2017 is the first season since 1992 the sport has been without a reigning world champion, so many would place Lewis Hamilton as the favourite for a fourth time to take the title.
Backed by Ron Dennis from an early age, Lewis had a fairly quiet start to his racing career, despite the press coverage he got at the time. Starting in the Formula Renault 2000 Winter Series with Manor, he only claimed fifth place in the championship, and only third the season afterwards in the summer of 2002.
It wasn’t until 2003 that he found his feet, with ten wins from fifteen races in Formula Renault which gave him the Launchpad to head to Formula 3. The first season in 2004 gave him fifth in the championship, winning the series a year later, although not succeeding at Macau.
The next step was with ART in GP2. It was a stellar season, with a notable drive in Turkey, which saw him win the championship with 114 points, 12 clear of Nelson Piquet Jr.
The dream of McLaren happened the following season, partnering Fernando Alonso in what was one of the most vicious teammate battles since Senna/Prost. Hamilton believeing that he had number two status, behind that of two time World Champion Fernando Alonso, that despite some great driving from the British driver which saw him leading the championship. With the driver pairing at breaking point, Fernando Alonso left at the end of the season to head back to Renault.
2008, was his championship year after missing out on in 2007. He had an easier teammate in the form of Heikki Kovalainen. It wasn’t an easy championship win for Hamilton to take though, winning it at the final corner of the final lap in Brazil, overtaking Timo Glock as Felipe Massa celebrated.
That level of form wouldn’t return at McLaren, the new aero regulations brought in for the 2009 season pushed them to the middle of the pack and were no longer regular podium achievers.
Only finishing fifth in 2009, fourth in 2010, fifth in 2011 and fourth again in 2012, and at the end of his McLaren contract he was persuaded to join the works Mercedes team to replace a retiring Michael Schumacher.
While the first year was tough, only achieving one win as Red Bull dominated the normally aspirated engine formula from 2009, Mercedes would make a comeback in 2014 under the new hybrid turbo engines. The fierce rivalry with Nico Rosberg would provide the narrative for the next three years, with Hamilton winning the championships in both 2014 and 2015, and Nico Rosberg ‘finally’ winning in 2016 marking his retirement.
So for 2017 Lewis Hamilton will have a new teammate in the form of Valtteri Bottas, another Finn. The dynamic should work well, with the no nonsense Bottas stepping up to the leading Mercedes team for the first time. As long as Mercedes read the regulations well, there is no reason why Hamilton can’t fight for the championship again in 2017.