August 03, 2020 at 06:40 pm
Nathaniel Dela Cruz
I find the talks questioning the legitimacy of Lewis Hamilton’s legacy (now that he is eyeing to win his seventh Formula One championship via a shortened race calendar) as completely and utterly absurd. Why does winning the 2020 Formula One World Championship – which will elevate him to rarefied air - not at par with previous championships?
Think about it: for one, the shortened race calendar is not Hamilton’s doing. This is F1 trying to make the best of a difficult situation considering that the threat of COVID-19 is still looming. This is F1 moving forward – with all drivers in tow, which means the field remains competitive, and Hamilton is still up against the best drivers, each one of them hell-bent on unseating the defending champion that’s for sure (and many are up to the task). It is still the same battle on the track, the intensity undiminished. Whoever emerges as the top driver after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix would’ve fought tooth and nail throughout the 13 races. Hamilton, who is looking for a four-peat, is a heavy favorite, but not the automatic victor, and should the British once again prevail, why would people think less of this victory just because the battle is eight races shorter?
Some say this is Hamilton taking a faster and easier route to his seventh championship because of the shortened schedule and thus, to some degree, not comparable to the arduous ‘complete’ calendar that features 21 races. It is a weak argument but more importantly, I think this is a smokescreen that seeks to hide the real problem.
The real issue, in my opinion, is that some F1 fans find it hard to accept that Hamilton winning this year puts him side by side legendary F1 driver Michael Schumacher, each driver with seven championships each. They’ve put Schumacher on so high a pedestal they thought it was untouchable and now they can’t accept the fact that Hamilton has earned the right to stand shoulder to shoulder with the iconic German.
What’s worse for die-hard Schumacher fans is the looming possibility that Hamilton will soon unseat Schu and become the all-time leader in F1 championships won. Hamilton hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. He remains a very sharp driver with no injuries that can impact his performance. Adding two more championships to his name is not a question of how but when, and all things considered, this could happen before he turns 40. Hamilton has become inevitable.
This is why this feels like sandpaper on the skin for some fans.
Well, it is hard for some sports fan to accept that someone has achieved more compared to their idol (this is why any debate regarding who is the GOAT is always a hotly-contested argument that is never settled), and it is harder still if the new king of the hill is unpopular and immensely disliked. Sure, the Red Baron is not the sinless saint without his share of criticisms when he was ruling Formula One, but throughout his career, Schumacher has, in my opinion, tried his best to nurture and maintain the gentleman-athlete persona, the role model, a legit Formula One poster boy. He was accused of unsavory things, but he did not deliberately tarnish his brand with ill-advised words or activities and that allowed him to elevate his stature and esteem.
Hamilton, despite being a driver par excellence evidenced recently by winning the 2020 British Grand Prix running on only three good tires, has taken the path of notoriety throughout his professional career (whether it is deliberate or merely a result of a series of unfortunate circumstance we cannot fully ascertain). Should he surpass Schumacher, he will have a legitimate claim to the title of Greatest of All Time, but his penchant to say or do the wrong things undermines the level of success he’s had in F1.
Fans want to crown a king who is a hero; Hamilton, with all the issues that have soiled his name, is a villain in the eyes of some fans. This is why I think people are trying to come up with reasons to invalidate what I think Hamilton has rightly earned: the respect due to a driver of his caliber and accomplishment.
Michael Schumacher is Formula One king and Lewis Hamilton – the rightful heir - is ready to inherit the throne. As to what kind of king Hamilton will become is up to him.