After two consecutive years of unbridled success for the McLaren-Mercedes team and Lewis Hamilton, despite the lying and the cheating, Formula One fans had started to take McMercs' performance for granted.
But the first half of 2009 was decidedly different for Lewis Hamilton, the man who couldn't but contend for pole position, week in week out couldn't even get out of the first round of qualifying anymore. Early in the season people were still hopeful that McLaren would turn it around, but as March become June and July the hope all but disappeared.
In two races this year Jenson Button has lapped Lewis Hamilton, all I could think was "how have the mighty fallen", but Hamilton never acted like he was flustered or frustrated with his situation, as a matter of fact he said struggling has made him a better driver and better person.
I always felt that Hamilton never paid his dues as a driver to make it where he's gotten to. He got out of GP2 and straightaway got a seat in McLaren, one of the best teams in Formula One and from the the very beginning of the 2007 season proved he was one of the most talented drivers on the grid. But even the best drivers need to face some adversity to make them better in the long term and Hamilton has never had that happen so it felt to me like he almost took that for granted, he believed his own hype and I think 2009 has been his comeuppance.
So in the first half of 2009, Hamilton has paid his dues, he has finally felt what many of the other champions in the history of Formula One have felt, what it's like to be very talented and not have a car that matches your talent level, such as Alonso with Minardi or Senna with Toleman.
Hamilton's MP4/24 has gotten some new mechanical and aerodynamic updates for the race this weekend and the car has been transformed, a car that once struggled is now a legitimate contender this Sunday and even more important it's been faster than the F60.
McLaren has apparently driven itself out of the woods and the future looks bright, their chances for winning the championship are over but they might be able to rescue a 4th or 5th in the WCC and be able to develop a better car looking forward to 2010.