In 2019, a season where Ferrari experienced woeful lows and results they’d never in their wildest of dreams have imagined, the Singapore Grand Prix provided a moment of reprieve to the Tifosi.
It happens to be the date where Ferrari last won a Formula 1 race.
In cricketing parlance, they say, ‘Remember the Date,’ when something special happens.
Probably for the famous Scuderia stable, millions would’ve said back then, “Remember the date.” September 22, 2019, became the moment where Ferrari last won a Formula 1 race. Sebastian Vettel took home a hard-earned victory in a year where literally nothing went his way.
It’s been two years and the sport’s most iconic racing marquee stands winless.
But something stood out at the electrifying night contest spurred by sparkling lights and fanfare. Whilst he was busy interacting with the media offering thoughts and insights on what had been an exasperating contest, someone familiar interrupted Sebastian Vettel abruptly.
The German in red turned back and saw Lewis Hamilton offering a warm handshake, going as far as saying, “I’m so happy for you man!”
Make no mistake. This was more than some random sporting gesture; Vettel had been, for nearly half a decade, Lewis Hamilton’s archrival and a threat to the world championship crown.
And yet, this was the man then on course to his sixth world title congratulating an adversary he had sucked the life out of through faultless consistency.
Fast forward to 2021.
A little over a fortnight ago, when the Mercedes #44 was involved in a high-octane crash, at Copse, Silverstone, a rare error from a popular force in Formula 1, moments after Red Bull’s Verstappen retired, there was a voice of concern over the team radio.
“Is Max okay?” asked Lewis Hamilton, who was in the wrong then.
The guilt at having caused the accident notwithstanding, Lewis has offered nothing untoward so far about a man who, several F1 media have recorded offering not the politest of responses whenever questioned about the Briton.
In the last half a decade, whenever he’s been asked about whether he plans to continue in the sport for the long run, elongating his run into his forties, Lewis Hamilton has openly admitted at having been inspired by Kimi Raikkonen, who by October, will turn 41.
As a matter of fact, in 2018, Hamilton, who has six more world titles than the Finn, went a bit too far in being modest, saying, “When I was a kid, I was always Kimi on the F1 video game… Kimi from McLaren. It’s crazy how life works, today we race against each other. I have huge respect for him.”
Not that the laconic Finn responded with a huge grin, offering just a wry smile, Hamilton was all praise for an F1 figure who’s bagged 78 fewer wins than the seven-time world champion.
Truth be told, Lewis Hamilton, is more than the astonishing statistics that blossom like fresh tulips in Amsterdam’s gardens: 99 wins, 101 pole positions, and 173 podiums.
He typifies the prototype of a true world champion. A man not obsessed with records but appreciative of the larger ecosystem to which he belongs, a man ready to offer a bright smile and helping hand to countless who get inspired just by the name Lewis Hamilton.
Rarely have we seen a sportsman so hungry for success and so modest at the same time at having aced heights to which only a few belong- think Senna and Schumacher. At the same time, rare it is to encounter a man so devoted to causes in the realm of human rights and social welfare when few around him seem as fervently devoted to matters outside the grid as the Great Briton.
The greats, they say, glitter in the gloom.
Lewis epitomizes this in a way none can match. In 2018 Silverstone, he was contacted by Raikkonen's Ferrari, which resulted in the Mercedes driver falling to the rear end of the field. He’d come back and take an astonishing second, finishing ahead of Kimi.
Three years later, at a different venue, something similar happened, a few hours back, despite Hamilton not being involved in a crash.
Having pitted for a different tyre compound, realizing the team strategy hadn’t really worked, Hamilton fell to fourteenth on the grid at the 2021 Hungarian GP.
Though, by the end of Lap 27, he was back up into seventh. Having fended off the twin Alfa Romeos, Tsunoda, Latifi, Mick Schumacher, Hamilton was having a busy day out in the field.
Soon, though, his life were to be made difficult as the hungry English driver would run into ‘The Wall of Spain,’ Fernando Alonso. Involved in a neck-to-neck fight with a giant of the sport, also his previous teammate, who gave the Mercedes no easy day, Lewis Hamilton fought on for 10 crazy laps to emerge into the top 6.
Next, he’d get Sainz and eventually, would land himself third on the podium.
And just as they say, destiny favours the brave, Lewis was promoted to P2 in the wake of Vettel’s disqualification.
A reward of patience and never say die, some would say, Hamilton enters the season break as the most relived man you’d think, since he’s retaken the lead of the world championship.
But it’s only when the great driver himself shared that his dizziness and weakness at the end of the Grand Prix could have had something to do with the effect of long COVID that you realize just how hard it would’ve been for the Stevenage-born to emerge on the podium having fallen way back on the grid.
If there’s a driver who takes everything in his stride- bouquets as well as brickbats, then it’s Lewis Hamilton, who may well gather a world record-breaking eighth world title, something none have gone on to achieve in the sport’s seven-decade history.
And that’s the thing- isn’t it- that history chooses only the one willing to suffer heartbreaks, dejections, name-calling and vitriol as the chosen one?
The day Lewis conquers the hundredth victory, perhaps many who resort to vile descriptions of the racer would realize the actual recognize his worth, a man who underwent years of practice, dedication and sacrifice into being the strongman of Formula 1 he is.
The day he crowns himself as an 8-time F1 world champion, perhaps the harshest critics would melt down a bit.
And even then, Sir Lewis Hamilton, knighted after a painfully long wait, despite having done tremendous work to uphold Britain’s prowess in the sporting world, will not have a poor word to say about those who derive pleasure in resorting to pointless name-calling.
Though it seems, the path to that long-awaited 8th title may not take all that long, after all. Since at Spa, another of his favourite hunting grounds, Hamilton may just come up with blindingly fast performance. Let’s just hope it beautifies an already beautiful sport further!