Lewis Hamilton could win his fifth world championship at this weekend’s USA Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver would join Juan Manuel Fangio on five titles, with only Michael Schumacher ahead on seven. All he has to do is outscore championship rival Sebastian Vettel by eight points on Sunday.
Ever since his debut in 2007, Hamilton has been tipped for greatness. Four world championships and 11 years later it appears he has come good on and arguably exceeded all expectations.
So where does he rank among the pantheons of Formula One drivers?
Statistically he is among the very best. He has taken more pole positions than anybody else (80), and only Schumacher has won more races (71 v 91).
Different eras and regulations can skew pure statistical analysis however.
Hamilton’s natural speed and driving talent have never been in question.
Hamilton’s new-found ability
But in the last two seasons, Hamilton has developed an added maturity and steel to execute his talent in faultless fashion. He’s left his contemporaries firmly in the dust.
There seems to be no weakness to his game anymore. In his younger years he was prone to a rash decision or an unnecessary overtaking manoeuvre.
But those days are gone and he is arguably the most complete driver on the grid right now.
When things don’t go right for Hamilton now, he remains focused and level-headed when in the past he became flustered and made mistakes.
In the last two seasons, Hamilton has been vastly stronger in the second half of the year than the first.
He’s shown a mental resolve to produce unbelievable performances in the midst of title fights.
That’s something only the true greats have been able to achieve, and coupled with his natural ability, has proven a perfect combination.
The Vettel fight
It’s been Vettel who has made several self-inflicted and critical errors in the last 18 months.
Last season saw Hamilton win five times in a six-race spell to seize championship momentum. This time around it’s six wins and two second places in eight races.
He’s taken total command of this year’s championship fight, and produced a scintillating performance in Singapore which left many comparing him to Ayrton Senna.
The Englishman produced similarly masterful performances this year in Germany and Italy, and has stated in the press that he thinks he’s driving on a higher level than ever before.
Hamilton’s place among the greats
Many fans will say they still consider legends such as Senna, Alain Prost or Jim Clark to be better than Hamilton. We will never know the answer, and it will only ever be a subjective discussion.
But Hamilton’s level of performance of late must surely ensure he is a major part of the great Formula One driver debate.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing