Lewis Hamilton Can Build Upon 2014 Championship Win to Dominate Formula 1

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2014

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The King is dead, long live the King.

After a four-year period which had seen Sebastian Vettel conquer all before him, the throne, the No. 1 car and all the glory that comes with it has been inherited by Lewis Hamilton, who secured his second world championship with victory in Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

In the days prior to the race at the Yas Marina circuit, the British driver had walked around the paddock with a target on his back.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 23:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP and Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP attend a team photograph before the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 23, 2014 in
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

He was a wanted man, with the pre-race focus primarily on how Hamilton—the leader of the drivers' standings by 17 points, lest we forget—could prevent Nico Rosberg, his Mercedes team-mate and title rival, from taking the crown, rather than on how the British driver himself could clinch it.

Requiring only a second-place finish to win the title regardless of what Rosberg did in the double-points race, the general consensus was that Hamilton would be content to sit behind the German and follow him to the chequered flag, guarding his car against reliability problems in the all-or-nothing event.

But Hamilton, an attacking driver by instinct—and despite being comprehensively outperformed by his colleague in qualifying—had other ideas.

"I'll drive the car like I stole it," the 29-year-old vowed to The Guardian's Paul Weaver and—give or take the rather brutish expression—that is exactly what he did. 

The world title was effectively sealed by the first corner when Hamilton, due to a lightning start, immediately took the lead from Rosberg and eliminated any chance of a repeat of their shenanigans at August's Belgian Grand Prix, in which the Mercedes drivers collided in the early stages.

From then on, Hamilton dashed away into the setting sun, with his pace advantage over his team-mate so vast that Rosberg—whose own race was ruined when a mechanical problem led to his car failing piece-by-piece—told Sky Sports' Pete Gill and James Galloway that his issues "didn’t make a difference because Lewis won the race fair and square."

As the German dropped out of the points-paying positions to ultimately finish 14th, the final few laps of the race became a coronation ceremony for Hamilton.

The nature of the British driver's performance, on a day when the globe was just waiting for him to fail, was a reflection of just how much Hamilton has matured in recent years and particularly in 2014.

This, after all, is the man whose career has been plagued by drama and who waited until the final corner of the final lap of the campaign to secure his first world championship in 2008.

And here he was killing the competition, coasting to the title and affording himself the luxury of soaking up the atmosphere—something he was denied six years ago given the hectic finish to the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Perhaps that was why Hamilton told the post-race FIA press conference that "it feels like it's the first time" he's won the championship, and why he may now be destined for bigger and better things.

After Vettel clinched his first title at the same venue at the final round of the 2010 season, the Red Bull driver found himself elevated to a whole new level of performance, winning six of the first eight races of 2011 to sow the seeds for his second crown.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 27:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium after winning the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit on March 27, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Get
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Hamilton post-Brazil '08, in contrast?

He was disqualified from the opening race of the following season, as reported by BBC Sport at the time, for, as the FIA put it, "deliberately misleading the stewards" over a pass under safety-car conditions, which instantly blunted any momentum that came with his triumph.

That set the tone for a limp title defence—although a substandard McLaren car didn't help matters—and was the first of a long series of misdemeanors which resulted in an implosion for Hamilton in 2011, when he became someone to be avoided both on and off-track.

This time, though, it feels different.

With Mercedes once again expected to set the pace with their 2015 car, Hamilton will almost certainly begin next season as the title favourite.

His experiences this year—which has ended with the British driver ultimately winning by a comfortable margin of 67 points despite trailing Rosberg in the standings for much of the campaign—will only serve to inspire and steel Hamilton, providing him with the belief that he can win from any position.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 23:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates with his team after winning the World Championship after the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 23, 2014 in Abu Dhab
Clive Rose/Getty Images

After an intense, tiring season of twists and turns, the clinching of his second world championship may feel like closure for Hamilton.

But if he has any aspirations of cementing his place as an all-time legend of Formula One, he will treat the 2014 season as a springboard for even greater success.

This could be just the start.

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