If the NFL has Tom Brady and football has Lionel Messi, then Formula 1 has Lewis Hamilton. Throughout his illustrious 15-year career, the 38-year-old Brit has solidified his status as the greatest racing driver of all time. He has amassed 103 race victories, 191 podiums, and seven world championships during his time in the sport.
But there can be no denying that 2022 was a rough year for Mercedes’ main man. Last season was the first in Hamilton’s decade-and-a-half-long run at the top of the sport in which he didn’t pick up a single race victory. At the beginning of the term, his Silver Arrow was some one second per lap off the pace of the leading Red Bulls and Ferraris. As the campaign progressed, the gap narrowed somewhat, and the Stevenage-born driver came back into contention.
He picked up five second-place finishes and was unlucky to miss out on victories in Great Britain, the Netherlands, the United States, and Brazil. The latter of those races was particularly difficult, as his young upstart teammate George Russell pipped him to victory by just one second. But Hamilton will be the first to tell you that being close isn’t good enough.
As we mentioned earlier, every sport has a resident GOAT… but times do indeed change. If the NFL now has Patrick Mahomes, and football now has Kylian Mbappé, then Formula 1 has Max Verstappen. The Flying Dutchman romped to his second consecutive world championship last season. For this reason, sportsbook Bodog, which provides Formula 1 betting as well as an online casino Canada, have made him the favorite to make it three titles on the spin this season.
The Rise of Super Max
For years, Max Verstappen had been touted as Formula 1’s next big star. He won his debut race for Red Bull back in 2016 becoming the youngest Grand Prix winner in Formula 1 history at the age of 18 years and 228 days. Over the next four years, the Dutch superstar picked up more impressive victories however, it wasn’t until the 2021 season that he truly came of age.
That year, he went toe-to-toe with the reigning seven-time world champion Hamilton and he actually came out on top, although the campaign wasn’t without its controversy. Heading into the final race in Abu Dhabi, the pair were level on points and a true winner takes all showdown was about to unfold.
It appeared that Hamilton had the race won when he was leading by over ten seconds with just a handful of laps remaining. Then, a late safety car bunched the field up, and a controversial decision by race director Michael Masi – a decision that would later cost him his job – allowed Verstappen right onto Hamilton’s tail for the final lap of the race. As we all remember, the Red Bull man – on much fresher tires – would overtake Hamilton and win the championship, stopping the Stevenage-born driver from breaking Michael Schumacher’s championship record.
But if the 2021 campaign was a controversial one, 2022 was anything but. Verstappen romped to a record-breaking 15 Grand Prix victories en route to his second consecutive title. He left the rest of the field in his wake and decimated his opposition, something that we had come so accustomed to seeing Hamilton do over the last few years.
Can Hamilton Bounce Back?
Heading into the curtain raiser in Bahrain on March 5th, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is quietly confident of his team’s chances. This year, Mercedes won’t be starting one second per lap off the pace as they did last year. But despite that, they are still expected to be the third quickest on the grid, with Redd Bull and Ferrari leading the way once again.
That won’t bother Hamilton one bit. Last season, he eeked every last drop of performance out of his Mercedes, and despite what the results and the final championship standings may have said, 2022 was one of Hamilton’s most impressive campaigns to date. No driver on the grid – other than Verstappen perhaps – would have been as competitive in a wounded Silver Arrow as Hamilton was.
While his car should perform better this term, however, Hamilton may still have a problem within a new garage, and a new Silver War could be about to commence. Admittedly, last term, Mercedes weren’t in championship contention, and as such, they let their drivers race against each other.
Should that happen once again this season, then his teammate George Russell may well attempt to stake his claim as the team’s lead driver. The 25-year-old upstart is riding a wave of confidence following his maiden victory in Brazil last year, and one wouldn’t expect the former Williams man to obey team orders as former teammate Valtteri Bottas did for so many years.