Lewis Hamilton clinched his 3rd Formula 1 world championship almost two weeks ago by winning the American Grand Prix. Contrary to last year, the 30-year-old secured the title with 3 rounds to spare and his rivals face an ever more difficult challenge to try and usurp him and his Mercedes car.
Throughout the first half of the season, it looked as if the championship was going to be a close match between Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg. The German had won many plaudits in the final race of the year in 2014 at Abu Dhabi but has not progressed sufficiently this season, whilst Hamilton has elevated himself onto another level.
The Mercedes team has also raised the bar and tightened its dominant grip F1 in this season by keeping their rivals at arms length. The Brackley-based team have again produced the best chassis, not to mention the significant advantage that a Mercedes power unit delivers. As a consequence reliability has been less of a worry for the team as they have only suffered 3 retirements all season (1 for Hamilton, 2 for Rosberg).
Hamilton started the season in imperious form- not stepping off the podium until an action-packed race in Hungary. Rosberg also finished in the top 3 in every race until Hungary but since then he has not been as consistent as Hamilton.
Two factors have been crucial to the Brit’s continued dominance. First of all the Stevenage-born man has been able to iron out his mistakes in qualifying. Hamilton has dominated most of the qualifying sessions qualifying on pole 11 times. Rosberg, the winner of last year’s pole position trophy, has been left in the shade and on the few times when Hamilton has made a mistake in a race he has not been able to take advantage.
One of Rosberg’s four wins this season came by default at Monaco, where Hamilton was let down by a wrong strategy call from the team. Hungary was in fact the turning point of the season. Rosberg collided with Daniel Ricciardo whilst in second place, which forced him into a pit stop and more points lost on Hamilton when it looked as if the German could significantly close the gap. In Singapore Rosberg could only manage fourth place in Hamilton’s only retirement of the season.
At no point in 2015 has the German had the upper hand in performance over his teammate and whilst his retirement in Russia was unfortunate, it only brought forward the inevitable title win for Hamilton. This is the problem that Rosberg faces. He does not have the same as aura as Hamilton or indeed other world champions. The German may be a good driver but he is likely to never be world champion.
This brings me on to the question of greatness and where Hamilton stands in relation to other drivers.
The number of world championships can normally define the greatness of a driver in F1 terms, though there are some exceptions (Stirling Moss). Hamilton has now achieved a level of greatness that sets him apart from all but two other drivers on the grid (Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel).
His third world title means he has joined a tiny band of triple world champions that includes his idol Ayrton Senna. Though Hamilton will probably never be held in the same regard as the Brazilian, there is no doubt that in the modern era at least, him and his Mercedes machine are one of the most dominant packages that the sport has ever seen