It’s impossible to definitively say who the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time is, but with all that he has achieved, Lewis Hamilton undoubtedly has as strong a claim as anyone to that title.
As soon as the British driver, born in Stevenage, joined the grid with McLaren in 2007 at the age of 22 after winning the GP2 title the previous year, it became clear that he was something special.
Few expected him to put up much of a fight against team-mate Fernando Alonso, who had won the title the previous two seasons, but he did just that, scoring the same number of points, winning the same number of races - four - and finishing ahead in the standings on countback.
At one point that year, he looked set to become the youngest F1 World Champion ever, but after making a costly mistake in the penultimate race in China, getting stuck in the gravel on his way to the pits, he was beaten to the title by Kimi Raikkonen by a single point.
He’d make up for that the following season though, prevailing over Felipe Massa in one of the closest title fights the sport has ever seen.
With just one lap left of the final race, it looked like he’d miss out once again, but he passed Timo Glock at the final corner to triumph by a single point.
Many expected him to dominate for years to come after that but that wasn’t the case initially, with him only fighting for the title once between 2009 and 2012 as McLaren struggled to provide him with good enough machinery.
Like his team, he too had issues in that period. While he managed to win multiple races every year, he also made a number of errors and often seemed unhappy and frustrated.
In need of a change, he sent shockwaves through the paddock when he announced he’d be replacing Michael Schumacher at Mercedes - a team that had fighting in the midfield far more often than at the front since joining the grid in 2010 - for the 2013 campaign and beyond.
His new team were able to make some progress in his first year there, finishing P2 in the Constuctors’ Championship, but they were a long, long way off Red Bull, with Hamilton failing to win multiple races for the first time in his F1 career, only triumphing in Hungary, as Sebastian Vettel dominated.
He now hadn’t finished inside the top three of the standings once in the five seasons since becoming a World Champion, and some began to fear his career would never reach the heights it once looked like it would.
But then Formula 1 entered the hybrid era, and everything changed.
Mercedes handled the new regulations far better than their competitors and gave Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg a car far stronger than any others on the grid, allowing the two to battle it out alone at the front of the field.
It was a battle that would last the entire season, going down to the final round in Abu Dhabi, where Hamilton claimed his 11th win of the year and thus became a World Champion for the second time.
Things were far more comfortable in 2015 as he wrapped up title number three with three races to spare after being in a league of his own all year, winning 10 of the first 16 races. However, Rosberg claimed victory in those last three rounds, and it would prove to be a sign of things to come.
The German stepped things up a gear in 2016, and that improvement led to a titanic season-long title fight between the two Silver Arrows which Rosberg would ultimately win by five points.
While the championship would have been Hamilton’s had an engine failure not caused him to retire from the lead in Malaysia, his team-mate had been more than a match for him at various rounds, so it looked like things would be easier for him when the World Champion decided to retire and was replaced by the solid but somewhat unspectacular Valtteri Bottas.
That wasn’t the case though as, while he didn’t face a challenge from within in the following two years, who did face one from Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari.
In both 2017 and 2018, the two battled it out for the title, and both times, Hamilton prevailed, thanks to some of his greatest performances such as his wins in Italy and Germany in the latter year, arguably the best season of his career.
He had shown that, even without a dominant car, he could win World Championships, and in the two years that followed he showed just how good he could be with one.
No other team were able to get close to Mercedes in that period, and Bottas wasn’t able to get close to Hamilton, who matched Schumacher’s record tally of seven titles with ease, also becoming the driver with the most wins and podiums in the history of the sport.
His next goal was to do what Schumacher never could, become a World Champion for the eighth time, but he’d fail to do so in the most dramatic and controverisal of circumanstances.
Red Bull built a car as strong as Mercedes’ in 2021, and it allowed Max Verstappen to challenge Hamilton for the first time. There was precious little to choose between them all year, with the pair regularly going wheel to wheel and crashing at Silverstone and Monza.
By the final round of what had become a hugely heated battle, they were level on points; the winner would take all, and Hamilton looked set to be the one to do so, comfortably leading with only a handful of laps to go.
However, a late Safety Car allowed Verstappen to put on fresher tyres, and race control then broke usual protocol by instructing the backmarkers between them in the queue to unlap themselves but no others. As a result, the Dutchman was able to take the lead and the title on the final lap.
It was a chain of events that outraged Hamilton’s team and fans, and led to rumours that he’d walk away from the sport as a result. However, he opted against doing so and continued his quest to cement his status as the most successful driver of all time.