Lewis Hamil­ton

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Autosport (UK) - - F1 SEASON REVIEW | TOP 10 DRIVERS -

Hamil­ton’s fifth world cham­pi­onship vic­tory was his great­est, turn­ing what looked set to be a bat­tle that went down to the wire with Vet­tel into a walkover. Hamil­ton is a driver in per­fect bal­ance both with his own mind and the Mercedes team, show­ing im­pec­ca­ble judge­ment on track and out­class­ing his ti­tle ri­val in ev­ery area.

His qual­i­fy­ing per­for­mances were ex­cel­lent, he pro­duced two out­stand­ing passes on Vet­tel at Monza and Sochi that were crit­i­cal in crush­ing the Fer­rari chal­lenge, he was a su­pe­rior race man­ager than Bot­tas, par­tic­u­larly when it came to the tyres, and pro­duced re­lent­less con­sis­tency. There were days in the past when Hamil­ton would go miss­ing in races, but not any­more.

No driver is per­fect and there were a few low points. In Canada and

China he strug­gled for pace, and a lock-up in Baku com­pro­mised his strat­egy. But ev­ery­thing is rel­a­tive, and these were lows only by his stan­dards, not com­pared to what we saw from the rest of the field.

Beyond that, you could ar­gue he might have made a bet­ter fist of keep­ing Vet­tel be­hind him on the first lap at Spa, but he was only

“You can­not point to an­other driver on the grid who came as close to max­imis­ing the po­ten­tial of his car week in, week out”

ahead thanks to his in­spired qual­i­fy­ing per­for­mance in the damp in the first place, and the Fer­rari was the stronger car.

You can say that Hamil­ton had the best car, but he played a key part in mak­ing it so and for much of the year it was nip and tuck with Fer­rari.

But you can­not point to an­other driver on the grid who came as close to max­imis­ing the po­ten­tial of his car week in, week out. His wasn’t just a great per­for­mance com­pared to his peers, it has to stand as one of the great sea­sons in terms of sus­tained per­for­mance, with Hamil­ton now hav­ing a preter­nat­u­ral abil­ity to judge when to de­liver a race-chang­ing pass or stun­ning qual­i­fy­ing lap and when he just needs to let things come to him.

There were so many high­lights. In the rain in Ger­many he flew on slicks, while in wet qual­i­fy­ing at the Hun­garor­ing and Spa he turned the ta­bles on the faster Fer­rari to take pole po­si­tion. His qual­i­fy­ing lap in Sin­ga­pore was sub­lime, around six tenths faster than what Mercedes reck­oned was pos­si­ble, and he showed no in­cli­na­tion to re­lax, even sub­con­sciously, once the ti­tle was se­cured by win­ning the fi­nal two races. He’s now a driver who knows you leave no stone un­turned and give the op­po­si­tion noth­ing, and saw the end of this sea­son as the start of the next.

But it wasn’t just what Hamil­ton did that made his 2018 cam­paign so ex­tra­or­di­nary, it was the way he did it. Dur­ing the past 30 or so years there has been a de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in driv­ing stan­dards and a belief that you have to be ut­terly ruth­less to pre­vail, but Hamil­ton has a gen­uine and heart­felt de­sire to win the right way. He doesn’t just have a des­per­ate de­sire to win, but to win cleanly. For the many young karters who will idolise the five-time world cham­pion, that may be an even greater legacy than the suc­cess.

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