Lewis Hamilton could seal the 2017 Formula 1 world championship title tomorrow should the reverse fortunes of he and rival Sebastien Vettel of Ferrari have experienced over recent weeks, continue in Austin, Texas.
Of all people, however, Hamilton knows that chickens can not be counted early when it comes to getting over the line at the end of the calendar season.
Obviously I am pretty disappointed. I am still very young and have more years in me to achieve my dream of becoming world champion.Lewis Hamilton in 2007
Ten years ago today, the then-22-year-old had his hopes of becoming the youngest world champion in the sport’s history dashed at the last in his rookie year in the sport.
The then-McLaren prodigy went into a thrilling season finale in Brazil leading the standings, only for mechanical problems to hand a first crown to Kimi Raikkonen, of Ferrari.
Hamilton’s emergence as the fresh-faced new superstar of motorsport had raised a few eyebrows, not least with his team-mate and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso over internal favouritism.
Hamilton’s introduction was quick. A debut podium in the season opener at Melbourne was followed by eight top-three finishes in succession.
That included first race wins in Canada and the United States and by his fourth race win in Japan, the drivers’ title was all but heading back to McLaren’s construction base in Woking.
However, the Briton was forced into an early retirement due to tyre failure at the penultimate race in China which left a gap open for Raikkonen to wedge his way through.
Raikkonen, F1’s iceman, had enjoyed his own streak of podiums towards the end of the season, with eight on the spin and ten in 11 races and there was the added caveat of Alonso’s challenge with the Spaniard four points behind team-mate Hamilton in the standings.
Of the three contenders heading into that final race in Sao Paolo, Raikkonen had the uphill finish requiring a seven-point swing on Hamilton and three on Alonso to win the title. Hamilton only required a third-place finish.
Qualifying had gone the British driver’s way, too. He was faster than his rivals and sat second on the grid behind Raikkonen’s Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, with Raikkonen third. But things started to go wrong for the British driver as soon as the five lights disappeared on the start line.
Slow away, Raikkonen went passed before the first corner and a panicked Hamilton also fell behind Alonso.
In retaliation, the Englishman tried to mount an immediate response but went wide, slipped off track and slid down to eighth.
Further problems soon struck and a gearbox problem dropped him to the back of the field.
Sensing Hamilton’s issues, Raikkonen powered on and was gifted first place by his team-mate on his way to wrapping up a comfortable race win. McLaren, reverted Hamilton to a three-stop strategy but the plan did not pay off and he ran out of time. His seventh-place finish was not enough and Raikkonen was crowned champion by one point, with Hamilton snatching second from two-time champion Alonson on countback.
“Obviously I am pretty disappointed,” said Hamilton. “I am still very young and have more years in me to achieve my dream of becoming world champion.” Ten years on, he stands on the brink of fulfilling that prophecy for a fourth time.