One thing that is difficult to truly ascertain in elite competition is how much a role luck plays in the grand scheme of things.
Sebastien Vettel held the advantage heading into the summer break. Ferrari and Vettel in particular had surprised many by being this competitive and giving Mercedes a good run for their money. Hamilton himself was not far behind, as expected, and his Mercedes could arguably be regarded as the superior vehicle overall.
Thus, everything was delicately poised heading into the latter stages of the F1 season. The stage was set for two of the finest drivers of their generation, perhaps of any generation to do battle and secure the Drivers’ Championship at the end of the season.
The Asian leg of the championship however has been a different story entirely. Vettel has gone from championship leader and title contender to “also ran”, a Spurs’ version of “Put on the pressure”, all in a matter of weeks. The most painful part has been that it has been less a failure on his part, but more a consequence of the failure of his team. It must really hurt to see Hamilton speeding off to the drivers’ crown, while he looks on, seemingly helpless, his Ferrari unable to kick into first gear.
On raw performance, Vettel should have won in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan. Had that happened, the championship would be looking very different. The German would have had a significant lead, and Hamilton would be right up against it.The reality though is that while there has been lots of twists and turns, every scenario has produced one outcome: Lewis Hamilton inching closer to the finish line. Fortune has really not favored Vettel, thus again begging the question: how much role does good fortune play in elite sport?
Many would say you make your own luck, and might rightly point to events in Singapore as proof that Vettel is the greatest architect of his own misfortune. Others would point to the fact that even though a lot of Vettel’s problems were apparently out of his control, this championship has been more than just about good fortune.
Luck is when opportunity meets preparation, and this is the very definition of Lewis Hamilton.
Opportunity is said to come but once, but Asia has been a story of opportunity after opportunity. Take Singapore for example; where Vettel was his own greatest enemy, taking out every driver who could have hurt Hamilton; Or Malaysia and Japan, where he was unable to compete at the level he was capable due to problems with his car.
However it must be acknowledged that every time the opportunity has come knocking, Hamilton has grabbed it with both hands. This is the hallmark of preparation, a necessary quality of every champion.
Hamilton has really been impeccable this season, exhibiting not only superb driving skills but excellent decision making. He has handled everything within his control very well and deserves kudos for that. He has also been very consistent, his propensity for erratic driving greatly minimized.
Everyone at Mercedes can also attest to the fact that Hamilton has matured as a driver, showing greater desire, focus and a better grasp of all aspects of F1.
And so, we have arrived at a point where Ferrari has run out of steam, after matching Mercedes lap for lap at the early parts of the season. At some point they were even looking good enough to win both the Drivers’ Championship and Constructor’s Title, but it seems that Mercedes has pulled away at the home stretch on both fronts at the crucial part of the season.
We expected a close fight, punch and counterpunch but instead Mercedes has Ferrari on the ropes now and it’s only a matter of time before the throw in the proverbial towel. 28, 34 and now 59. Vettel’s clock is ticking, and the countdown to a Hamilton victory party has already begun.
Vettel, always the fierce competitor, has promised to fight till the very end, but he is running out of time, races and points. Hamilton, as usual is taking nothing for granted. He knows very well, from experience, that it is never over until it is over.
The sub-plot in this year’s championship looks like it might finally be coming to an end. It’s been exciting no doubt, but it’s also a bit disappointing that it might not last till the end of the season. Many were looking forward to a title race that would go down to the wire; the last turn of the last lap of the last race of the season if possible!
It’s the party in the USA! Specifically Austin, Texas, where Hamilton can wrap the championship with a win so long as Vettel finishes fifth or lower. No gain saying the permutations are firmly stacked in Hamilton’s favour. After virtually sealing the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes, and Hamilton have the opportunity to add another Drivers’ Title to their collection.Vettel meanwhile, can do no more than race hard and hope for the best.