From McLaren prodigy to four-time champion - Lewis Hamilton's path to F1 greatness

Lewis Hamilton's achievement in claiming a fourth world title at the Mexican Grand Prix lifts him to a level of Formula One greatness only a handful of drivers have ever reached.

A ninth-placed finish at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez clinched a fourth world championship crown for the Mercedes driver, following previous triumphs with McLaren in 2008 and with the Silver Arrows in 2014 and 2015.

Leaving three-time champions such as Ayrton Senna, Jackie Stewart and mentor Niki Lauda behind, few can now question the Briton's position in F1 history.

Only Michael Schumacher with seven and Juan Manuel Fangio with five can boast more drivers' titles than the 32-year-old, who burst onto the scene a decade ago and quickly made his presence felt at the business end of the grid.

After he joined Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel on four titles, we take a look at Hamilton's path to F1 greatness.


Few can claim to have enjoyed a stronger debut season than Hamilton.

Podium finishes in each of his first nine races for McLaren, including two victories, set the newcomer on his way to a 2007 title tussle that would go down to the wire.

Victory in Japan saw Hamilton in the driving seat with two races to go, leading team-mate Fernando Alonso by 12 points and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen by 17, and he could have won the title in China had it not been for an ill-timed maiden retirement.

Gearbox trouble cost him at the season-closing Brazilian Grand Prix and Raikkonen capitalised to win that race and edge to the top of the standings by a single point.

But the promise was plain to see and Hamilton was not to be denied for long.

He was McLaren's number one driver in 2008 following the departure of Alonso to Renault and brought up his first world title in dramatic fashion, taking a crucial fifth place on the final lap of the last race of the season to snatch glory from Felipe Massa in front of the Brazilian's own fans at Interlagos.


All four of Vettel's four titles (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013) came between Hamilton's first two, as Red Bull enjoyed a four-year period of F1 success.

But it was Mercedes' return to the grid as a constructor in 2010 that would prove the catalyst for Hamilton to truly fulfil his potential.

After three seasons with Schumacher and Nico Rosberg on their books, Hamilton was drafted in to fill the not insignificant boots of the former in 2013, finishing fourth in the drivers' standings at the end of his first season with the team.

The beginning of the hybrid era marked the start of a golden age for Mercedes, and for Hamilton, and he won 11 of 19 races in 2014 to win the championship by 67 points.

More of the same arrived the following season when Hamilton graced the podium in 17 of 19 races, earning him back-to-back drivers' crowns, with Rosberg second to his team-mate on both occasions.

There appeared no stopping Hamilton in his all-conquering machine.


Step forward Nico Rosberg.

Fed up of being the bridesmaid, Rosberg came into his own during a season that saw the rivalry between the two drivers reach boiling point.

Rosberg won the opening four races before the drivers took each other out in Spain, with pressure mounting on team bosses to step in to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

Momentum shifted one way and then the other over the course of a fascinating campaign but not even a run of four victories was enough to rescue a third straight title for Hamilton.

Rosberg eventually won the title by five points before stepping away from the sport to the surprise of many, leaving Hamilton as clear favourite to regain the title in 2017.


Rosberg's retirement as world champion left F1 fans hoping Hamilton would find competition from a new source, with Valtteri Bottas stepping into the German's shoes to partner the three-time champion.

Hamilton's new rival came in the form of Vettel - a man chasing his own slice of history as he looked to reinstall himself as a title contender and match Fangio's five world crowns.

It was the Ferrari man who held the upper hand early on, securing top-two finishes at the opening six races of the 2017 season.

Neither made the top three during a dramatic Azerbaijan Grand Prix and Hamilton soon seized control of the title race, going on a run of five wins from six races after the mid-season break as reliability issues limited Vettel's threat.

Hamilton then wrapped up the title in Mexico with two races to spare, making him the most successful British driver in F1 history.

And, having broken Schumacher's pole record on his way to the 2017 title, the F1 legend's seven world titles appear within reach for a driver and team still head and shoulders above their rivals.

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