An Ode to a five-time world champion: why Lewis Hamilton is an all-time great?
Tied with Juan Manuel Fangio, in pursuit of Michael Schumacher, ahead of his own idol, Ayrton Senna, one world championship ahead of Sebastian Vettel and way ahead of other sassy names on the grid, such as Kimi Raikkonen, and Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton excites as much as he entertains.
In the tectonic world of Formula 1, the struggle for dominance, of late, has become the struggle to dethrone Hamilton, who is only two titles shy from drawing level with Schumi.
This was the case in 2014, where Lewis outshone the others. This was also the case in 2015 where once again Ferrari and Red Bull were found wanting in front of the Mercedes' magic.
There are winners.
There are great winners.
And then there's Lewis Hamilton, who, given the light of all that he's achieved, of late, seems a deserving great with unmatched consistency.
He won in 2018. He also won in 2017. What didn't change were the outcomes at the conclusion of the last two Grands Prix season. What definitely changed was the margin of Lewis' win over his arch-rival, Vettel, someone who Lewis himself respects.
While Hamilton beat Vettel to a fourth drivers' title in 2017 by a margin of 46 points, he'd increase the void to the German to an outstanding 88-point gap the following year.
At the conclusion of the 2018 F1 season, another year where the Silver in Mercedes struck gold, the man and the machine coming together and the team rallying behind the abler guy (of the two) to tackle the Ferrari threat- as amplified by their wins at Australia, Bahrain- Lewis doubled the gap to Vettel.
That he beat his Ferrari rival at Hockenheimring- not an idea worth exploring with the German fans ever- and smashed an ominous looking Ferrari at the Hungaroring, a circuit where Vettel and Raikkonen gave Hamilton no chance in 2017, meant that the Briton was here to stay.
That he was almost manhandled by Vettel's imperious pace at Spa-Francorchamps- at the conclusion of 2018 spoke volumes about Hamilton's craft.
Instead of receding to a self-imposed exile of gullibility, nervousness, and stutter, Hamilton came back even stronger.
To those who saw Monza in 2018 may have seen Lewis display grit to an older adversary-Raikkonen- of the kinds with which he countered Felipe Massa back in 2008, when facing the Brazilian was Lewis, in only his second year in F1.
But that told, what Lewis brings to the grid that most others don't is actually the demonstration of a philosophy that appears a fancy social-media byline, something that's stuck by him: "Still, I rise."
And that, the Stevenage-born did just that at Silverstone 2018, where despite being spun around in the rundown to Turn 3 by Raikkonen, he fought back to second on the podium proves just why he's so highly rated.
And that is where one comes to appreciate a boy, who, unlike a few others, had limited access to basic necessities, no proximity to (the trappings of a) luxurious life whatsoever, and was once far away from the noisy circus of hell called Formula 1 that puts one's life directly on the line in a carnival of speed.
And that the others on the grid, arguably with more statistical exuberance or weight of experience have failed to do so, such as Vettel, Raikkonen, and the recent retiree Fernando Alonso, only mark Lewis' triumph in a special light.
We know that roots are important to a man.
And in Lewis' devotion to his father, love for his brother, and above all- the insistence at doing the right things; diet, workout, practice, qualifying battles and Grand Prix tussles- one can find ample proof as to why is he such a deserving champion.
With 2 world titles to go before he draws level with Schumi, his fire is as bright as when he began in 2007. Hamilton, by virtue of his sheer consistency, seems ready to script a season that'll have all the hallmarks of a great season.
What'll be great, would, of course, be the prospect of seeing Vettel, stabbed in the chest by Mercedes' back-to-back triumphs starting in 2017, make something out of 2019 season.
Therefore, can the German stop Lewis' charge?
What'd also be amazing would be to note the manner of competition- rather, make that severity- that others on the grid might have to bring, if they're to restrict Hamilton- frequent Grand Prix winner, regular pole-sitter, ballsy driver, and a man who respect the opponents he himself crushes vehemently on the track.
For starters, there's hardly a doubt about Lewis' mastery at preventing staunch attacks at stealing his thunder.
How often have we seen a guy win a world title (a maiden one at that) that too in the dying moments of a wet-weather race, having secured only a P5, whilst leaving the other to claim the trophy which marked a win, but not a world title?
Similarly, how often have we seen a driver establish familiar hunting grounds, miles away from the warmth of driving in one's home circuits?
It might be asked, what really are Spa-Francorchamps and Montreal anyway today, where Lewis is concerned; the Briton found success on 3 separate occasions at Belgium while having won on a record 6 occasions at Montreal?
All said and done, with 5 world titles, 73 wins, 83 poles, and 134 podiums already bagged by a man, who seems far from even entertaining the thought of retirement, it remains to be seen what all can Hammertime possess in the future.
Or should one say, when and who can push Lewis to the very edge if that is even conceivable?
For now, Lewis Hamilton, you are the man!