The Briton crossed the line to become a three-time Formula One world champion, emulating childhood hero Ayrton Senna
As soon as the safety car pulled in during the closing stages of the United States Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg seemingly had the race in the bag. The perfect restart saw him further increase the gap on Lewis Hamilton. But moments later, the German lit up the rear tyres on the entry to turn 13, lost the back end, and with it the title to Hamilton.
The Briton crossed the line to become a three-time Formula One world champion, emulating childhood hero Ayrton Senna. He also earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as Niki Lauda, Jim Clark and Sir Jackie Stewart.
Hamilton was sublime all year and even his idol would have been proud of such a season. At the United States Grand Prix, it seemed braking problems in the first stint and multiple safety cars would work against him. While he led from the front for most of 2015, this time he was trailing Rosberg in an action-packed race; constantly applying pressure on the German to make him crack. And crack he did.
My greatest moment, says ‘Superman’ Hamilton
The Briton’s post-race emotion was there for all to see when the waterworks flew unashamedly — Hamilton had cemented his name among the very gods of the sport.
The main difference between 2014 and 2015 was the mindset of the two Mercedes drivers. Last season, Rosberg never gave an inch, nor expected one from his teammate. However, this year’s Japanese Grand Prix was an indicator that Rosberg was more willing to yield in wheel-to-wheel combat.
Hamilton, on the other hand, was at his ruthless best and had the determination which usually separates the greats from the very goods.
Fans couldn’t help but speculate what may have been had Rosberg stuck to his guns around the outside of turn 4 at Suzuka instead of running his car wide to avoid a collision. Sure, the teammates would have tangled, but the fault would have been Hamilton’s. It would have sent a clear message from Rosberg that he would not lift off. Instead, his evasive action indicated he would jump out of the way every time Hamilton shows him a front wing endplate.
United States Grand Prix: Hamilton nearing the finish line
The new model
In reality, Lewis Hamilton of 2015 was a different monster altogether. It took him eight years, and many mistakes and tantrums along the way, to become the complete racing driver he is today.
This was a season to rival the greatest from the greats. Lewis always had the bravado and raw pace to match his idol, but now he employed the guile Ayrton used so famously to turn disaster into triumph.
The Englishman’s genius tyre change in difficult wet conditions at his home grand prix showed the world that the once impetuous racer now had a head on his shoulders.
In a wet to dry and wet again race, Hamilton had Rosberg breathing down his neck and a move for the lead was imminent. While Rosberg’s sight focused on the car in front, Hamilton looked to the heavens for a sign. The dark clouds were all he needed. He streamed into the pit lane and left with a set of intermediate tyres while the rest of the field was still out on slicks.
Russian Grand Prix: Hamilton commands Sochi track as Rosberg retires
Bang on cue, the heavens opened and the field scurried to get the same rubber Hamilton was setting a blistering pace on. In the end, the Brit was on his own at the front while the others scrambled to be the best of the rest.
Wunderkind strikes back
Four-time world champion and possibly the best driver on the grid, Sebastian Vettel, had a difficult 2014 in his previously all-conquering Red Bull.
A switch to the red of Ferrari, however, seemed to do him a world of good as he stomped to victory at only the second grand prix of the season. It signalled a return to form for not only the great German, but also the legendary marque he was piloting.
Even when he was winning race after race with Red Bull, ‘Seb’ stated time and again that his dream was to drive for Maranello. Therefore, it was hardly surprising that Ferrari’s new driver was unable to contain his utter delight when he took a sensational win at the Malaysian Grand Prix; delight akin to that of a man who had won his first grand prix, not his umpteenth.
Two more wins at Hungary and Singapore against the vastly superior Mercedes, all on raw pace, meant Vettel was back in his stride.
Looking forward to 2016, formula one fans in general and the tifosi in particular will be hoping the prancing horse can give Vettel’s engine the ponies it needs to match the driver’s undeniable passion for the team.
He’ll need every last morsel of that passion to match the mighty power unit strapped to the back of the two Mercs.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 28th, 2015.
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