Morning all. I live in a fairly quiet area of Mexico City. It’s very green, residential and excellently located right in between the main business and cultural districts. But apart from a handful of taco stands and fresh juice vendors stationed on strategic street corners, there’s not much going on. So when a new restaurant opens on my street – as happened this week – I naturally get as excited as my dog does when I pick up a tennis ball.
With our metaphorical tails wagging, my girlfriend and I went to try it out on Saturday evening. The chef, apparently famous in these parts, has prepared a seafood-focused menu featuring giant crab croquetas and barbecued prawns. With a light and fruity bottle of red by our side, we enjoyed it all immensely. As I got up to use the bathroom at the end of the meal, I was tempted to knock on the kitchen door and thank the chef for opening his restaurant a literal stone’s throw away from my flat.
But as I rounded the corner on my way to the men’s, what had been a perfect evening turned suddenly sinister. Hanging on the wall in front of me were six full-size deer heads, painted jet black from antler to neck and contrasting eerily against a blood-red backdrop. As I relieved myself, twelve murdered eyes stared at me scornfully. As you can imagine, this was not a particularly pleasant nor calming addition to the urination experience. Thankfully the deer did not return to haunt my dreams as I had feared, but whenever I visit the restaurant again I’ll be sure to take a piss in my flat beforehand.
Anyway I am here to talk about sport, not questionable interior design, and yesterday provided plenty of entertainment in that area. In Paris, Rafael Nadal emphatically outplayed world number one Novak Djokovic to win his 13th French Open title. It was an incredible performance from the 34 year old – he made just five unforced errors in opening up a 6-0, 4-1 lead – that takes him level with Roger Federer on 20 Grand Slam victories. The GOAT race is well and truly on.
On the other side of the Rhine in a wet and windy Germany, more history was being made. British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton won his 91st race with victory in the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, taking him level with the great Michael Schumacher’s all-time record. This latest triumph was slightly fortuitous – pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas was forced to retire with a mechanical issue – but it takes no shine off what is an incredible achievement. When he retired, many people felt that nobody would ever get near Schumacher’s record, such was the gap to his nearest challenger (Sebastian Vettel is now third on the list with 53 victories). Yet Hamilton has matched the German and, given his and Mercedes’ dominance, it is only a matter of time before he surpasses him.
The victory takes the 35-year-old one step closer to what seems to be an inevitable seventh world title this year. With a 69-point lead over Bottas and just 156 still available, it would take a miracle for him to lose it from this position. Schumacher, of course, also has a world-leading seven titles to his name. In terms of pole positions – the other vital KPI on a driver’s record – Hamilton is already miles in front with 96 from 261 races. Schumacher has 68 from 308 entries.
Whichever way you look at it, the man from Stevenage is well on his way to cementing his place as the greatest driver of all time. It is a crown he thoroughly deserves. Yes, he has capitalized on having by far and away the best car for a significant chunk of his race victories, but his talent is what got him those seats. Throughout his career he has had to overcome obstacles on the road to success. During the early days at McLaren, hugely talented teammates like Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button posed real threats, while he generally had the beating of Nico Rosberg during a fiercely contested rivalry at Mercedes. Meanwhile, four-time world champion Vettel had a superior car in his Red Bull from 2010-2013 and the Ferrari of 2017-18.
But Hamilton has risen to stand out as the clear number one among that impressive company. His sheer speed and overtaking prowess has been evident since his rookie season in 2007, when he lost out on winning the title by just one point. Since moving to Mercedes in 2013, he has added a ruthless consistency to his performances. Where previously he would have a handful of messy, error-strewn weekends per season, he now offers no more than one or two opportunities to his rivals. This season, for example, he has claimed eight pole positions and seven race victories from just 11 eleven races. Despite Bottas’ improvement, he is still nowhere near his teammate in the championship.
Off the track, Hamilton has matured into a hugely influential and admirable figure. A powerful advocate for equality and the Black Lives Matter movement, he uses his considerable platform – including 20m Instagram followers – to speak out on the issues that matter to him outside of Formula One. In doing so, he has become a role model for young athletes across the globe and F1’s greatest ambassador. I have written previously on here about how the sport needs some healthy competition to continue engaging fans. My position hasn’t changed, but if anyone is going to dominate I am pleased it is Hamilton. From fashion to music, he has several interests away from the track. Here’s hoping he stays in the sport for a few more years yet.
Right, I think I’ll leave it there for today. There is some lemon meringue pie in the fridge that isn’t going to eat itself. Have a good start to the week all, I’ll be back here on Wednesday.