Driving a quick automobile

When Michael Schumacher retired from Formula-1 racing, it seemed likely that his records would remain unbroken for a very long time. The German great had 91 race victories to his name, 61 more than the top driver active at the time, Fernando Alonso, who was 31 then and already in decline. Among younger drivers, Sebastian Vettel had won 26 races then, Lewis Hamilton had won 21 — they were good, but no one thought they could get anywhere close to Schumacher’s mark of 91. But Hamilton, who replaced Schumacher at the Mercedes team at the start of 2013, had different ideas — very skilful and very determined, Hamilton first zoomed past Alain Prost’s mark of 51 wins, and on Sunday he broke Schumacher’s record of 91. The Briton, who even in 2020 remains the only black Formula-1 driver ever, is certain to equal Schumacher’s record of most world championship titles, seven, this season.

Hamilton’s achievements are extraordinary — he has won 92 of 262 races he entered in, for a success rate of 35.11%, a record vastly superior to Schumacher’s (91 wins in 308 races, 29.55%). Hamilton also owns the record for being the top qualifier in 97 races, 29 more than Schumacher. Hamilton was lucky to be at the right place at the right time, for Mercedes have put together the most dominant car ever in Formula-1 history. After finishing second in 2013, Mercedes will clinch the team title for the seventh time in a row this season. Hamilton has won 71 races and qualified in top position 71 times since moving to Mercedes. It’s a union made in Formula-1 heaven.

Some experts believe Hamilton enjoys an unfair advantage due to the quality of his car, and that he is such a great champion only because he drives an extraordinary car. All other things being equal, the fastest and steadiest car always wins — the skill of the driver is irrelevant if he’s driving a bad car. Hamilton takes umbrage at such opinions, but it’s accurate to say of his partnership with Mercedes that the most dominant Formula-1 car ever is being driven by a truly great driver, and the numbers reflect that.

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