Sat, 12 December 2020
I actually wrote this article shortly before the two Grands Prix here in Bahrain but Ed asked me to wait in case anything happened of note. My goodness, great call Ed, as the world champion contracted the dreaded COVID-19 after the first GP denying him participation in race 2 and there was unfortunately the most spectacular crash of the season by Romain Grosjean of the Haas team, along with other notable events.
The current pandemic brought many unknowns to the world of sport, but it appeared to have one safe assumption amidst all the uncertainty: there was only ever one team and one driver that the F1 paddock collectively agreed, was the safe bet to take both the 7th straight constructor’s title and 7th driver’s title, respectively. Indeed, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team and British born Lewis Hamilton did not disappoint, breaking several long-standing records along the way.
The F1 circus descended upon our lovely island and my mate and racing aficionado, Karl, reliably informed me that at the start of the 2020 season there were eight F1 records in danger of being broken. Five have now fallen to Hamilton and there would have been a very good chance that the most laps led in a drivers’ career could also be achieved by Hamilton here in Bahrain. For the first time ever, over consecutive weekends, Bahrain had the honour of hosting back-to-back races on two different track configurations. There were a total of 144 laps up for grabs, Hamilton only needed 68 laps to take this and yet another record away from the great Michael Schumacher, maybe the next GP we will see this fall to Lewis. Lewis won the Kingdom’s inaugural night race in 2014 and again in 2015 and 2019.
Hamilton, however, may be said to be suffering from that what is commonly dubbed the “marmite factor” (whereby he is either loved or disliked). He has an Instagram following of 20.6 million known as Team LH, yet he probably has the same number of active critics that find his divisive actions off the track, contentious to the point of switching allegiance. From his, at times, dubious fashion choices, controversial political viewpoints, conversion to veganism and tongue in cheek comparisons to the lifestyle of Kimi Raikkonen, the recently crowned 7-time world champion was never going to please everyone.
Like Michael Schumacher before him, with constant success comes the monotony the spectator feels toward the seemingly inevitable result and the yearning for an alternative outcome. This is neither Hamilton’s fault nor anything that will change anytime soon- given the Mercedes team’s dominance and that of Hamilton’s skill as a driver.
Despite his persona or how he chooses to conduct his personal life, undeniably, behind the wheel of a racing car he has something just a bit special to offer. It is undoubtedly this ability that separates him from his peers at present.
“Celebrity Net Worth” list Hamilton’s worth to be $285 million. Given his reputed annual salary of $54 million -he is still a long way off the likes of Federer or Woods- but, not too shabby eh? A far cry from 2007, when on Hamilton’s first visit to the Kingdom he was invited to play the Royal Golf course. He was allegedly extremely flattered that they gave him a free set of clubs to play with, I wonder if such a magnanimous gesture would still impress him today?
Safe driving F1 drivers and F1 fans alike.