His move around the outside of turn one on Charles LeClerc at the recent Japanese GP was deemed ‘breathless’ by Sky F1 commentators.
F1 pundits have regularly this season commented on the relaxed nature of Verstappen and crediting it to the fact he finally has an F1 drivers’ title under his belt. This of course leads to him being even more confident in his own abilities and is the reason why he is the only driver since Sebastian Vettel to win the F1 drivers’ crown with 4 races to go.
When compared to Hamilton Der Zande believes, “Max, on the other hand, is so confident that he can make decisive actions and has a way out if it doesn’t work out.”
“ At the same time you know, even with all the good results, that the weather will be bad. After sun comes rain, and vice-versa. I have often experienced this myself and Max will also have it in the back of his mind.”
Hamilton “luck” played its part
Der Zande interestingly notes how Lewis Hamilton has ridden his luck over the years.
“The way Max is dominating this year is very impressive. It’s also funny now to see the difference between Max and Lewis Hamilton. I have often said in recent years: ‘Hamilton has the luck of a champion’.
Clearly at the 2021 British GP when Lewis tagged verstappens rear end in Stowe corner sending the Dutchman into the barrier encountering a 51g impact, Hamilton was fortunate to not suffer race ending damage himself.
Further, despite being deemed at fault by the stewards, his time penalty awarded for causing the incident failed to prevent him eventually winning the race and scoring 25 points to his rivals 0.
“That you just hit something with a wing, but it doesn’t break,” observes Zande of Hamilton.
F1 champions make their own luck
Of course Verstappen is now the F1 champion and Der Zande sees that same luck now transferred.
“You can now also see that kind of happiness at times when it matters. A champion’s luck is like being in a casino on a roll; that everything is just fine. That you drive fourth, but the number one and two collide and you still win.”
“Or you do an impossible overtaking action that still succeeds, also because people drive against you differently since you dominate.”
The relentless form of Verstappen this season suggests whenever he is behind another driver, the impending pass is inevitable. Whereas when the Dutchman’s team mate Sergio Pérez is attempting an overtake, the result is not the same forgone conclusion.
Hamilton doomed for another 3 years
It is arguable Red Bull racing have nailed the new FIA ground effect car design regulations and could dominate until the next planned upheaval in car and power unit design set for 2026.
By then Lewis Hamilton will be 41 years of age. Whether the 7 times champion has the patience to stay in Formula One to maybe take one last chance at an eight title 4 years from now is yet to be seen.
As next weekend we are going back to COTA, let's remember 2015 race, when a wheelspin mistake by Nico Rosberg not only handed Lewis the lead, but also resulted in him winning his 3rd #F1 championship. It also gave us the infamous boomerang cap scene 😅 pic.twitter.com/0CN6THE7eK
— Simon Dau (@there_is_no_if) October 15, 2022