Lewis Hamilton equaled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles by winning his sixth Formula One championship in Mexico City on Sunday, but his victory still came with a price.
Mercedes driver Hamilton had started the race on pole position, and though he lost the lead on the opening lap to Raikkonen, he led from start to finish to win by 0.026 seconds. He also won the title with a 38-point advantage over Sebastian Vettel.
On a day when a fatal accident in the Spanish Grand Prix raised fresh concerns about the safety of F1 cars, Hamilton, alongside four-time champ Vettel, put the sport back on the right track and briefly managed to silence the critics who had been critical of the sport this season.
While this success was no doubt tempered by those concerns, Hamilton also had to remember that these titles are usually won — not lost — in the home-turf event.
Asked if there was any way he could go past Schumacher’s record, Hamilton responded: “I don’t think so, really. But, you know, you can’t put yourself in their shoes — you could have only imagined it one thing.”
Indeed, while Hamilton did equal Schumacher’s run of seven titles, he was way below the level of achievement Schumacher reached. For example, Hamilton’s victory here leaves the Briton with 15 victories over the course of a season, whereas Schumacher earned 21 by the time he won his seventh title in 2006. What’s more, Schumacher’s seven titles came in a World Series by Renault era. So not only did Hamilton not achieve the same level of success, he also accomplished it in the wrong era — in which the cars were more advanced.
The single most important reason for this disparity is that Schumacher in his heyday became extraordinarily difficult to beat; during his career, he needed just to finish ahead of his rivals to keep the championship coming. After all, in 1982, three drivers in a row — Brabham’s Stirling Moss, Timo Glock of Toyota and Schumacher — finished in the top three. Only Hamilton has come close to Schumacher’s pace in a row, and that was in 2008, when he clinched his first title with a decisive victory in Brazil.