AT the 2004 Belgian Grand Prix, Ferrari driver, Michael Schumacher, became a seven times Formula 1 world champion.
There was seemingly no end to the Schumacher/Ferrari behemoth and there was certainly no fathomable thought that one day the record could be matched.
Sixteen years later we stand in a moment that has seen Schumacher’s record equalled by Lewis Hamilton. The British racer drove as brilliantly as he ever has to deliver a stellar race victory in Turkey, which has taken him to an incredible seventh world title.
Mercedes and Hamilton may have ultimately climbed to the top step of the podium in Turkey but it was far from the straightforward stroll to victory that most have become accustomed too.
Saturday belonged very much to Lance Stroll, as the Canadian driver snatched a breathtaking pole position in treacherously slippery conditions. His Racing Point teammate, Sergio Perez, was third on the grid while Max Verstappen was second quickest.
As the race settled and Stroll pulled away to the tune of more than a second a lap, Seb Vettel emerged in fourth from eleventh on the grid.
The Ferrari seemed to come alive in the wet conditions as he easily held off Hamilton for the better part of the race.
Meanwhile Valtteri Bottas’s afternoon is best forgotten as the Finn swapped ends at least four times in the race.
As if to add insult to serious embarrassment, Bottas was also eventually lapped by teammate Hamilton.
A rare mistake from Hamilton allowed Alex Albon and his Red Bull teammate, Verstappen, through into fourth and fifth, with Stroll building a lead of more than 10 seconds over the chasing pack after the first round of stops. It was during this phase of the race that Red Bull looked easily the favourites to win the race.
Nevertheless, a rash decision from Verstappen to attempt an overtake on Perez around the outside of turn 11 sent the Dutchman into a spin and needing to pit for new intermediate tyres.
By lap 29, it was clear that the Racing Points were struggling with overheated inters, as Albon, Vettel and Hamilton quickly eroded the gap to the leaders.
Stroll’s dilemma became greater the more the track dried. However, it wasn’t dry enough for slick tyres, forcing just about everyone to fit new intermediate tyres in the second pit stop phase.
But as Stroll faded dramatically from contention, Hamilton and Perez persevered on the worn inters. But it was Hamilton who clearly had the better pace, as he swept into the lead of the race and drove off into the distance.
Ferrari’s good pace was underlined by Charles Leclerc, who charged into third place in the final few laps of the race. The Monegasque driver challenged Perez for second but failed to make the move stick and ran wide at turn 12.
The mistake allowed Vettel, easily one of the best drivers of the day, into third, while a disappointed Leclerc finished fourth. Carlos Sainz delivered an excellent drive into fifth for McLaren, with Verstappen and Albon having to be content with sixth and seventh overall.
Lando Norris made it a double points score for McLaren in eighth as pole-sitter and early race leader, Stroll trundled home in a disappointing ninth.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo scored the final point on offer in 10th.
The Turkish Grand Prix, its exceptionally slippery track surface, the wet weather and an on-point Lewis Hamilton combined to deliver an unforgettable race. Eventually, Hamilton recovered from being a pit stop behind, wore his intermediate tyres down to slicks and won the race by a staggering 30 seconds. After 14 seasons in the sport and 93 wins, it was as brilliant a drive as Silverstone in 2008 or Hungary in 2013 or Germany 2018. And there’s no sign that the motivation or the hunger is waning.
The perennial ‘who is the greatest of all time’ debate is sure to carry on.
Is it any of Fangio, Lauda, Senna or Schumacher? Or is it Hamilton? The answer is startlingly easy.
It is none of them and all of them. In each of their respective eras these giants of the sport have defined Formula 1.
There is no singular greatest driver of all time for the simple fact that all of these monumental achievements merit respect and reverence.
Not least of all are the immense feats of one Lewis Hamilton.
We are all indelibly privileged to bear witness to this greatness.
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