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Lewis The Legend Wins Title Number 6

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The impossible target of Formula One championships is now within sight.

Lewis The Legend Wins Title Number 6

Hamilton

On Sunday at the US Grand Prix the 5 time champion made it 6 in another thrilling display of both tenacity and tire preservation.

Lewis Hamilton finished 2nd in Sunday’s US Grand Prix to secure his 6th championship, making him second all-time in that measure, and only one behind Michael Schumacher.

It’s been yet another season of excellence, and race day saw him just 4 points shy of securing the title. But an uncharacteristically bumpy qualifying performance on Saturday resulted in a starting position of only 5th for the next day’s race, with his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, securing pole position.

 

The Race

At the start Bottas and the rest of the clean side of the grid got strong getaways, allowing Hamilton to easily take Leclerc for fourth. While exiting turn one Alex Albon in the Red Bull tangled with Carlos Sainz’ McLaren necessitating an early stop for Albon.

Ferrari had strangely poor performance in the race, and it’s been hinted that the recent FIA engine clarification might have robbed them of their power advantage, with both Hamilton and Max Verstappen noting a loss of performance from the Italian firm this weekend.

To make matters worse for them, the Ferraris seemed completely unable to fire up the tires in the first stint. This may have played a factor in the most bizarre incident of the race, when, after following other cars wide through turn 9, Sebastian Vettel’s right rear suspension gave way and left him three-wheeling to a stop.

Hamilton was now left fighting with Bottas and Verstappen for the win.

Verstappen

Max Verstappen

The preferred strategy seemed to be the 2-stopper, and indeed Leclerc pitted early on lap 14 and Bottas the following lap to avoid the undercut from the Dutchman.

Perhaps attempting to keep the champion-to-be in free air for as much time as possible, Hamilton’s side of the garage opted for the less popular one-stop strategy and car number 44 stayed out longer, inheriting the lead. He was then caught by his teammate, and immediately thereafter stopped for his only tire change on lap 25.

Hamilton then immediately put in a blistering time some 2.7 seconds faster than his rivals, then settled into tire preservation mode, waiting for the inevitable attack from his teammate Bottas after the latter’s second stop.

Bottas and Verstappen pitted again on laps 35 and 36, respectively, and the chase was on, with Hamilton in the lead and attempting to keep as much grip in his older tires to defend at the end of the race against rivals on fresher tires.

Lewis began to question whether his stop was too early, and whether he had enough left in the tires to hold on to the lead. Many times in the past, viewers have seen Hamilton question the strategy over the radio, damning an early stop, only to seemingly waltz to the end. Tire preservation is, after all, one of his great strengths.

But this time it wasn’t to be, as Bottas steadily ate into Hamilton’s lead, and then it became academic after Hamilton lost three seconds getting past backmarker Lance Stroll in the Racing Point. With just 4 laps left in the race Hamilton was overtaken for the lead and left fighting with Verstappen behind him for 2nd. A late yellow flag with just two laps left for Magnussen stuck in the gravel set the podium.

Bottas came home for his 7th win, and Hamilton in second secured his 6th Championship with another great drive. Verstappen finished 3rd, less than one second behind.

6th on the Trot for Mercedes

The title also marks the 6th straight season of double championships for the German team, a feat never before accomplished in the sport.

With both Mercedes and Hamilton at six, we’re left to consider where they figure in respective conversations of the best of all time. Hamilton has been part of the conversation at least since his stellar, but underappreciated 2012 season at McLaren. That season produced no title, but saw him put in consistent, fast performances week after week.

Without question, the man from Stevenage is now among the best of the best, and deserves to have his name said with likes of Schumacher, Prost, Senna, Clark, and Fangio – with his career still underway, and showing no signs of losing his appetite for victory. By the time he hangs up the helmet for the last time he may have earned the right to have his name spoken first.

Notes on Formula One

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Dominic Castillo

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