2018 for Lewis Hamilton was a year the British driver sealed his place in not only British, but World sporting history, securing his fifth F1 Drivers’ Championship, equaling the record of Juan Manuel Fangio and now now just two short of the great Michael Schumacher.
Having now beaten rival Sebastian Vettel to the magic number five mark with successive title wins, the 33-year-old Stevenage driver seems to have withdrawn the sting from the German, as McLaren Mercedes continue to rule the motor sport roost.
In his eleventh year in F1, Hamilton is now arguably in the top five British sporting legends, a far cry from the same rookie who debuted in 2007, as a boy with raw talent but also much to be honed.
We could perhaps for garner his experience in Baku last year and his much-publicised bitter feud with Vettel, and the Briton’s subsequent usurping of the former four-time world champion, as the moment that made Hamilton and spurred him on to his latest two driving crowns. Now having finally sealed another gong during his illustrious career, Hamilton will now be eyeing Schumacher and a place as perhaps the greatest driver in modern sporting times.
‘Mad’ Max and Red Bull disharmony
Across the paddock from team Toto Wolff, Red Bull Racing endured another frustrating season in both the drivers’ seat and technical workings behind the scenes, despite hopes that this could the year to challenge the elite of F1.
There has never been an exact harmony to team-mates Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, but their relationship broke down to such a degree during the campaign, that that and on-going team engine issues has forced the Australian to now seek pastures new with Renault Sport from next year.
Verstappen had begun the year impressively but down to mechanical problems had only earned his first on two wins in 2018 in July in Austria. Sadly for the Dutchman, its was his nature to drive on the edge that forced his two most infamous moments this year.
In Baku, both Red Bull team-mates were forced to apologise to their team for colliding with one another in April, with both men having realistic shots at podium finishes.
It was in December at Interlagos however, that Verstappen again displayed his villainous side by getting into an altercation with Force India’s Sebastian Ocon, with the Red Bull driver heading for victory in Brazil. The former labeled Ocon as an ‘idiot’, before becoming embroiled in a post-race shoving match.
Verstappen remains a future champion in the making, but may need to curb his edgier side if he is to achieve his destiny and follow in the footsteps of his dad Jos. With Pierre Gasly as his running buddy next year, the Frenchman may be able to tame his opposite number but it his Team Principal Christian Horner who will need to do the hard yards with Verstappen.
Alonso drops chequered flag on F1 career
2018 also saw the end of one of greatest careers in the sport, as Fernando Alonso finally hung up his steering wheel and driving gloves after a remarkable 18 years in the cockpit.
His final drive in Abu Dhabi in November, saw an emotional departure for the Spaniard who ended on top of the tree in consecutive years between 2005 and 2006 with Renault – after their takeover of Benetton in 2002.
As the 19-year-old from Asturias who still stands as the third-youngest driver ever to debut in F1, Alonso started out with Minardi before his most successful spell with Renault before a marquee moves to McLaren and then Ferrari in 2010.
Alonso now switches codes to Indy Car racing for next stage in his motorsport career, with McLaren’s chevrolet engines set to compete in May’s Indianapolis 500, with Alonso at the wheel. He will have to go some however to match his exploits in Formula 1.
The 2019 F1 season begins in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix, taking place over the weekend of May 17 2019.
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