Lewis Hamilton clinched a fifth Formula 1 world drivers’ championship in Mexico Sunday, joining legends of the sport Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as one of only three drivers ever to achieve this number.

Narrowly missed out on taking the title honors at the Circuit of the Americas a week before, Hamilton was able to finish fourth after going off track earlier in the race while trying to hold off Daniel Ricciardo. All Hamilton needed to do Sunday was finish seventh or better. His title rival Sebastian Vettel finished second.

A character that often divides opinion among fans, no-one can deny Hamilton’s prowess behind the wheel. Narrowly missing out on the title in his rookie season of F1 racing in 2007, Hamilton managed to right the wrongs in his second season, taking his first title in the most dramatic of circumstances at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2008.

Some tough years followed as a vastly changed set of regulations saw McLaren fall from the front of the pack into the midfield battle. Despite this, Hamilton was still able to maintain a record of winning at least one Grand Prix in each season in which he has raced.

A move to relative newcomers Mercedes in 2013, as ridiculous as it would be seen now, was at the time thought to be quite a risky move. With only one win in three seasons since taking the place of the championship winning Brawn GP team, Mercedes were hardly viewed as a team with championship winning potential but Toto Wolff and perhaps most importantly, former multiple champion Niki Lauda, convinced him of the team’s potential to be successful with the change in regulations for the 2014 season.

The success story that followed has been one of the most dominant periods that the sport has seen – 50 wins across the past five seasons and a further four world championship crowns. This sustained level of success has led even former McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso to rank Hamilton inside his all-time top five drivers to race in F1.

The thing that will make the 2018 title success all the sweeter will be that he has managed it in a car that for the first half of the season at least was not the strongest. The story of the season was very similar to 2017 as Ferrari threatened to take the battle to Mercedes before dropping off when Hamilton pressed on after the summer break.

2018 saw the deciding factor being largely driver based. As opposed to just Ferrari dropping the ball, Sebastian Vettel will carry a lot of the blame for failing to collect the title for Maranello. A series of errors including several spins, crashing while leading his home German Grand prix and ignoring red flags in America put Vettel on the back foot and eventually his mistakes cost him a chance to really push for the crown himself.

As poor as Vettel’s second half of the season has been though, it cannot be understated just how brilliant Hamilton has been across the season. Virtually faultless all year, Hamilton’s place among the greats is no longer a debate, it is simply fact and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that his reign at the top will being coming to an end any time soon.

Source: Autoweek

October 29, 2018