CHAMPION again, this is why the world’s best racing driver is unbeatable, writes PETER COSTER:
LEWIS Hamilton’s seventh world driver’s championship was expected from the start of the season, such is his dominance of the world’s most expensive sport.
He needed to finish only eight points ahead of Valtteri Bottas at the Turkish Grand Prix to make it impossible for his teammate to catch up with five races remaining.
But Bottas finished a miserable 14th of the 17 cars still running while Hamilton found a way to win on a track resembling a river.
Much has been said about anyone on the grid being able to win in a Mercedes.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has put the figure at “90 per cent.”
Put that down to frustration. Bottas drives a Mercedes and he has won only two races this year compared with Hamilton’s ten.
Hamilton’s victories have become predictable, not only because the Mercedes Silver Arrows cars are the best going around, but because Hamilton is a complete driver.Embed from Getty Images
He is not only fast but a master tactician who is true to his word that he never gives up.
Hamilton continually seeks a way to win and finds it.
The Turkish Grand Prix is perhaps the greatest example of this. Hamilton plans a way to win a race when other drivers are focused on negotiating the next corner.
On Sunday, the Mercedes team told Hamilton to come in for a tyre change, an order he politely ignored.
Not only was the track on Sunday sheeted with water, the real problem lay beneath the water. Wets can disperse 85 litres of water a second and intermediates 35 litres a second.
But at the Turkish Grand Prix it was not enough to merely disperse the water. When the rubber did hit the road it was too slick to grip.
Driving rain washed out the third practice session at the second Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring and threatened to prevent qualifying.
But in Turkey, conditions were so marginal Williams driver George Russell slid into the wall before he got to the starting grid.
He questioned whether the race should have been run, saying only idiots would have taken pleasure in watching the carnage.
Not Lewis Hamilton. The boy from Stevenage in Hertfordshire, whose parents mortgaged their house to help him, was eight when he started racing go-karts.
Now about to turn 36 and almost certainly in a Mercedes next season, Hamilton gave another of the many master classes he has given in the years since he showed he could beat rich kids in faster karts.
His intermediate tyres had become slicks. The tread wearing as the track dried out.
Hamilton stretched the tyres out for 50 laps, getting faster as the treads wore down.
It was a balancing act as he synchronised tread deterioration with drying track conditions.
The seven-time world champion is about to sit down with Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff to negotiate his contract for next year, perhaps another three years.
“This one day of negotiations is something we don’t enjoy,” said Wolff. “It’s the only time where we are not having shared objectives.
“The best deal is one where both parties walk off not completely satisfied.”
But it seems as if Hamilton has already out-manoeuvred Mercedes.
F1 will be under a financial cap next year, but that won’t affect driver salaries.
Hamilton is already paid more than $70 million a year and will want more.Embed from Getty Images
Driver contracts are usually finalised by September but Hamilton insisted on waiting until the championship was decided.
The first to reach into the cockpit to congratulate Hamilton on Sunday was Sebastian Vettel, who finished on the podium for the first time since last year’s Mexican Grand Prix.
The former world champion passed teammate Charles Leclerc on the last lap to the third and was only three tenths behind Perez in second place.
Like Hamilton, Vettel resisted the temptation to come in for a tyre change.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, who has form in the wet from his F3 days, took pole and at one stage led the race by 10 seconds before coming in for a tyre change on lap 36.
His old tyres had been graining badly. So did the new set. He couldn’t explain it but the mechanics found the reason after the race.
The underside of the front wing was damaged. The interrupted low meant the tyres would not come up to temperature. It was the worst of luck after a brilliant drive in qualifying and in the race.
Daniel Ricciardo finished off the pace after two podium finishes in three races.
He qualified fifth on the grid but hit teammate Esteban Ocon going into the first corner.
Both drivers slipped back in the field and finished 10th and 11th.
Ricciardo said he was squeezed between Hamilton and Ocon. “I had nowhere to go and I clipped my teammate, which is the last thing you want to do.”
While Ricciardo won’t be driving a Mercedes next year, he will be driving a Mercedes engined McLaren after his contract with Renault expires at the end of this season.