Even by Lewis Hamilton’s high standards, 2018 has been a phenomenal season.
The 33-year-old has showcased his talent throughout the year, pushing himself and the Mercedes car to the limit to win a fifth world championship.
Hamilton’s unlikely victories in Monza and Singapore – two tracks the faster Ferraris should have dominated at – were the standout performances in arguably his best ever season in Formula One.
The lap that earned him pole at Singapore, Marina Bay, in particular, is arguably up there with the best drives of his entire career.
“This is the best Lewis Hamilton I have seen in the last six years,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff told Formula1.com. “He has driven better, he has been better out of the car. Very, very complete.”
With the Briton’s fifth title – just the third man to ever achieve the feat – 2018 only served to emphasize the gulf in class between Hamilton and the rest of the field.
“[His biggest strength is] keeping his calm and holding his nerve,” added Wolff. “We had times when the car was good enough to win and times when the car was not good enough to win. But he was very stable.
It’s arguable that Hamilton’s previous title wins had a lot to do with Mercedes producing the best car on the grid.
But that wasn’t the case for much of 2018 with rivals Ferrari boasting the superior machine.
As Wolff puts it, Hamilton “has been the differentiator.”
“It’s the ability of combining talent with hard work, intellect and emotional intelligence,” he said. “All great champions have all four of them.
“If one is missing, you can still be a successful racing driver but you are never going to achieve this greatness.”
Having won four of the last five F1 driver titles, talk has quickly turned to whether or not Hamilton can match, or even surpass, the great Michael Schumacher.
The German’s all-time record stands at seven world championships, a total most wouldn’t bet against Hamilton reaching based on his imperious performance in 2018.
“As long as he is in a good car and continues to enjoy it in the way he does today, there is more to come,” reflected Wolff.
“But the reason he has won the fifth championship is that he concentrates on the job in hand and does not look too far away. Because before you win a seventh there is a sixth to win, and we haven’t scored a single point for that one.”