It's the Big One for Lewis Hamilton this weekend. Yes, Stevenage's most successful export will turn 100 when he lines up on the grid for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, marking a significant milestone in the F1 star's career.
To reach a century of grands prix is no mean feat and remember, Hamilton is still only 27. I can still vividly recall his debut in Australia in 2007 where the fresh-faced protege of Ron Dennis lived up to the massive hype around him and stormed to a stunning third place. British fans were thrilled and a nation was immediately won over.
Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton on podium at Australian GP, 2007
Building quickly on that success, Hamilton carried our hopes for the first British world champion since Damon Hill in 1996, especially as Jenson Button didn't then look to be the man who could deliver. Indeed, the Somerset man had yet to win his first GP after six seasons in the sport although that achievement was actually not too far away.
To Britain's delight, both men claimed F1 titles and before we knew it they were cosying up to each other at McLaren, seemingly enjoying each other's company as well as rivalry. But does either driver have another world championship in him?
You sense it means more to Hamilton to taste ultimate glory again. His excitement and relief at winning in Canada this year after some dificult races showed just how much the fire still burns inside him. Hamilton has also said that he didn't join F1 just to win one championship whereas Button is (on the whole) enjoying racing for racing's sake since 1) he dispatched that 'First GP Win' monkey off his back and 2) unexpectedly wrapped up the 2009 driver's championship with an outfit cobbled together from the remnants of the collapsed Honda factory team (all praise to Ross Brawn and his double diffuser).
Hamilton celebrates victory in Canada this year with McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh
Whatever hopes Hamilton still has of becoming a multiple world champion, they now look to rest with McLaren as a key player in the drivers' market, Mark Webber, has signed to stay at Red Bull for another season. That firmly ends the Milton Keynes option for Hamilton while Ferrari looks equally unlikely. As much as they get along (contrary to common perception) on and off the track, Fernando Alonso won't want to team up with Hamilton again after their previous experiences.
Among the front runners, that just leaves Mercedes as an option. True, Nico Rosberg has taken the F1 W03-05 to victory this season, but would the works Mercedes team be able to offer Hamilton anything more than McLaren except perhaps an even longer wait to any second title. And who would Hamilton replace? Rosberg is unlikely to move except to a better or equal team while Michael Schumacher looks to be on the up again after his podium finish in Valencia.
Barring unforeseen events, Hamilton's future is in silver and red for the foreseeable future. Webber's decision has effectively weakened his bargaining power in contract negotiations with McLaren. But, hopefully both sides look be looking beyond that and realise that their successes will be achieved together - which is probably what British fans had been banking on anyway. Well, that and another 100 grands prix from their hero..
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