Bob McMurray: Best in the business
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It was a stuttering finish to his fifth Formula 1 world title but Lewis Hamilton managed to get the job done.
Hamilton has driven as well as anyone for his five titles and this season he was certainly better than anyone else in the field.
He has proven to be a class act on the track in 2018, perhaps not in the superior machinery as the Ferrari SF71H was often the better car, but both that team and lead driver ultimately wilted and failed under the pressure of competition.
Hamilton did not have the season all his own way with the first race in Melbourne showing Mercedes tacticians were as prone to errors as anyone by miscalculating Hamilton’s pit stop strategy, costing him the race to Sebastian Vettel.
After the year’s first three races Vettel held a nine-point lead. Later, after Hamilton had dominated the points, Vettel returned after the ninth round to lead the championship by one point.
It seemed we had a real battle to look forward to in the second half of the season.
Sadly, the situation started to unravel at Hockenheim for Ferrari and Vettel with a crash while well in the lead and Hamilton mired in fourth. The huge and uncharacteristic mistake from an otherwise solid driver was compounded as he watched Hamilton win, from the 14th grid position no less.
Hamilton took the championship lead by 17 points and was rarely threatened by Vettel again with Vettel making error after error and the team occasionally choosing questionable strategies on and off track.
Perhaps the best example is the Italian Grand Prix where Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene informed Vettel’s team mate Kimi Raikkonen the team would no longer be requiring his services after the 2018 season.
That seemed to free Raikkonen to race his own race, not a team effort, and he went on to get pole position, then shut Vettel out at the first corner and watched in his mirrors as Hamilton and Vettel clashed, with Vettel spinning off.
Inevitably, now with five titles and the prospect of maybe two or three more in view, questions are raised. Is Hamilton the greatest driver of all time?
Who do we compare him with?
The obvious is Juan Manuel Fangio, five-time world champion. Or perhaps seven-time champion Michael Schumacher? Sir Stirling Moss perhaps or Jim Clark? Graham Hill or Fernando Alonso? Sir Jackie Stewart perhaps? Even my personal favourite Ayrton Senna?
The list could include Mario Andretti, Alberto Ascari and Niki Lauda, even Alain Prost. Gilles Villeneuve, Nigel Mansell, Jean Behra, Giuseppe Farina ...
There is no way of determining and bestowing such a title on any particular driver as the era, the cars, the competition, the personalities involved and a hundred other things, come into what can only be personal opinions.
Many of those drivers had little opposition from their team mates but Hamilton often had to fight his own corner against his own team partner.
What is true is that Hamilton, with his determination to live life off the track in exactly the way he pleases, is the greatest driver of his era.
Since the day he unlocked himself from the shackles of Ron Dennis at McLaren, Hamilton has proved to be his own man.
He manages to appear at events outside of racing around the world and then turn up at the next race and “do the business” without fail. I’ve often criticised his dour, grumpy demeanour after races that have not gone his way, his dismissive reaction to legitimate questions and he is divisive in fan terms.
But he is good for the sport, and extremely good indeed at the sport.