Lewis Hamilton, the unstoppable force in Formula One

The British driver held on to the lead cleanly through La Source at the start, and the only chance that Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen had of getting ahead disappeared in a puff of smoke by the time the three hit the chicane at Les Combes.

Lewis Hamilton (centre) with runner-up Valtteri Bottas and third-placed Max Verstappen. Hamilton led every lap of the race and only had his point for fastest lap taken away towards the end by Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified his Renault in fourth and finished in that position.   -  Reuters

The future of Formula One is secure, at least for the next five years. On August 19, all 10 current teams confirmed their participation until 2025 by agreeing to a new Concorde Agreement.

The new deal is aimed at introducing a degree of parity in the sport and, “...combined with the new regulations, announced in October 2019 that come into force in 2022, will reduce the financial and on-track disparities between the teams, helping to level the playing field, creating closer racing on the track that our fans want to see more of.”

The announcement of the new Concorde Agreement — named after the Place de la Concorde in Paris where the first iteration of the document was discussed in 1981 — couldn’t have come at a better time for F1. The 2020 season is shaping up as a parade for the seemingly unassailable Lewis Hamilton to showcase the many records he has broken and will break this year.

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When the 2020 F1 season finally got underway in July with an eight-race calendar, the question was which of Michael Schumacher’s records would Hamilton break this year. The 35-year-old British driver looked set to equal the all-time mark of seven World Drivers’ Championships, but the German’s 91 race wins seemed out of reach as Hamilton was seven behind. Seven races into the 2020 season, Lewis Hamilton is on 89 races wins — and the calendar now has a total of 17 races.

Among the records that have fallen to Hamilton since July are those for the most wins at a single race (eight at the Hungarian Grand Prix, tied with Schumacher at the French GP), the most wins at a home race (seven), the most podium finishes (157) and the most consecutive seasons with at least one pole position and one win (14 each). At the end of the 2020 Belgian GP, he held the record for the most distance led in F1 — 24,297km at the front.

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These are just some of the records eclipsed this year. There are more — for example, since the 2018 British GP, Hamilton has finished within the points in an incredible 40 consecutive races (which includes the record for the most consecutive races finished, points or no points scored) — and even more will fall before the year is over.

And that’s why the news of the 2020 Concorde Agreement is so fortuitous.

Formula One announced on August 19 that all 10 teams have agreed to the new Concorde Agreement, which sets out the terms under which teams will compete in F1 until 2025.   -  AFP

 

The new technical regulations, sporting rules and financial limits will come into effect only in 2022, but the announcement on August 19 indicates that the teams, the F1 management and the FIA, motorsports’ ruling body, are seriously looking to reduce the gap between teams (read: gaping maw between Mercedes and the rest).

This should quieten the critics who attribute Hamilton’s near-unprecedented success over the past six-and-a-half seasons to the engineering proficiency of his Mercedes team — or at least reduce them to a murmur.

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From flag to finish, again

At the 2020 Belgian Grand Prix, Hamilton held on to the lead cleanly through La Source at start, and the only chance that Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen had of getting ahead disappeared in a puff of smoke by the time the three hit the chicane at Les Combes at the end of the Kemmel Straight on the opening lap.

Hamilton’s win was both a masterclass and an exercise in mundanity. He led every lap of the race, and only had his point for fastest lap taken away towards the end by Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified his Renault in fourth and finished in that position.

Bottas had another chance to attack his Mercedes team-mate at the end of the safety car period, brought on by an accident by Antonio Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo on lap nine that also took out the Williams of George Russell. But that was the closest the Finn got to Hamilton.

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Verstappen, meanwhile, was once again the only driver to keep pace with the Mercedes cars in front. The Red Bull racer described his race as boring, which is not surprising considering that he spent 44 laps chasing the two drivers in front without ever really challenging them.

The biggest surprise of the Belgium race weekend was the performance of Ferrari. Well off the pace of even the midfield teams, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel qualified 13th and 14th, respectively, and the best the two could do was swap those places in the finishing order — both well out of the points. This was effectively the low point of an already-miserable season for the Scuderia, who go into two home races in Italy in Monza and Mugello in fifth place among the constructors.