As Lewis Hamilton secured his fifth Formula One world title at Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix to become just the third driver in history to reach the landmark, the world of motorsport started to ponder just how great the Briton is and can be.
Now just two wins behind Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of seven titles, few would now bet against an imperious Hamilton, quite possibly at the peak of his powers, equaling or even bettering the great German.
It wasn’t the easiest day for Mercedes but Hamilton, knowing seventh place would be enough for victory to win the 2018 title, put up little fight as the quicker Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo overtook him – though the latter would again be left lamenting his “cursed” car after an eighth retirement of the season.
Hamilton passed the checkered flag a distant fourth behind scintillating race winner Max Verstappen, but it was enough enabling the Briton to raise his hand out of the cockpit to take the adulation of the 130,000 capacity crowd at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
“We should be very proud of our achievements in motorsport and especially proud of what Lewis Hamilton has done,” said 1996 world champion and fellow Briton Damon Hill after the race.
“He’s been a unique pioneer in our sport and shown us all what can be achieved with an undaunted self-belief. He is remarkable by any measure. And he’s not done yet.”
Shortly after the race was over, Hamilton revealed his grandfather had passed away earlier in the week.
“He would be grateful the Hamilton name is established and will go down in history,” the 33-year-old driver told reporters.
Even those accustomed to watching the Briton week in, week out are still constantly surprised by the new heights he keeps reaching.
‘One of the greatest’
“In every season there comes a point at which I don’t know how much better Lewis Hamilton can get,” wrote Formula1.com presenter Will Buxton.
“And yet he does. He is, quite simply, the outstanding talent of his generation and, without question, one of the greatest racers our sport has ever known. Congrats on number 5.”
Those who have shared the track with Hamilton this season, all outstanding drivers in their own right, can perhaps give the best indication of the impossible task they face when up against him.
Fellow driver Nico Hulkenberg congratulated Hamilton on his win, writing: “Impressive stuff, amazing how you always find another gear,” while Renault teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. called the Brit’s performance “a class drive all year long. Top job.”
‘You are a bad man’
Though the rivalry between Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel is tense and fiery, the obvious mutual respect between them draws admiration from all quarters.
That was again on display in the moments after Hamilton had been crowned world champion, with Vettel immediately making a beeline to congratulate his victorious opponent.
“I told him that I enjoyed this fight,” the German revealed afterward. “I asked him to continue to do everything so we can fight each other at the highest level again next year.
“We may be different but I admire his performance on track. The respect is there.”
F1 is better for the tight, intense title races and fans will be hoping both Vettel and Ferrari can eliminate the mistakes which proved so costly this season.
Meanwhile Hamilton’s appeal continues to extend way beyond the world of motorsport, as proven by his recent fashion collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger, while athletes from basketball to golf joined in the chorus of congratulations.
“Congratulations Lewis Hamilton for winning the 2018 F1 World title,” wrote NBA hall of famer Magic Johnson. “A five-time world champion, Lewis Hamilton ‘you are a bad man!’”
Golfer and fellow Briton Justin Rose was one of the first to offer his congratulations, while former footballer Gary Lineker said Hamilton was on his way to becoming a “GOAT!”