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One long fall evening, I was attending the birthday of my elementary school friend. I was ten years old then and instead of dancing and fooling around with most of my friends, I decided to sit in front of the TV with a few more kids and watch a Formula 1 race. HRT broadcast the 2006 GP Grand Prix and there looked at part of some race. In case you forgot, in that race, Schumacher's engine dramatically failed in the 37th lap of the race, giving Fernando Alonso virtually securing his second world title. Now you’re probably already wondering what this anecdote has to do with Lewis Hamilton, but please satisfy me. Everything should be clearer soon.
Given that everyone who watched the race with me cheered for either Alonso or Schumacher, I certainly had to be different. I opted for McLaren-Mercedes because they were dear to me even when I would occasionally watch another race. After the race, which, as you can see, left a big impression on me, I decided to follow Formula 1 more actively from the following 2007. After choosing that McLaren-Mercedes is "my" team, I decided that I must have my favorite driver. Since I was a new Formula 1 fan, I decided on a new driver on the grid, who also drove for "my" team along the way. Of course, it was Lewis Hamilton.
At the age of eleven, you are not at all aware of things like team budgeting, how important it is to get a place in a good team, the importance of team bosses and pitwalla. The only thing that matters then is that those 20 and a fraction of the drivers push those cars to absolute limits, but also that the driver and the team you support win. And after the first few races, I was very pleased with my choice. McLaren was very competitive with Alonso and Hamilton, and my favorite driver achieved nine podiums in the first nine races, including two wins in Canada and the US. Hamilton so quickly became my boy hero - a rookie and one of the youngest drivers in Formula 1 defeats the current two-time world champion and his teammate Fernando Alonso, then already legendary Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, another very good driver!
However, the idea that Hamilton could become a world champion in his first season in Formula 1 soon fell into the water. After a poor strategic decision, McLaren left Hamilton on the track too long at the Chinese Grand Prix. As a result, Hamilton made the mistake of entering the pits on, so to speak, "bald" tires and ended up in the sand. Problems continued in the next race, where Lewis, after a nervous start, had a problem on the car that threw him to the back of the standings and ruined the dream of a world title in his first season.
I was devastated, but Lewis soon convinced me: he and McLaren would return next season even better, even more consistent and even faster, despite this loss and off-track problems (Spygate scandal and Fernando Alonso’s departure due to intra-team intolerances). That really happened when Lewis won the 2008 World Cup title in an even more dramatic way than he had lost the title a year earlier - overtaking Tim Glock in the last turn of the final lap of the last race of the season in the 2008 rainy season.
It was a triumph not only for McLaren and Hamilton, but also my triumph as his fan from day one. The number of victories, the number of podiums or drivers who have more world titles than him did not matter. He won that title and as he himself said: "I'm not sure if it will be possible to win seven titles like Michael Schumacher, but I would be happy with just one." So I was happy with that one title too, but I was hoping for another one soon.
Despite my wishes, the next four seasons were full of ups and downs: a bad package the first half of the 2009 season; poorly done box passes 2010-2012. both for Hamilton and for his new teammate Jenson Button; fast but very unreliable car 2012; private problems regarding Nicole Scherzinger, lead singer of the pop group Pussycat Dolls, which are often taken as the cause of the weak 2011 season; and so on. Contrary to these bad moments, it should be mentioned that Lewis has achieved at least one victory in each of these seasons, a tradition he has maintained throughout his entire, fourteen-year-long, career; how he fought for the title until the last race with Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso in 2010 and how his chances that year would have been much more realistic had he not accidentally burst a tire at the Spanish GP; to 2012 also be a real contender for the title had he not given up the race three times that season due to mechanical failures while in the lead.
However, the biggest "rise" in that period did not seem like a climb at first, but a sabotage of his own career - Hamilton announces his transition from McLaren to Mercedes AMG Petronas, a team from the middle of the standings. Many said he was wrong, but Lewis was very persistent in making the right decision, looking at his options and deciding that Mercedes was the best. Regardless of his transfer to Mercedes, another big change could be noticed at Lewis that year - unlike in 2011 when he was prone to mistakes, Lewis learned from his mistakes and drove much more maturely, but still kept his speed .
Along with him, I also grew up and in that period Lewis stopped being my boy hero, purely because I was no longer an eleven-year-old boy who knew nothing about Formula 1 except the names of a few drivers and a couple of teams. Then I started looking at old Formula Clips 1, both from Lewis ’career and from Formula 1 history in general. I’ve read a lot about Formula One along the way. All of this helped me develop critical thinking about the world of Formula 1, which I then used on Lewis Hamilton’s career as well. Consequently, it was not possible for me to continue to consider Hamilton some sort of personal hero because I was aware of his mistakes in earlier seasons.
Despite that, I was still a fan of his and considered him one of the fastest drivers on the grid. He partially showed that the next year, in 2013, when he drove another quality season. He achieved one victory, in Hungary, and was close to another at the British Grand Prix. Hamilton was in the lead of the race when his tire burst, throwing him to the back of the standings. Lewis then drove a great race and from the back of the standings by the end of the race he broke through to a great fourth place. He finished the season in fourth place that year, behind the dominant Red Bull duo and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
The following year, the so-called a hybrid era and then it showed how much Hamilton’s risk of switching to Mercedes actually paid off. Mercedes AMG Petronas dominantly reached the double crown that 2014, with Lewis as world champion. After a relatively tense battle with teammate Nico Rosberg and the first season in the hybrid era, Hamilton came to another crown a little easier in 2015 and it seemed like Rosberg would never be able to beat him. However, Rosberg did absolutely his best in 2016 and took the title of world champion in front of Lewis - he beat him by only five points. While many attribute this to luck, referring to the failure of Lewis ’engine in Malaysia, it is important to mention that Lewis had a few very poor starts at the opening of the season which Rosberg made very good use of and then consistently maintained his lead overall.
How did Lewis respond to that? He learned from that loss, continued to improve, and simply left nothing to chance. He strived for perfection in absolutely every aspect - his physical fitness, diet, changed the way he trained, continued to learn the technological side of the sport that develops from year to year, tried to develop the car to perfection together with the team. Of course, there were also Hamilton's off-track activities - mostly music and clothing design with Tommy Hilfiger - which, according to Toto Wolff, Mercedes boss, are very important in Lewis' success.
A lot of things can be enumerated here, but the key was that Lewis learned from his mistakes and constantly developed his driving skills. The result is two great seasons in 2017 and 2018 when Lewis wins the world title after a very tense fight with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Moreover, in my opinion, 2018 is Lewis ’best season because he drove fast, mature, smart and because he showed how to deal with the pressure of fighting for the world title all season long.
In 2019, I started writing for Pulse and we were all expecting another tense title fight, but it soon fell apart. Hamilton and Mercedes did not relax even after five years of dominance in the hybrid era. They continued to develop the car, just as Lewis continued to learn and improve his ride. The consistency of Mercedes and Lewis and the pursuit of perfection have thus come to the fore even more last year, and especially this year. Although in 2019 they did not have serious competition throughout the season, but only in certain races, they developed an even better car for 2020 and continued their dominance. Moreover, this year’s dominance is at the level of that of the beginning of the hybrid era.
With such a mentality that they are constantly learning, striving for perfection and leaving nothing to chance, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton broke almost every possible record in the history of Formula 1. Hamilton thus surpassed one of the biggest records at the recent Portuguese Grand Prix: Schumacher's 91 victory. For me personally, his records have never been overly important because I have long been aware of his speed and quality and his importance in the wider history of Formula 1. If not before, then he definitely showed it to me during the aforementioned 2018. But I am glad that it is precisely these records that awaken new respect and awareness of Hamilton’s quality, not that everything is attributed to the dominant car in an attempt to diminish its successes.
Today, at 24, I can’t describe Lewis as some kind of personal hero because as children we elevate our heroes to heaven, unaware of their flaws and mistakes, and I am very well aware that Lewis has flaws and sins, like the rest of us. However, I can admit that I consider him a great role model. No, I don’t consider him a role model because of his vegan diet, luxury living and the fact that he is very often surrounded by famous stars. I consider him a role model because he always stays true to himself, which he showed the most when many doubted his move from McLaren to Mercedes, then a very inconsistent team. I consider him a role model because of his consistency and work ethic. And finally, I consider him a role model because so far he has not allowed mistakes and losses to defeat him, but he has learned from his mistakes and continuously worked on himself - both on and off the track. This actually allowed him to stay on top of the sport for years and break this legendary Schumacher record.
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