Lewis Hamilton has been at the top of Formula One since his career began. Storming to his first world title in only his second season, after narrowly missing out in his debut year, the Brit has been a fixture on the podium virtually ever since. His performances have always been spectacular, and there is no doubting his raw talent. Apart from a small blip for McLaren in 2009, Hamilton has always driven for a team capable of winning however.
Hamilton has been the man reaping the majority of the rewards during Mercedes’ spell at the top. Since making his move to the Silver Arrows, he has earned his reputation as the fastest driver on the Formula One grid. It has been said that on his day, he is simply unbeatable. I find that statement incredibly difficult to justify seeing as he very rarely had competition other than Nico Rosberg.
Time for a hard reset?
It’s refreshing to be heading into a new Formula One season without a clear favourite for the title. The sport has been in an era of dominant results since 2010. The Red Bull empire fronted by Sebastian Vettel destroyed their rivals for four years before they were toppled. The new power units introduced in 2014 ended Red Bull’s reign, but introduced another period of domination.
The regulation changes set for 2017 could trigger yet another shift in the pecking order. The disparity in engine performance is slowly beginning to equalise. Ferrari and Renault are now within touching distance of the Mercedes, while Honda believe they too have made significant progress. With the added freedom for engine manufacturers to boost their development, I can see that gap closing even more over the course of the year.
There is potential for a much more competitive grid to line up in Melbourne. I am quietly optimistic that we could be seeing as many as four teams fighting for victories in 2017. Ferrari and Red Bull are two teams that simply have to challenge Mercedes when the season kicks off in March. I also see the possibility of McLaren as an outside bet. I’m prepared to be completely wrong on that one however.
Hamilton will need to uphold his reputation
And so I look to Lewis Hamilton to prove himself as the outright fastest driver in Formula One. So far, the only evidence we have is that he was a faster driver than Rosberg. In cars of equal performance, I would be interested to see whether Hamilton could take the upper hand against the likes of Ricciardo and Vettel.
As a three-time world champion, I do not doubt for a second that Hamilton is one of the absolute best of all time. I do believe however that his reputation as the best current driver in the field is about to come under serious threat. New team-mate Bottas is surely going to challenge. But should the new regulations have their expected effect, Lewis will have a lot more than just his team mate to worry about.
A fourth World Championship would eliminate any question on the matter. If Hamilton can succeed in an inter team battle for the title, his status is secured.
I am now really hoping the new season is boosted by some fierce competition. I would love to see Mercedes made to sweat. Even if at the end of the year, they retain their titles, at least the season would have had a new story to write about.
(Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)
((1) Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)
((2) Morio CC BY-SA 4.0)