Not only is Lewis Hamilton likely to become a seven-time world champion, with Valtteri Bottas needing his Mercedes teammate to endure a disastrous race on Sunday to take the title battle to Bahrain later this month, but an announcement on Thursday morning represented F1’s biggest move yet in its drive for greater diversity.
The move earlier this month to split Formula Two and Formula Three was made in order to cut costs for the smaller teams within the paddock, but it also opened up the vacancy for a new feeder championship to be added in the shape of the all-female W Series. The sport has been vocal in its efforts to try and open all avenues into the sport that have so often been closed to people of certain race, gender or sexuality, but this is indisputable evidence that they are taking measures to change that.
"It is a really important moment for us to welcome W Series as partners for eight races,” said F1’s motorsport director Ross Brawn.
"We believe it is incredibly important to give everyone the chance to reach the highest levels of our sport and their partnership with Formula One next season shows our determination and commitment to showcase their exciting series and the importance of building greater diversity across the sport."
The W Series has its supporters and its critics, but it cannot be doubted that it will give those involved the chance to showcase their talents on the biggest stage. Who knows, if F1 is serious about leading that change, they could choose Saudi Arabia one of the eight venues that will host the championship to present exactly what women can achieve behind the wheel in a country where the legal right to do that was only passed two years ago.
It is not the only thing with its supporters and critics, as that can easily be applied to Hamilton himself. The 35-year-old is already a true great of the sport, with his 93 Grand Prix victories and counting setting the bar for the drivers of tomorrow to aim for. No one could have ever predicted that any driver would have what it takes to conquer Michael Schumacher’s all-time record, let alone one who the German actually competed against, but Hamilton has made a thing of breaking records of late.
On Sunday, he only needs to beat Mercedes teammate Bottas to guarantee a seventh world championship, which will put him on a par with Schumacher’s all-time tally and see the two sit parallel head and shoulders above the rest in terms of the winningest driver in F1 history.
The smart money would be on Hamilton to not only achieve that this weekend, but by doing so as he does best: by winning. He is bidding for his 10th victory of the season and, more intriguingly, a fourth in a row at a track unfamiliar to the Class of 2020. Nurburgring, Portimao and Imola were all new additions to the calendar due to the coronavirus pandemic for this season only, although one of those could come to fill the void left by Vietnam’s departure next year with the fourth round to be confirmed following this week’s calendar announcement.
But on each occasion, it was Hamilton who rose to the top. With track knowledge limited and previous experience non-existent, the potential for the unexpected to happen increases significantly, yet it was the class of Hamilton that rose to the top to take what is almost an unassailable lead in the drivers’ championship.
Just like the Nurburgring, Hamilton is one of few drivers to have raced in F1 on the Istanbul Park circuit, having won there in 2010 and competed alongside Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen the following year in what proved to be the final Turkish Grand Prix until this weekend’s return. That past knowledge, combined with his run of form, should be more than enough to give him an edge over his only real rival this season, and even if Bottas finds a way to emerge triumphant, he has to record the fastest lap to guarantee Hamilton does not end the day in celebration mode.
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