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3 Christmas Wishes for Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2015

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 25:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates with the team in the pit lane after winning the United States Formula One Grand Prix and the championship at Circuit of The Americas on October 25, 2015 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Steve Etherington/Getty Images)
Steve Etherington/Getty Images

'Tis the season to be jolly, and for Lewis Hamilton, Christmas 2015 will be a particularly cheerful occasion.

As the most successful year of his Formula One career draws to a close, Hamilton, now with 43 grand prix victories and three world championships to his name, is at peace with the knowledge his life's work—matching the records of his boyhood idol Ayrton Senna—is done.

With those three trophies shining brightly on his mantelpiece, the driver who has spent nine seasons chasing the sun could probably retire tomorrow content that, just weeks away from his 31st birthday, he has achieved everything he ever wanted.

There are few people on the planet with such levels of fulfillment at such a young age, but Hamilton, with the might of the Mercedes machine fully behind him, is not ready to slow down just yet.

After sealing his third titlehis second in successionat the United States Grand Prix, Hamilton told BBC Sport's Andrew Benson that while he had no clear goal in mind for the remainder of his career, he felt compelled to take "the baton" from Senna to "carry it as far as I can and see where I can build it."

No longer carrying the weight of his own expectations, there is a possibility that a freer Hamilton could become an even more formidable performer in 2016 and beyond.

Here are three wishes Hamilton may be making over the festive period to ensure the success keeps on coming:

Another dominant, reliable Mercedes

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - APRIL 17:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP climbs out of his car  during practice for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit on April 17, 2015 in Bahrain, Bahrain.  (Photo by Steve Etheringto
Steve Etherington/Getty Images

Since the introduction of the V6 turbo regulations at the beginning of 2014, Mercedes have won 32 of a possible 36 races, with Hamilton claiming 21 victories to the 11 taken by team-mate Nico Rosberg.

After the team suffered a number of reliability problems across 2014 and Hamilton encountered several braking issues, particularly in qualifying, Mercedes fine-tuned their machine to produce the W06, which he hailed as "the best car I have ever driven" before the opening race of 2015, per Sky Sports F1's Mike Wise.

That showed in the results as Hamilton took 11 pole positions—clinching the FIA Pole Trophy as early as August—and 10 wins to seal his third title with three races to spare.

With such impressive numbers, there must be a temptation for Mercedes to persist with their if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it strategy for 2016. 

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 05:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates in the car after winning the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 5, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty I
Clive Mason/Getty Images

But the performances of their rivals, including a resurgent Ferrari, may force the Silver Arrows to take more risks with the W07.

After the team evaluated new parts in practice for November's Brazilian GP—including a new suspension design and the "S-duct" concept—team boss Toto Wolff told Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble how Mercedes were considering an "innovative" approach to their 2016 chassis in an effort to maintain their advantage.

Mercedes' decision to introduce an initial sample of their 2016-specification power unit as early as September's Italian GP, which sacrificed their flawless reliability record for long-term gain, was evidence that the German manufacturer remain the ones to beat in the engine department.

But if, as non-executive chairman Niki Lauda told Autosprint (h/t James Allen on F1), Ferrari can match Mercedes in terms of power output, the 2016 title may be won and lost on the aerodynamic battlefield.

Hamilton had better hope his team aren't spooked down the wrong development path and their gamble, whatever that may be, pays off.

Failures at Ferrari

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 20:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP gets out of his car in Parc Ferme next to Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari after claiming pole position during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Re
Charles Coates/Getty Images

Most athletes will tell you that to be the best, they have to beat the best—that success means so much more when they take on the most skilful, accomplished performers in their chosen sport and win.

But they will also tell you that the record books only recall the names of champions and not those who finished second, third and fourth, regardless of how talented the opposition were.

So the notion that Hamilton needs a great rivalry with Sebastian Vettel to somehow validate his success over recent seasons is flawed. But there is another, more significant reason why he should wish to avoid combat with the four-time world champion.

Having finished ahead of Rosberg in the drivers' standings in each of the last three seasons, Hamilton now knows what to expect from the other side of the Mercedes garage: Rosberg will outpace him on occasion and sometimes unsettle him with Monaco 2014-style tricks.

But once the initial frustration evaporates, Hamilton knows he is more than capable of beating Rosberg in an exclusive fight over the course of a given season.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 29:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari celebrates on the podium next to Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP after winning the Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit on March 29, 2015 in Kuala Lum
Clive Mason/Getty Images

If Vettel were to join the title battle, however, his challenge would become so much more complicated.

With a clear No. 2 in Kimi Raikkonen, and therefore as Ferrari's sole focus, Vettel would be in a prime position to capitalise upon any silliness between the Mercedes drivers, enhancing the chances of Hamilton being distracted, potentially imploding and becoming his own worst enemy once more.

After claiming three victories in 2015, Vettel and Ferrari have found their voices again, with team principal Maurizio Arrivabene telling Motorsport.com's Jonathan Noble that the Prancing Horse "must be in front" of Mercedes in 2016.

As Mercedes' dominance continues, there is a widespread hunger for Ferrari—who, as reported by BBC Sport's Andrew Benson, were suspected of using the Haas team's wind-tunnel time to improve their own car—to produce a fight at the front.

But while a Lewis-Seb battle has the potential to be the mother of all rivalries, Hamilton will be hoping Ferrari—never too far away from a crisis of some description—hit trouble.

A top-10 single

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 20:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP speaks with members of the media in the paddock during previews to the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 20, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Mar
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

There seems to be a fanciful belief among sports enthusiasts that athletes dedicate every waking moment to improving their performance, pursuing perfection and thinking endlessly about the next event.

After all, if leading athletes are paid such vast sums of money—according to Sky Sports, the three-year contract Hamilton signed to remain with Mercedes is "thought to be worth in the region of £100 million in total"—surely the least they can do is focus all their energies on the upcoming race, right?

The reality, though, is different, and while others may indulge in activities such as fishing or golf to keep themselves fresh, Hamilton finds relief in the sanctuary of the music studio.

As he recently told CBS News' Charlie Rose, Hamilton has been playing the guitar since the age of 13, and what was initially a hobby is fast becoming quite a serious project, with the British driver offering snippets of two of his own songs.

"In here, I can be me. I can be vulnerable. I can show a side of me that people don't get to see," he told the same source, suggesting his work in the studio—and the escapism it represents—may even aid his on-track work, keeping him sane through the madness of a grand prix weekend.

There will, of course, be those who scoff and dismiss his hobby as more evidence that his ego is out of control. But Hamilton isn't the only F1 personality to experiment with music in modern times.

Indeed, DJ Squire himself raced for Toro Rosso under the name of Jaime Alguersuari between 2009 and 2011, while Jacques Villeneuve—the 1997 world champion no less—released an album in 2007.

As sounds continue to leak out of Hamilton Studios, it's surely a matter of time before the three-time world champion makes a formal release and attacks the charts with all the commitment, if not the subtlety and success, he attacks the racetrack.


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