Thursday 19 September 2019

David Kennedy: 'Hamilton's long-distance drive to overtake rivals is far from over'

Lewis Hamilton. Photo: AP
Lewis Hamilton. Photo: AP

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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