Lewis Hamilton is World Champion once more and nobody is denying his worthiness. Six seasons after claiming his first crown in controversial circumstances, the 29-year old finally boasts multiple titles.
Anybody who delivers eleven victories in a campaign is befitting of the ultimate prize – yet for Hamilton, a second championship was long overdue.
Hamilton was a victim of impatience in 2010 – costly errors at Italy and Singapore sacrificed crucial points which should have been enough for the title, whilst unreliability cruelled his 2012 campaign when he was arguably the best driver with the fastest package that season. The sight of his MP4-27 crawling to a halt whilst commandingly leading a race was an all too common sight.
This proved the catalyst for his much derided call to fly the coop when he departed McLaren following six campaigns and many preceding years as part of the British marque’s family, for a Mercedes outfit which had left much to be desired since its’ return to the sport as a manufacturer in 2010.
24 months later, whilst the Woking squad has floundered in Hamilton’s absence, the gamble has paid dividends. A fresh environment, coupled with a new set of regulations, saw Hamilton equipped from the outset with a package which represented the overwhelming class of the field, and he didn’t squander his advantage.
His ultimately successful campaign commenced with a whimper as he suffered power failure at Australia, whilst team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg capitalised with victory. Hamilton responded with four consecutive victories to assume the standings lead following Spain, from which point tensions between the two long-time friends became apparent. Rosberg’s actions during qualifying at Monaco – locking his brakes and running off the circuit, triggering an early conclusion to the session and thus claiming pole position, would prove to be the first of several incidents between the pair.
Setbacks during qualifying at Austria, Great Britain and Hungary threatened to hand Rosberg the initiative, yet tenacious performances by the Briton limited the fallout. His performance at the latter, muscling past his team-mate for third in the dying laps re-ignited the hostilities, which would boil over following the summer break.
The events of Belgium doesn’t require a great deal of attention, but what can be gleaned in retrospect is that it served as the crossroads for Hamilton’s campaign. When his tyre was punctured by Rosberg – who was trying to prove a point, the incident had the ability to sink the Briton’s season.
What followed at Monza was a renewed Hamilton, with Rosberg – whether it was a result of wilting under pressure from a rapidly gaining team-mate, or an order to redress the outcome of the previous race, committed a mid-race error which handed Hamilton victory.
The standings lead which had been Rosberg’s since Monaco, returned to Hamilton under lights at Singapore as Rosberg encountered an issue on the installation lap and ultimately, retirement. Hamilton was forced to fight for victory however, following a safety car deployment and late pitstop. His triumph effectively represented the moment the Briton put himself on the path to becoming champion.
A solemn victory at Japan, followed by a commanding performance at Russia – with another Rosberg error at turn one offering Hamilton even more satisfaction. He was outqualified by the German at Austin, but showed his maturity in biding his time and pouncing for the lead mid-race, a fifth consecutive victory.
A rare error at Brazil handed Rosberg a crucial victory, and with this, enough for the battle to go down to the wire within the spectrum of the standard points offering in the face of the controversial double points on offer at the finale.
It would prove academic as Rosberg fell down the field on raceday, with Hamilton left to his own devices, to soak up the significance of what he was on the verge of achieving, unlike the events of six years prior, when he didn’t know he was champion until he had crossed the line.
An eleventh victory capped a season where the best man came out on top.
It could be said with a car that was essentially unchallenged all season when reliability was not a concern, that all Hamilton had to do was turn up to be champion. Yet, it was he who made the call those years ago when everybody said it would be the end of his career, he knew something others didn’t, and he reaped the rewards.