MEDLAND: ‘The greatest of our era,’ Hamilton turns dreams into reality

Andy Hone/Motorsport Images

MEDLAND: ‘The greatest of our era,’ Hamilton turns dreams into reality

Formula 1

MEDLAND: ‘The greatest of our era,’ Hamilton turns dreams into reality

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“My dad always used to tell me to do my talking on the track, so I don’t really have a huge amount to say,” Lewis Hamilton says as he sat down to reflect on a record-equaling seventh drivers’ championship. “That performance hopefully shows what I’m capable of and what we can all do together — in a sense of young kids out there, it’s important for them to see. I dreamt of this when I was five years old, to be here in F1, and it’s so important to hold onto your dreams and dream big for all of us, no matter how old you are.

“It’s taken a long time to get here, but I’m very grateful for the guys that have helped me, my team who have believed in me, for Ron (Dennis) for taking me on when I was a kid, for Mercedes who continue to support all the way from 13 years old to today. Particularly to my family, you know? So grateful to them. I hope they’re celebrating.”

It was a drive that was worthy of the occasion. A seventh title — equaling Michael Schumacher — coming courtesy of a performance that will rank as one of Hamilton’s finest. His machinery often is the best on the grid this year, but today that wasn’t the case.

“If we’re honest, it wasn’t his race to win and he still won it,” Sebastian Vettel said after finishing third to the man who has now got the same number of titles as his hero.

Matching Schumacher’s tallies had seemed almost inevitable since the start of the year, but Hamilton has always maintained his goal in F1 had been to emulate Ayrton Senna and win three titles.

Finally, after breaking down on his in-lap and being visibly emotional outside the car, he admits the numbers Schumacher put up were in his mind when he was younger, even if they weren’t realistic targets.

“I know often I say it’s beyond my wildest dreams but I think my whole life I have secretly dreamt as high as this but it felt so far-fetched. I remember watching Michael winning those championship and we are all doing the best job we can. Just to get one, two, or even three, it’s so hard to get. So seven is just unimaginable.

“When you work with such a great group of people and you really trust one another, there is just no end to what we can do together with this team. I’m so proud of the work that we’ve done, and them trusting me out there today, that comes with experience. But what a day! A lot to take in.”

While plaudits from the likes of myself or any other journalist or pundit can understandably be met with opposing views from fans — after all, we’re all observers — it’s the comments of Hamilton’s peers that really tell us the story of how good, actually great, he is.

“I think it was pretty obvious that he was going to win it but it’s incredible,” Max Verstappen said. “Obviously a very strong driver but also today, and I guess he’s now the greatest driver in Formula 1 — in terms of stats anyway!”

As someone desperate to have the machinery to fight with Hamilton, Verstappen’s words mean a lot. But the likes of Sergio Perez have raced with him for even more of his career, and despite never having a race-winning car himself, the Mexican has no resentment about what he has seen another driver achieve. In fact, finishing second to him on the day Hamilton won the title made Perez’s result even more special.

“It’s a very historic day for our sport,” said Perez after sharing the podium in Turkey with third-place man Vettel and the race winner – and world champion. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

“I am very happy actually to be sharing the podium with him,” Perez said. “I think it’s a very historic day for our sport, for our era, I think he is definitely the best driver of all, especially in our era. It’s very hard to compare across drivers but what he has achieved, the way he has delivered in all conditions, the way he reads the races, I’m just very happy to be able to share such a historic moment in our sport today.”

It was apt, however, that a driver whose career is so intertwined with Hamilton’s was also alongside him on the podium today.

The third most successful driver in F1 history in terms of wins, and with four titles himself, it’s amazing to think that Vettel was picking up a top-three trophy for the first time this year in Turkey. But once he climbed out of his car he headed for Hamilton rather than his own Ferrari team, sharing words with his rival as Lewis composed himself in his cockpit.

“I told him it’s very special for us because we can witness history being made today,” Vettel revealed afterwards. “He is the greatest of our era for sure. I think it’s always difficult to compare. How can you possibly compare (Juan Manuel) Fangio, Stirling Moss to our generation? You can’t. Maybe we would be useless because we would be all s**tting ourselves in those cars. Maybe they’d be useless in our cars because they’re way too fast — who knows?

“It doesn’t matter. I think every era has its driver or drivers, and Lewis is certainly the greatest of our era. To me certainly, emotionally Michael will always be the greatest driver but there’s no doubt Lewis is the greatest in terms of what he has achieved — he’s equaled the championships, he has more races won, he has a lot more pole positions. I think he’s done everything you can ask for.

“Today is the best proof. It’s a difficult race, a very difficult race to stay on track and two hours long, and probably if we’re honest it wasn’t his race to win and he still won it. I think once again he managed to pull something special out of that bag and therefore he deserves everything he has achieved.”

For those craving variety, the scary part is the 35-year-old certainly doesn’t look like he’s finished achieving. But whether you’re a fan of his or not, I hope you too can appreciate the greatness we’re all getting to witness, because in the future you’re going to be telling people about the era when you watched Lewis Hamilton race.

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