On November 4, 2019 Lewis Hamilton’s second-place finish at the United States Grand Prix allowed him to seal his sixth Formula One Championship title and bring him to within one of Michael Schumacher’s all-time record.
The 2020 Championship, which begins on March 15 in Melbourne, will continue Hamilton’s long-standing relationship with Mercedes, the longest driver/ single engine manufacturer partnership in F1 history, as the British sports star searches for title number seven to equal the legendary German.
“Racing the Formula One car is just the greatest thing,” Hamilton once told interviewer Trevor Noah several years ago when he was on a meagre four titles.
“I remember from the first day that I got to drive a Formula One car in 2006, and when I entered Formula One [at 22] my goal was always to emulate this older, legendary driver who was a Brazilian who died in the sport. He was a three-time world champion.”
Hamilton equalled Aryton Senna’s tally of championship titles way back in 2016 and following Hamilton’s runaway success in 2019 he has now doubled it.
Just over two months since the conclusion of the 2019 season and around six weeks until the next, Hamilton is already in training, finding space in between his much-needed leisure time and his ventures into fashion, a route that is preparing for the release of his latest collection with Tommy Hilfiger.
He recently took to social media to show his followers him jogging in the rain. Hamilton once divulged that he can lose up to ten and a half pounds in one of the gruelling humid races in Malaysia and Singapore. Hamilton even flew his dad, his one-time manager and secret of his success, out to join him as his prep continues.
“Working towards being the best you, is a mission with a combination of many factors,” said Hamilton in the accompanying Instagram post, “The mind, body and spirit need to be aligned, focus is essential but it can be hard to do with distractions. Set yourself goals and targets and set them high. I am constantly working on myself, trying to raise the bar each time.
"I am also trying to make sure to surround myself with people I genuinely love and care about that only add to my life. Let’s keep pushing ourselves and those that are around us. If I can do it I know you can, we can do it together team LH. #letsgo”
The opening to the fresh new campaign Down Under can provide the opportunity to again allow him to emulate his hero. If Hamilton achieves pole in Melbourne he will match the late Brazuca driver for most consecutive pole positions at the same Grand Prix, something which Senna achieved in San Marino between 1985 and 1991. Since 2014, Hamilton hasn’t failed to start the Australian GP in first.
Ultimately for Hamilton, it is a season to show that he is truly Senna and Schumacher’s successor.
He needs eight more Grand Prix wins to surpass the German’s record 91. Furthermore, Hamilton has achieved a podium position 151 times from his 250 races. Schumacher achieved 155 from 308. That almost looks certain to be another record obliterated: Hamilton’s about to enter his 14th season at the top, and has so far recorded an average of nine per campaign since 2014, the start of the V6 hybrid era after the change from 2.4 litre V8 engines came into force.
Hamilton is the only driver in F1 history to have won at least one race in every season he has contested. 13 years ago, his rookie campaign as a 22-year-old saw the Briton, as the first black driver in the history of the sport, finish just one point behind Kimi Räikkönen for the Championship, coming back from that narrow defeat in his sophomore season to win his first title in 2008.
Despite Hamilton winning his first Championship at the age of 23 years and 300 days old he is not the youngest driver to have achieved the feat. That lands with four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who bested Hamilton’s two-year record in 2010 by just 166 days. This season both 22-year-olds Charles Leclerc of Ferrari and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (who currently holds the record for youngest race winner, having done so at 18 years and 228 days in 2016 at the Spanish GP) could very well be anointed should the season go either of their ways.
With a possible 22 races on the calendar, the most in a single season, the potential for a multitude of records to tumble looks a real prospect. The extended fixture list (added races include the Vietnamese GP and Dutch GP) also presents the tantalising opportunity for Hamilton, or of course, whomever driver may so dare, to exceed the record for most wins in a single season. The double-Deutsch of Schumacher and Vettel both recorded 13 each. Hamilton’s best? 11, on three occasions.
Hamilton may now be part of the old guard but there’s still fire in the veteran’s belly. Ahead of the new season he even received praise from his one time McLaren teammate and rival Fernando Alonso.
"He's raised the level the last couple of years, especially in 2019 when the car has not been as dominant as other seasons," said Alonso to the F1 Racing magazine, "If he cannot win, he's a very close second - not 20 seconds further back, which is what happens a little bit with Valtteri [Bottas, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate].
"A weekend when the car is not as competitive, Bottas is fifth or sixth or a minute behind - but Lewis is not.”
Aside from Senna and Schumacher, the one key person Hamilton can best is….well...himself.
On the opening day of the season, Hamilton could surpass his own record of 33 consecutive points finishes (which he set between the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix to the 2018 French Grand Prix) if he scores points at the 2020 season opener in Melbourne.
The 35-year old seems as geared up and roared up raring to go as he did 13 years ago.