And what a win it was, requiring a last-minute change in tire strategy three laps to the finish. It was one of the more exciting finishes in the last couple of years that I can recall. I’m not an ardent Lewis supporter, but I appreciate that today’s win has a lot of significance in the world of racing. Even if you’re not a Formula1 fan, Andrew Lawrence’s article helps put Lewis’ achievement in perspective.
Over the past 15 years, the 36-year-old Briton has won seven world championships, tying the record set by Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher — the German F1 driver who was regarded as the greatest of all time until Hamilton broadsided him from that perch. At Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, Hamilton rallied through a late rain shower to claim the checkered flag on the way to becoming the first driver in the sport’s history with 100 career victories. And that’s besides his 100 career pole positions. As achievements go in racing, this is beyond otherworldly.
For one thing, racing isn’t like other sports. They don’t win some and lose some. Cars break down, race strategies falter, accidents happen. Confidence cracks under pressure. Drivers can go years without winning. Heading into Sunday’s IndyCar Series finale at Long Beach in California, Scott Dixon, a six-time champion and the series’ active all-time victories leader, had just one win to his name. Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time NASCAR champion who crossed over into open-wheel racing earlier this year, won 27% of the time at his NASCAR Cup racing peak in 2007 — and that’s with vastly more opportunities to try on a 36-race schedule.
In F1, 10 or 15 wins over a career are enough to make a legend. Argentina’s Juan Manuel Fangio, the five-time champion who dominated F1 in the 1950s, has 24 victories. France’s Alain Prost, the four-time titlist who excelled in the ’80s and ’90s, more than doubled that haul. Schumacher, the Ferrari ace, set the bar even higher, winning an unbelievable 91 times in 308 starts. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s 100 triumphs have come in a relatively breezy 281 attempts.
Lewis has dominated the sport for the last five years, but he hasn’t had it so easy in 2021. A handful of drivers have won races making the fight for world champion much more competitive than in a decade. As the season progresses towards the last race in November, both the drivers and the teams are getting more aggressive. There’s never been a better time to watch the myriad of stories that includes Lewis’ campaign to be the most decorated Formula 1 driver, the world’s best race car driver of all time.➵