It should perhaps come as less of a surprise during a season in which practically every race seems to elicit an outspoken remark from Lewis Hamilton, but the McLaren-Mercedes star has extraordinarily claimed on the eve of this weekend's German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring that the F1 title 'holds less value' now than it used to – and that he 'never thinks' about his 'one very small world championship'.
In fairness, the chances of Hamilton adding to his 2008 laurels this year are slim in the extreme, languishing as he does a gaping 95 points adrift of runaway F1 2011 World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel in the drivers' standings at the midpoint of the campaign – and with McLaren ostensibly having no answer to the crushing Red Bull Racing steamroller.
When the Briton joined the grand prix grid back in 2007, there was just one previous world champion in the field – his team-mate Fernando Alonso, whom he beat that year as he incredibly very nearly clinched the crown at the first time of asking. Now, there are five – Alonso, Vettel, his current team-mate Jenson Button, record-breaking F1 returnee Michael Schumacher and, of course, Hamilton himself.
There have been 32 world champions in the sport's six-decade history, but 18 of them have triumphed only once, and of the 14 multiple title-winners, just eight have prevailed more than twice. Since his nail-biting, down-to-the-wire 2008 success, Hamilton has seen his career progress frustratingly stall, with McLaren having failed to provide him with a championship-challenging car in any of the three subsequent campaigns – and the pressure is telling.
There has been just a single victory in 2011 to-date, no front row start since Malaysia back in April and – remarkably – no pole position in more than a year and as many wins in the past three years as Vettel has tallied in under four months. With his 2008 title glory now a distant and fading memory, Hamilton concedes that to him, beating the very best in the world only once has lost its lustre.
“The world championship is like a gold medal,” the 26-year-old is quoted as having said by the Daily Mirror
, suggesting that the thrill of the fight for him is no longer enough, and that true satisfaction and inner-validation come solely from winning. “It's great to have, but doesn't last very long. You move on. I never think about my one very small world championship.
“In the past, not many people won the championship – it was the same guys winning them – but now everyone has them. There are five drivers on the grid with championships. A different guy is winning it every year, so it holds less value for me because other people have won – but having two or three, that's a nice feeling. That would say something.”
Erstwhile McLaren driver David Coulthard, meanwhile, has echoed Hamilton's concerns in bluntly warning his former employer that unless improvements are swiftly forthcoming, the Woking-based outfit can 'wave goodbye to [its] F1 title chances'.
“McLaren's performance in practice on Friday – never the most reliable form guide, but a guide nonetheless – was not hugely encouraging, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button seventh and eleventh-fastest respectively,” the Scot wrote in The Daily Telegraph
. “McLaren need to get their form back, and quickly, or they can kiss this season goodbye. They made some big claims coming into this race, and they need to deliver.”