After winning the Portuguese Grand Prix last weekend, Lewis Hamilton took over sole possession of the record for career race wins. Add that record to the rest, including pole positions, podiums, laps led and probably 20 others.
By the time Hamilton retires, the record book should probably just be titled The Book of Hamilton. The only thing that seems to change in the book is the person’s name in second place.
Hamilton has obviously benefited from being fortunate enough to drive top-notch cars, but a lesser driver would not be able to compile the same statistics of success. That he has done so with such consistency just shows where he is compared to the field.
What makes Hamilton’s career more difficult to consider is that he is not finished. Suppose that he drives for two more years and that Mercedes does not turn into a pumpkin on the track – that would mean two more 10-plus win seasons and likely two more championships. He would total nine titles and just under 120 wins. No wonder Max Verstappen has joked that he will have to drive into his 40s if he is hoping to get within earshot of the top. And that is if he starts winning more like Hamilton now!
As for the title races this season, Mercedes could have clinched the manufacturer’s title with an apocalyptic effort from Red Bull at the PGP but will likely have to wait until this weekend’s race to celebrate. In the driver’s standings, Hamilton leads Valtteri Bottas by 77 points (256 – 179) with five races to go. The engraver is already starting to etch Hamilton’s name on the trophy.
Anyway, there are other things surrounding the sport that should be mentioned.
Odds & Sods
– Scheduling news abounds this week. First up, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola will feature the first two-day race weekend. Usual race weekends feature two practices on Friday, practice and qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.
This coming weekend scrubs the two-practice Friday custom altogether. Instead, there will be a 90-minute session on Saturday, a two-and-a-half-hour break and then qualifying.
Such a condensed schedule should provide great theater for the sport. Teams will not be able to acquire data and maximize their car setups as they are used to doing. In a way, qualifying will indicate who is fastest off the truck and show which team is suffering from the get-go.
One other aspect of the shortened weekend is that drivers need to keep things clean during the one and only practice session. The risk of missing qualifying becomes greater with so little on-track preparation but it also makes the enjoyment of seeing the teams live on the edge so much better.
The practice of a two-day weekend is something that should be considered for the future. While the sport tries to maximize ticket sales, of course, by having three days, distilling the race weekend might make the whole experience better for fans and teams alike as the shortened schedule might not be so draining.
– The 2021 schedule is starting to come into existence as the sport sent drafts of it to the teams this week. The sport is working under the assumption that they can return to the fashion that it is used to, which might be overly optimistic even if the season starts in April.
In many ways, there is not much to report that is amazingly unexpected. The races at Vietnam and Netherlands are again listed. There is also an opening that is set aside for a Saudi Arabian GP, should everything proceed as desired.
In total, the sport will be hosting 23 races for the championship, a number that seems like a bit too much. It is likely that there will be a couple triple-header scenarios, with races on three consecutive weekends to meet the demands. Such a season should push everyone to their limits but it will be questionable if that is for better or worse.
– One thing of note that has received scant attention is Max Verstappen’s outburst at the PGP. During practice, Verstappen had a run-in with Lance Stroll. The point here is not to recap that incident, nor lay blame, but to recognize that Verstappen used offensive words toward Stroll.
That the FIA seemingly ignored his language is quizzical. The organization is frequently fine with letting cursing go but to disregard these word choices seems a bit more problematic. As Hamilton walks around with Black Lives Matter gear, trying to bring awareness to racism in the world, it is acutely ironic that Verstappen can get away with his language from last weekend.
The sport has advertised the slogan #EndRacism throughout the season. How’s that working out?
Jake Boxall-Legge wrote a fantastic piece that examines how Verstappen faces little scrutiny for the language he uses when showing his anger at other drivers. It is worth spending a moment reading it and thinking about how Verstappen has evaded criticism for his attitude. He is becoming a case study in how athletic entitlement changes the framework for discussion.
– In other Verstappen news, he offered a warm show of support for his current teammate Alex Albon by stating that “it doesn’t really matter” who his teammate is. In many ways, it seems that Verstappen is given an embarrassingly large amount of freedom with his team, and he might find rewards from reeling in his mouth.
He may not realize it, but teammates can be a valuable source of information, support, rapport and data. Rather than discarding the already confidence-compromised Albon, perhaps offering a show of support could go a long way for both of them.