By Adam Perkinson
Following the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, Lewis Hamilton was crowned World Driver Champion for a record-breaking sixth time. Hamilton now has the second-most championships behind the legendary Michael Schumacher, who won 7 before retiring in 2012.
Hamilton’s championship is a continuation of manufacturer Mercedes’ absolute dominance in Formula One’s hybrid era. Since the introduction of the 1.6L v6 turbo engines in 2014, the affectionately-dubbed “Silver Arrows” have won every single World Drivers and Constructors Championship. Five out of six have gone to Lewis Hamilton, with one going to former driver Nico Rosberg in 2016. In addition, since 2014, approximately 75% of races have been won by a Mercedes driver.
Team Principal Toto Wolff reacted with praise for his team on Sunday. “I’m very proud, very proud for everybody who collaborated in the factory, there’s a massive amount of work behind the scenes and if it ends up like this, one driver wins – the other wins the championship – the script couldn’t have been any better.”
2016 champion Rosberg also weighed in. “We saw all of Lewis’s class out there today, he took the strategy into his own hands and almost got that win. It was a phenomenal attempt, lost out just by a little amount to Valtteri but hats off, a completely deserved sixth title in amazing fashion.”
Hamilton himself was full of emotion. Wiping tears from his eyes, he quoted a Maya Angelou poem, “Still We Rise.” Looking towards the future, however, he reminded his opponents he wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon. “As an athlete, I feel as fresh as can be,” he said. “It’s an honour to be up there with the greats – and I’ll keep pushing.”
The only thing that stands between himself and undisputed greatness is the illustrious Michael Schumacher. And with nothing drastically changing for 2020, chances are he will, at least, be tied for first all-time championships going into 2021, when the sport will take on a completely different look. If the proposed rule changes do what the FIA (the administration overseeing competition in F1) wants them to, it’ll also be a completely different on-track product. For one, there’s going to be a change to 18-inch, low profile wheels. Mario Isola, sporting director for F1’s tire manufacturer Pirelli, said that “[Going to] low profiles means you have to redesign the suspension; it’s a different behaviour of the car. In terms of aero you have a lot of differences,” Secondly, there will be a complete revamp of the aerodynamic regulations, which means that cars will be able to race more closely and thus, create more exciting racing. Finally, to the protest of the top three teams — Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull — there will now be a $175 million spending cap that all the teams must abide by. If a team chooses not to — whether it be by spending more than the limit or by not turning in their financial reports fast enough — one of three things could happen: a monetary fine (determined case by case), a championship fine (driver and team docked points), and/or testing limitations (testing is the lifeblood of success in F1).