By the end of the final race of the 2014 Formula 1 season the wonderful spectacle that is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had a very British feel to it. Union Jack flags in the grandstands, Prince Harry in the pit lane and of course Lewis Hamilton celebrating becoming the first British double World Champion in 43 years. The season had seen one of the most heated and exciting rivalries the sport has had in many years, with Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg in their far superior Mercedes cars both vying for one Championship ground, trading blows session by session, race by race.
Ultimately, it was Hamilton who was left relishing his second title six years after the first. Unlike that one, won on the very final corner of the final race, this title clinching occasion was a procession to the crown, despite the closeness of the contest with Rosberg throughout the season. Over the campaign one main, underlying factor separated the two – under pressure, when it really counted, Hamilton delivered. It is an ability that all great champions have across all sports. At the vital points this season it was nearly always Hamilton who came out on top, whilst his old friend made the crucial mistakes. In a sport of such fine margins, this makes all the difference. It is why, after 11 race wins, no one can argue against Hamilton as the worthy winner. This title defining race was symbolic of the whole season. With just a 17 point lead to defend and double-points coming into play for the first ever time to enhance the pressure, Hamilton held his nerve and produced the start of his life to pass his rival before the first corner. Rosberg didn’t get close for the rest of the race. Hamilton is a prime example of what it takes to become a Champion – when the heat is on, he is coolness personified.
His capacity to overcome so many challenges and moments of adversity during the season shows another defining feature of Hamilton’s armoury. Like all true champions, he is a fighter. He never knows when he is beaten. He actually spent a lot of the season on the back foot battling with Rosberg’s mind games, car unreliability and some feisty inter-team fallouts. Hamilton had to deal with a lot more than just racing, showing admirable mental fortitude on top of consistently displaying his great natural ability behind the wheel. He has not only proven himself as one of the fastest drivers in the history of Formula One but as an individual who will fight with even greater tenacity and belief when swimming against the tide of good fortune. His astonishing campaign, where he amassed 384 points, is as much down to what is inside the helmet as it is behind the wheel.
You often find that Champions are willing take a calculated risk at some stage in their careers, a jump into the dark with the conviction that it will reinvigorate themselves and catalyse another period at the top. Hamilton is no different. Despite McLaren having the fastest car at the end of 2012, he took the gamble of moving to a Mercedes team way off the pace. Those who initially believed it was a backward step cannot have been more wrong. A factor in Hamilton’s success has been his decision to try something new, to take a risk that has been the making of him. Winning two titles with two different teams is extremely impressive – incredibly he is the first driver to win the championship with Mercedes-Benz since 1955.
During a season long battle with Rosberg of such intensity, fierceness and controversy, Hamilton’s trust in his ability remained remarkably strong. After being knocked out of the Belgian Grand Prix by his reckless teammate, he went onto win six of the last seven races. When sportsmen and women such as Hamilton get the bit between their teeth their consistency, focus and yearning for yet more success leaves opponents trailing in their wake. They have a conviction that they are going to prevail no matter the circumstances or the opposition. Some postulated that the chance had gone. Hamilton never did. He upped his game when he had to; cutting out anything which would interfere with what he does best. He homed in on that world title and never doubted that he would get it. It is why he is only Britain’s 4th double world champion. There’s the lifestyle, the financial rewards, the celebrity. Yet more than anything for people like Hamilton it is the winning that counts.
With athletes like Hamilton you have admire the dedication, the talent and the focus. Hamilton is not only the greatest talent on the grid but the finest all-round driver too. Even if you don’t follow Formula 1, there is a great deal for any young athlete to learn from a man whose 33 race wins means that he has more than any other British driver in the history of the sport. Winning isn’t just about the success. It’s about the belief that you can still succeed even when all the odds and the luck at times seem against you. He may have had the best car underneath him but Hamilton rarely failed to produce the goods. When the chance was there he invariably took it.
Hamilton’s place alongside the pantheon of British greats is assured. A period of real domination may have just begun.