F1: How Hamilton compares to Schumacher
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Mercedes chief Toto Wolff had a word of warning for Lewis Hamilton this week as the 2021 Formula One season creeps ever closer. March 28 is the official start date, when the season’s first race takes place at the Bahrain Grand Prix, and that will mark the beginning of Hamilton’s quest for an eighth Drivers’ Championship.
The reigning world champion drew level with Ferrari icon Michael Schumacher last year, clinching his seventh overall career title – his sixth with Mercedes – and his fourth consecutive triumph.
But Silver Arrows boss Wolff does not want his No 1 driver thinking too much about glory this year, after Hamilton recently admitted it would be a “huge thing” to secure his eighth title.
“If you start to spend too much time thinking about an eighth title you forget that in between there are 20 or so races that you need to finish in the best possible outcome,” Wolff said.
“In that respect, of course, the eighth title is out there, but it’s not going to be something that’s going to play on his mind a lot, nor does it play on our mind a lot because we need to concentrate on the job.”
Wolff’s warning against complacency is not something Hamilton must really worry about, having shown again and again that he is the most ruthless driver on the grid in the pursuit of success.
Hamilton’s consistency in recent seasons has been quite incredible. Since Nico Rosberg retired as world champion at the end of the 2016 season, the Briton has won 42 of 79 races. He’s finished on the podium in a further 19.
In the same four-year spell, Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes has managed just nine wins and has collected an extra 38 podium finishes on top of that.
The points comparison reads: Hamilton 1,531, Bottas 1,101.
Granted, the Finn has had five DNFs to Hamilton’s one since the start of the 2017 season (though the Brit missed the Sakhir Grand Prix due to COVID-19).
But the 430-point difference is still chasmic. For comparison, Hamilton collected 413 points in the last 21-race 2019 season (2020 only saw 17 races held due to the coronavirus pandemic).
Despite working with the same car as Bottas in all of those years, Hamilton has been considerably better – as his trophy cabinet back at home proves quite emphatically.
A quick glance at Hamilton’s recent updates on his official Instagram account shows he knows there is still work to do in 2021. He’s not expecting the title to come to him simply because of his performance over the past four years.
“Every morning I hike to the top of this mountain and I take some time to set my goals and intentions for the day,” he posted in late January.
“I’ve been training every day and at these altitudes, I find it’s the perfect place to push my mind and body to new heights to prep myself for the year and season ahead.”
He posted again this month: “Hey guys, sorry I’ve been absent from here for a while, I’ve been focusing and preparing for the season ahead.
“I consider myself lucky to have had this time to reflect and prepare. I remain positive and excited for the season ahead but want you all to know that I’m thinking of you out there, hoping you are well.”
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Hamilton’s hunger and mentality cannot be questioned, although his activities away from F1 brought criticism in recent years. Hamilton has branched out into fashion and music and is also rightly making his voice heard over social justice and environmental issues.
The nature of the global COVID-19 crisis means that Hamilton simply cannot jetset to attend events such as fashion shows as he might otherwise have done in normal circumstances.
Hamilton admitted that the restricting nature of the pandemic took its toll at times in 2020, saying after winning his latest title: “This year it’s been one of the hardest, if not the hardest year.
“Because we’ve all dealt with isolation we’ve not been around people. There’s been a great loss of life. I’m grateful that we got to race but these races can take a lot out of you.”
But if he was finding life tough away from the circuit, he didn’t show that on it.
He won 65 per cent (11 of 17) of the season’s races – a record bettered only by Michael Schumacher (13 of 18 races in 2004, 72 per cent) and Sebastian Vettel (13 of 19 in 2013, 68 per cent) since 1963.
And given last season he was bidding to match Schumacher’s record, there is no real reason to think the possibility of bettering the legendary German will distract Hamilton at any point this year.
The 36-year-old has not been at all distracted by any off-track activities or events last year or in the preceding seasons. Not many can boast such an impressive work-life balance.
In fact, that he can be so involved in other areas of his life in addition to being so consistently superior to his rivals speaks volumes about his character and mentality.
Records and achievements do not faze him either. There’s a reason he’s close to becoming the first man in F1 history to clinch 100 race wins and 100 pole positions.
You’d have to be very brave indeed to bet against Hamilton making it five titles on the bounce and eight overall to move past Schumacher later this year.
If he hasn’t already earned the ‘Greatest of All Time’ tag, you can bet he will have by December.
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