Alexander the Great is said to have wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. But when Lewis Hamilton woke up after winning a record 92nd race, his eyes, as always, turned to new loot.
He felt as sunny as the dawn of the Algarve and the cramps he felt in his right leg faded towards the end of the Portuguese Grand Prix, and he had no reason to fear that his successes would end anytime soon.
This belief was underscored on the night of the crushing triumph that saw him win over Michael Schumacher, when Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff joked that he would hit factories to fund a new contract to keep his star driver on the team. after the end of the season. .
Lewis Hamilton won a record 92, but his attention has turned to new loot
Whatever Hamilton and Wolff publicly claim, negotiations are either advanced or finalized, and a new deal, likely for three years and an eye-watering £ 120 million, will be announced shortly.
The continuation of this partnership – the most successful in Formula 1 history – is an almost guarantee that, after rivaling Schumacher’s seven titles in the coming weeks, Hamilton will have the best chance of pushing the sports records to a new level. lifting.
With 97 he already has the most pole positions to his name. There are five more rounds left this season, so it will almost certainly reach its century before Christmas.
Hamilton celebrated winning the Portuguese Grand Prix in Portimao after dominating the field
Hamilton’s 92nd win saw him break legend Michael Schumacher’s record of wins
With the current regulations set for next year, after the introduction of new rules was delayed for 12 months due to the coronavirus, Mercedes can expect a new campaign of total dominance. So that should take him to more than 100 wins and an eighth title sometime in 2021.
Barring the unforeseen, only his own boredom, a withering of his desire, can possibly prevent all these things from happening.
HOW MUCH MORE WILL HE WIN?
My guess, just for fun, is this: four more wins this year to take him to 96 and seven world titles, 10 more wins, and another title in 2021.
The incoming regulations, and possibly a new teammate, make it more difficult to call, but I think there will be five more wins in 2022 and 2023, bringing him a total of 116 wins, with possibly a ninth world championship.
And then a season at Ferrari …?
And that weakening of his ambition is the only consideration we can rule out before all others. As James Allison, Mercedes technical director and one of the brightest judges on the Hamilton psyche, told me, “ In addition to Lewis’ sublime talent for driving a car, there is a personality who wants him to win races and championships as much as he does. when he was a boy.
When we look at people like him who have clearly shown the whole world that they are better at what they do than anyone else, it’s hard to understand what makes them keep coming back to do it.
“He has a deep need to show himself, first and foremost, and others, second, that he can drive a car like no other.
He is not one to spend a lot of time thinking about his performance. He’s just worried about the next race and winning it so he can bring together enough victories to win the championship.
The short time he’s at one with the world is when he’s spouting champagne after just taking a win.
Once that’s over, he focuses on the next race with a mixture of excitement, fear and self-doubt – probably a surprising amount of self-doubt for someone who has accomplished everything he has. It’s one of his strengths as it gives him the whip to do it all over again. ‘
Hamilton’s hunger was shown after his 2009 victory in Hungary. McLaren struggled all year round and had no victory to their credit before, so all bosses were simply delighted that the result had eased some of the pressure. Only Hamilton saw it differently and asked how many points were left in the season and whether he could win the title mathematically. Jenson Button won the championship – but the fact that Hamilton even thought he had a chance offers a glimpse into his thinking.
James Allison Mercedes technical director says Hamilton’s personality will see him win more
Former British Grand Prix winner John Watson said ‘Lewis has so much in reserve it’s unreal’
His need for weapons to win and the pace of his car are important factors, but they will matter little if age dulls the sharpness of his reflexes or the clarity of his thinking. How long can we expect him to stay at something like his peak?
His very best driving came in 2018, when he combined flawlessness with his most searing speed of one lap. If he’s lost any advantage at all in the past two years, the difference was almost imperceptible. Indeed, he did not have to stretch.
As former British Grand Prix winner John Watson said, “Lewis has so much reserve it’s unreal.” Schumacher grew tired by the time he first retired from Ferrari in 2006. Hamilton, on the other hand, looks as fresh as a daisy. The sands of time will overtake him at some point. But for now, he stays ahead with only Max Verstappen showing a similar speed and ingenuity.
‘I hope when Lewis quits,’ Allison said, ‘that for the first time in his life, he has the pleasure of looking back on what he’s accomplished, instead of throwing it forward, and thinks,’ Damn it was quite a thing.”‘