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Lewis Hamilton: Will his glamorous title series end in 2021?
no, the big crash is not the subject of this column today. Why? I share the stewards’ view that, if anything, Max Verstappen was a little more to blame for the collision in the del Rettifilo variant.
But my opinion is actually that this thing falls into the racing accident category because Lewis Hamilton could have backed off if he really wanted to. But we discussed the topic in detail in the livestream on Sunday evening on the Formula1.de YouTube channel.
And after Spa I could have let the Formula 1 fan sleep badly again, because 1,085 euros for a ticket in the main grandstand doesn’t just seem usury to me, but even in the opinion of Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is one thing Pricing policy “totally out of touch with reality”. But I’ve already written a warning comment on my Facebook page “Formula 1 inside with Christian Nimmervoll”.
No, the topic of the weekend, the one where the red arrow points downwards (my colleague Stefan Ehlen writes about the one with the green arrow upwards on the sister platform Motorsport.com Germany), is Lewis Hamilton for me. And not because of the crash on lap 26 of the Italian Grand Prix.
Hamilton and the eighth world title
It could all have been so perfect. Before the start of the season, many were sure that Hamilton only had to pick up his eighth title in 2021, that by the end of the year he would not only have set the eternal record of the great Michael Schumacher, but exceeded it. How else if Mercedes builds the best Formula 1 car with remarkable consistency?
And then, as an eight-time world champion, he can calmly retire and take care of saving the planet (together with Sebastian Vettel) and his career in Hollywood (rather without Vettel).
Verstappen-Hamilton-Crash: grateful that I’m alive!
What does Wolff mean by “tactical foul”? How’s Hamilton doing after the horror crash in which Halo saved his life? And how does Verstappen see it? More Formula 1 videos
Hamilton, (still) 36 years old, seems to know that the goddess of luck Fortuna is on his side, if we just think of Verstappen’s puncture in Baku or the collision at Silverstone, which cost Verstappen the race, while Hamilton was still able to win. But in the drivers’ championship he is still five points behind Verstappen after 14 of 23 (planned) races.
(Speaking of 23 planned races: 21 would do it too, dear Formula 1 money printing machine, because nobody needs the date on November 21, for which a venue has still not been named, and on October 10 I have no time for the Grand Prix Turkey, because the family vacation on a nice finca on Mallorca has already been booked. Please, thank you, Stefano!)
So the 2021 world title is not a sure-fire success, and I dare to make a forecast: the 2022 and 2023 world titles will not be either. Even if Mercedes should start the new rule era of Formula 1 with a material lead again: This time, Hamilton has a strong opponent in his own team in George Russell.
For almost a decade he left his mark on Formula 1 like hardly anyone else, probably not even Schumacher. But now the successful era of Hamilton threatens to come to an end.
Verstappen is so quick, so determined, so uncompromising that he could be the young prince to overthrow the king. And Russell also has what it takes to make Hamilton look exactly as he has become by athletic standards: old.
What Hamilton has in common with Schumacher
I see parallels between Hamilton and Schumacher.
Schumacher’s contract with Ferrari would actually have expired at the end of 2004, at the height of his work, after seven world championship titles. But he also hung on for another two years, in which all the experts assumed that he would win another title or two.
Instead, Fernando Alonso came and overthrew him, and at Ferrari, too, the next generation, Kimi Raikkonen, overtook him.
Hamilton’s Alonso is called Verstappen, and his Raikkonen could be Russell.
Photo gallery: Image by image: the Verstappen and Hamilton accident in Monza
Russell came, saw and won (at least in a metaphorical sense) when he was allowed to take over Hamilton’s Mercedes for a weekend in Bahrain in 2020 when it was isolated in a hotel room with COVID-19. In the first qualifying he almost beat Valtteri Bottas (in the end only 0.026 seconds were missing), who is really no nose picker on a fast lap, and in the race only a botched pit stop could keep him from winning.
Anyone who is completely unprepared to beat Bottas in such a way that basically nobody notices that Hamilton is not in the car, is also able to seriously challenge the seven-time world champion from 2022.
My prediction is that Russell will be on par with Hamilton from the start – a bit like Nico Rosberg. In two out of three races, Hamilton will be ahead by a nose. Simply because he is still extremely fast and knows the benefit of experience on his side.
But Russell will prevail in one of three races. And the longer the two teammates are, the more the pendulum will swing in Russell’s direction.
Will it be enough for Sir Lewis’ eighth world title? I am skeptical, at least as far as 2021 is concerned. Monza would have been one of the races in which Mercedes should have used the advantage to be able to afford second places on the upcoming Red Bull circuits such as Mexico or Brazil.
But it would be a big mistake to write off Hamilton now. The king is far from dead!
Note: It is in the nature of things that this column reflects my subjective perception. If you disagree, you are welcome to discuss it with me on my Facebook page “Formula 1 inside with Christian Nimmervoll”. There is not primarily “breaking news” from the Grand Prix circus, but mainly classifications of the most important developments behind the scenes.