Lewis Hamilton will start his 100th Grand Prix on Sunday, but as he revealed in media briefings on the eve of practice, he has mixed feelings about his lack of success in the last few years. Nevertheless, his former team mate Fernando Alonso, who has described himself as being in the form of his life, gave the Englishman a thumbs up, saying that he is the driver he considers his greatest rival.
“Why do I talk about Hamilton when McLaren has been in crisis for a few races?” said the Spaniard, “Because he always manages to get something extra from the car, even when he looks like he’s in trouble. And then McLaren is always a team that, even when they take a step backwards, can always take two steps forward.”
Hamilton has 18 wins on the board in his 99 races to date, of which 50% came in the first two seasons when he battled Alonso in 2007 and then won the title the year after. In the four seasons that have followed the wins have come in fits and starts as Red Bull moved into a dominant position in the sport.
It would have been hard to believe, back in 2007/8 that one would talk about Hamilton’s career not fulfilling its potential, but that is the risk he runs as he reaches both a milestone and a crossroads.
Asked in Hockenheim on Thursday whether he could have achieved more since those first two seasons, the 27 year old said. “Yes. I can’t deny it, putting aside the fact that I’m very proud and grateful that I’ve had the chance to be competitive in a competitive car.
“But if I didn’t feel that, I wouldn’t be the driver that I am.”
“Every year, I feel like I’ve prepared myself and had the mental ability and skill to have won more but, just with the circumstances, we haven’t been able to do so. It’s been a tough 10 or 15 years for this team.
“I’m waiting for that time when they have their highest point. I hope at some stage it’s our turn.”
When Alonso signed for McLaren in late 2005 for a 2007 move he did so reasoning that the team is “always there or thereabouts”.
Hamilton’s last four seasons have seen him finish fifth twice and fourth also twice in the drivers’ standings.
He races on Sunday in his 100th Grand Prix at a career crossroads; respected by his peers as one of he most talented among them, but with the path forward for the next six years of his career not clear.
If Sebastian Vettel does move away from Red Bull he is the obvious man to replace him, but that situation is so clouded in mystery, it’s hard to know what may or may not be the outcome.
A renewal of his McLaren contract seems likely, but perhaps with performance clauses should he find that team is not able to rediscover those peaks.