Is Lewis Hamilton the Best British Driver of All Time?
October 14, 2016
When discussing the best British driver of all time, it is only inevitable that the name Lewis Hamilton will be in the running alongside many other great racers that have descended from this island and taken control of a Formula One (F1) car.
At this moment in time, the 31-year-old is involved in a dogfight with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg as he targets a third consecutive world title and fourth overall. If he is able to accomplish this feat, then Hamilton will stand alone as the only British driver to have won four World Championships.
It may have taken six years for Hamilton to add to his 2008 triumph, but he has evolved into a dependable and peerless racing driver capable of not just challenging, but persistently conquering the undeniable competition of F1 amidst overwhelming levels of danger and expectation.
Hamilton’s grip as the number one driver on the planet may be fading following his German rival’s cruise in the Japanese Grand Prix (GP) last weekend and there is no doubt that the 33 point deficit with four races remaining is bordering on insurmountable.
Regardless of where he finishes in the standings, Hamilton can already claim to be the best British driver of all time with many statistics backing up the bestowment of such an accolade.
American tennis player Althea Gibson once asserted, “In sports, you simply aren’t considered a real champion until you have defended your title successfully. Winning it once can be a fluke, winning it twice proves you are the best.”
Following his 2015 triumph, Hamilton became the first British driver in history to win consecutive F1 crowns and joint-leader alongside Jackie Stewart to have won three world titles. Hamilton thrived being the hunted like no other, capable of dominating despite being the driver that everybody else was trying to catch.
His 49 race victories ensures that he again stands alone above any British driver past or present and it should be noted that many of these memorable drives have been beyond the realms of astonishment.
Who could forget his epic win in the 2008 Monaco GP when he miraculously recovered from a torturous sixth lap which saw his then McLaren car veer wide at Tabac on lap six and sustain a puncture? This is testament to his mental fortitude and ability in being able to salvage valuable points from seemingly irreversible situations – Hamilton is the first driver in the history of F1 to have made the podium after starting 20th place or lower at least 3 times.
It is a frightening prospect to think that Hamilton still has time on his side to add further gloss to his illustrious career. Hamilton has remained consistent and reliable, as evidenced by the fact that he is the only driver in the history of the sport to have won at least once race in each season he has competed.
The vast number of British records he has amassed since bursting onto the scene a decade ago is truly staggering. He has qualified in pole position on 57 occasions – 24 more than the next highest Brit Jim Clark. His total of 100 podium finishes are unrivalled, as are his 17 podium finishes in a single season. His run of 16 consecutive podium finishes from the 2014 Italian GP to the 2015 Italian GP place him in 2nd place on the all-time list, with only the legendary Michael Schumacher eclipsing this feat with his remarkable run of 17 from 2001 to 2002.
The only statistic where Hamilton (26.63%) falls short is his percentage of race wins, with Clark (34.25%) and Stewart (27%) ahead of the Mercedes driver. However, Hamilton still has many seasons left of taking Eau Rouge flat and brushing barriers at 150mph in order to enhance his proportion of wins per race.
Hamilton may not be able to rival Stewart as one of the iconic figures of motor racing or in later years be remembered as fondly as Clark, but his records are without comparison and surely make him the best as well as the most successful driver in British history.