There’s an old adage that says an artist is never really appreciated in his own time.
This must resonate quite deafeningly for Lewis Hamilton, who should capture his fourth world title this weekend in Mexico.
It’s a peculiar British sensibility to be reserved in offering adulation, even when the praise is richly deserved.
To many F1 fans, Hamilton is already great.
Whether his greatness is embraced by everyone or not is almost irrelevant at this point.
When this season concludes with a fourth world title in the bag, the arguments against should further recede, as he stands alone as Britain’s most successful racing driver. The plaudits no doubt, will again come grudgingly.
Doubted on the ground that it’s the “software” or the “car” that’s doing the work for him, his brilliance has been always been somehow qualified or even outright denied by enthusiasts of the sport. Or more aptly, casual observers. Others just plainly criticise his lifestyle.
“They’re not even racing anymore” is common refrain, apparently pointing to the days where wheel to wheel racing and collisions as evidence that today’s crop is not the cream.
Exhilarating? Yes. Pure racing? Perhaps, but the safety of today’s sport should rightly be recognised a triumph, not a cause for ire or a reason to doubt.
Debate in sport is good, particularly about its history and the greats that came before, helpfully framing the arguments that continue to fuel our fascination.
Hamilton, though, sadly may never be afforded the proper respect whilst he’s active. But that long, overdue respect may now about to come sooner than we think, with his latest insight as to when he will bring the curtain down on a glorious career.
“I can easily imagine myself without Formula One, but it is not about that right now,” Hamilton said.
“There are some really cool things coming along that are going to complement where I am in Formula One.
“I definitely won’t be here at 40. I don’t think that is going to happen, but it changes all the time.
"There have been times when I thought I am happy to move on, but you can’t come back.
"I can’t tell you how long I will be here for, but eventually I will figure it out and know when the time comes. I anticipate a couple more years at least.”
Hamilton has hinted before now that he’d be comfortable with retirement, citing empathy with his former teammate Nico Rosberg’s sudden and unexpected decision to call it a day last year.
With his Mercedes contract is solid until the end of 2018 and pathological drive to win, retirement is unlikely to be imminent.
Hopefully, even ‘a couple of years’ will be rethought, as there’s so many more opportunities for Hamilton to further cement his legacy, and be discussed among the greatest whoever did it. Even if it must be in posterity.
After all, for many, his place in history and the test of time is apparently his toughest lap.
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