Hamil­ton’s long-dis­tance drive to over­take ri­vals is far from over

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - COMMENT - DAVID KENNEDY

UN­TIL last week­end, only two peo­ple in the world of For­mula One achieved the rar­i­fied ac­co­lade of win­ning five driver cham­pi­onships — Ar­gentina’s Juan Manuel Fan­gio and Ger­many’s Michael Schu­macher. Now Bri­tain’s Lewis Hamil­ton en­ters those hal­lowed halls.

Both Schu­macher and Hamil­ton achieved their fifth ti­tle at the age of 33. Hamil­ton needs to ac­cu­mu­late two more to equal Schu­macher’s seven, it’s a tall or­der but he achieved the fifth with a car that wasn’t the best, so it’s not an im­pos­si­bil­ity.

It brings to mind a doc­u­men­tary on Barack Obama when an aide, who is try­ing to get a health­care bill passed against the odds, says, “What we need is a mir­a­cle”. Obama, who is stand­ing star­ing out of the Oval Of­fice win­dow, turns around to him and says, “What’s my name and where am I? You’re look­ing at a mir­a­cle.”

In fact, you could ar­gue Hamil­ton should have been cel­e­brat­ing his sev­enth world cham­pi­onship last week­end — 2007 and 2016 are the ones that got away, but only just. The first one he lost by a sin­gle point to Raikko­nen and in 2016 his team-mate Nico Ros­berg pre­vailed. Hamil­ton main­tains he was the “moral vic­tor” but there are no record books for that.

At the Au­to­dromo Her­manos Ro­driguez, you would have been for­given for think­ing his Mercedes team was hav­ing a wake. Toto Wolff was so in­censed at the team’s per­for­mance he couldn’t even speak to Hamil­ton im­me­di­ately post-race. His eye is firmly on the con­struc­tors’ ti­tle and what’s both­er­ing him most is that both Fer­rari and Red Bull are steal­ing a march on his team. They have two races to prove oth­er­wise.

While ob­vi­ously a fourth place wasn’t the dream fin­ish for Hamil­ton as it was for Michael Schu­macher when he won his fifth ti­tle and the French Grand Prix in 2002, it was a nice cush­ion when all he needed was to fin­ish in the top seven. Three of Hamil­ton’s five ti­tles (2014, 2015 and 2017) were achieved with race wins, it was only this year and his first that weren’t.

Hamil­ton loves Mex­ico and it’s re­cip­ro­cated. There was some­thing poignant about his win­ning there be­fore he heads off to Brazil. Nes­tled be­tween the two coun­tries is Gre­nada in the West Indies, from where his grand­fa­ther set sail to Eng­land to seek his for­tune 63 years ago. He passed away a few days be­fore the Mex­i­can GP.

Just a year prior to his pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther’s jour­ney to the land of hope, the glory would be a baton he passed to his son that ended up with Lewis. It was 1954 and Mercedes made their come­back in grand prix rac­ing, their first time to com­pete since the sec­ond world war. Fan­gio won his sec­ond ti­tle with them that same year.

It been a long haul from Gre­nada to Bri­tain to Mex­ico and the fifth ti­tle. Hamil­ton al­ways ac­knowl­edges his own fa­ther’s self­less com­mit­ment in help­ing him achieve such out­stand­ing suc­cess. From a coun­cil house in Steve­nage, to his dad work­ing four jobs to keep­ing the am­bi­tion plates spin­ning in a hos­tile world, kart­ing on a shoe­string and get­ting ridiculed for the poverty of their set-up, the ded­i­ca­tion against the odds, and then to the break­through with McLaren. It hasn’t been all plain sail­ing since that fate­ful meet­ing with Ron Den­nis, there was a hia­tus in the fa­ther/son re­la­tion­ship when Lewis fired him. Al­though An­thony Hamil­ton wasn’t in Mex­ico to wit­ness the his­toric event last week­end, ac­cord­ing to Hamil­ton, their bond is strong again.

It’s a fairy­tale story about im­mense strug­gle, prej­u­dice, en­durance, self-be­lief, that is wor­thy of a film star­ing his good friend Will Smith. Let’s hope they make it.

Two races to go, Brazil next week­end and Abu Dhabi on Novem­ber 25. With the ti­tle wrapped up, Hamil­ton has to now con­cen­trate on reel­ing in the deficit of 20 grand prix vic­to­ries which Schu­macher has to the good. Hamil­ton and Valt­teri Bot­tas both need to con­sol­i­date Mercedes’ lead in the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship. So no time to sit on, let alone ad­mire, his lat­est lau­rels.

Max Ver­stap­pen won con­sec­u­tive Mex­i­can GPs so he’ll be well buoyed up by his vic­tory. Ev­ery­one ex­pects the Dutch­man to usurp his el­ders in 2019, Hamil­ton has other ideas.

Any­one want­ing to fol­low Theodore’s en­try for the Ma­cau Grand Prix on Novem­ber 17/18 can sign up for up­dates at www.theodor­erac­ing.com. We have five driv­ers on board, in­clud­ing Mick Schu­macher, who had just em­u­lated his fa­ther in win­ning the Euro­pean F3 cham­pi­onship. Also in the line-up is prob­a­bly a fu­ture F1 can­di­date, Chi­nese driver Guan Yu Zhou.

To­day, at noon, Mon­dello Park hosts Ire­land’s an­swer to Le Mans — well, that’s stretch­ing it a bit. There’s a de­mon six-hour en­durance race for Fi­es­tas and a host of in­ter­est­ing en­tries.

The Patch Tyre Equip­ment Mon­dello Park Fi­esta Zetec Cham­pi­onship is a bud­get race saloon se­ries, with near stan­dard Ford Fi­esta Zetec mod­els from 1996 to 2001 pro­vid­ing close com­pet­i­tive rac­ing on a low to vir­tu­ally no bud­get. You can buy a car for as lit­tle as 2k, so get the piggy bank go­ing and sign up.

I’m look­ing for­ward to shar­ing a cock­pit (but not at the same time or it might get a bit crowded) with Tommy Byrne (who is fly­ing in from the States), Kevin McGar­rity and Niall McFadden.

In tribute to Martin Bir­rane, who sadly passed away this sum­mer, sev­eral of the Bir­rane fam­ily will share a car.

Best of luck to Kate, Sam, Amanda and Josh. There’s an all fe­male team with rac­ing driv­ers Emma Dempsey, Nicola Watkins, Aimee Woods and Ruth Nu­gent.

Keep an eye out for Mur­ray Mo­tor­sport en­tered cars (in­clud­ing ours). Rus­sell Mur­phy, Chris Jones, John Cof­fey and Fiona Kennedy share an­other.

The ‘Bal­ly­maloe Ban­dits’ have an en­try for 17-year-old Luca Al­lan so let’s see how the young kart­ing fox (or­ganic I hope) pits his wits against the old codgers.

The sun is promis­ing to shine so there is no ex­cuse not to come and en­joy a fine day at the races.

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