Lewis Hamilton has earned Autosport's British Competition Driver of the Year Award for 2022, raising questions over whether he is deserving of the title.
As reported by F1 Briefings, some fans have argued that Hamilton is not the most deserving British driver this year. Of course, it bears noting that the Autosport awards are based on fan votes submitted online. Thus, the award should perhaps be titled "Most Popular British Competition Driver," rather than simply "best." Regardless, the awards are named as they are, and Hamilton's victory doesn't quite check—particularly given the performance of his teammate this year.
Hamilton remains one of the most highly-paid sportspeople in the world and has a Formula 1 record few can even approach. However, the 2022 season was unkind to the 37-year-old. It marked the first year in his career in which Hamilton failed to secure a win. It's also the first time Hamilton has been bested by his teammate in the final championship standings since 2016, when Nico Rosberg clinched the world title.
Poor results shouldn't disqualify Hamilton from being recognized as a great driver. This is particularly true in a year when his struggles can largely be laid at the feet of the tempestuous Mercedes W13, which couldn't take the fight to rivals at Ferrari and Red Bull. However, for Hamilton to be crowned the "best British driver," you would expect him to beat other drivers from his very home country.
This year, that wasn't the case. Hamilton's Mercedes teammate, George Russell, came out ahead of Hamilton more often than not in 2022. Russell bested Hamilton in the final championship standings, finishing two places and 35 points ahead to end up in fourth place. Crucially, Russell also claimed Mercedes' only victory in the 2022 season, romping home to claim the win at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Other fans have noted the successes of McLaren driver Lando Norris, who has performed ably with the McLaren team. Tom Blomqvist was also nominated, given his victory in the IMSA championship. Both are solid drivers, and arguments could be made for their consideration. On the balance of things, though, Russell's win in the top series of world motorsport somewhat trumps both others.
It is strange to give the "best British driver" award to a competitor that was literally and quite directly beaten by another British driver. Given the award is based on votes from fans, though, the result is understandable. After a 15-year career in F1, Hamilton has a much larger fanbase than the younger Russell, which will always help in such contests.
Overall, though, pure statistics suggest that Russell was indeed the better-performing British driver in 2022. Either way, British fans will be hoping the dynamic duo goes on to greater success next year after the hints of brilliance we already saw this season.
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