When Lewis Hamilton entered F1 in 2007 he surprised many with his raw talent, amazing pace and fantastic overtaking.
He was very unlucky not to be world champion in his first year of F1, yet we will enter 2014 with only one world championship for Lewis – a return which many people think is poor given the drivers ability.
And in the same time a friendly german chap called Seb has arrived and taken full advantage of good machinery to win 4 championships in a row.
Now put them both in the same car, and I think it would be very close indeed. But for now Seb has the better race car and as Lewis has himself admitted, his first year at Mercedes did not live up to the high standards he sets himself.
So what is the source of the perceived underperformance?
Well I’ve spoken to quite a few people in and around F1 at length on this one and there are three recurring themes. Fantastic talent, surrounding himself with the wrong people, and being too open about his own shortcomings (too critical and giving a negative perception).
Many of those like me, that love the racing driver he is, but struggle to like the other shitstorm that surrounds him (rap stars, living his life out in the papers), just wish he’d get back to basics.
I read a fascinating article from 2007 recently in the Guardian by Paul Kelso heralding Lewis as one of a new breed of sportsman.
Indeed, the quote that intrigued me was from Mark Sharman (head of ITV sport when interviewed)
“He’s one of a new breed of young sportsmen like Theo Walcott and Amir Khan who are a breath of fresh air, and he’s hugely exciting”
Six years on, and all three sportsmen mentioned have reached the top echelon of their respective sports, but are arguably yet to scale the heights that their natural talent suggested was possible.
I imagine it would be interesting to see what different off seasons look like for Seb and Lewis. And whether that contributes to what Lewis felt last year was underperformance.
The mental side of top line sport I think is incredibly important, and is one where Lewis has shown increasing signs of fragility.
Looking at Tiger Woods in his early career, there was a feeling before the other golfers stepped out onto the course that they were playing for second place. Indeed since that aura of invincibility has been taken away, Tiger has struggled to regain the type of dominating performances we used to see week in week out.
A top sports psychologist could probably help many of the drivers, Lewis included.
Now despite many thinking Lewis has lost his way, it might be that next season he will finally feel at one with his Mercedes. I sincerely hope so.
But in the event Nico outperforms him, I do fear we may not see him in F1 for the long term.
And that would be a great shame…. especially if he takes up singing.