Love him or loathe him, Lewis Hamilton has become a legend

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By , Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru

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    Lewis Hamilton may be a polarising figure, but he's undoubtedly a great (Image supplied by AMG Petronas Motorsport).

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    He might not be everybody’s cup of tea, though on the eve of his 200th Grand Prix, there’s no denying that Lewis Hamilton has polarised and transcended Formula One unlike anybody since Ayrton Senna.

    Hamilton will reach the milestone at Belgium this weekend, and for better or worse, is the sport’s greatest drawcard in a time where the category has faced criticism for its relevance and ambivalence in an era of austerity.

    Nobody could have foreseen the impact the Briton would have on the sport on his debut in 2007, yet he rapidly entrenched himself as the modern equivalent of the immortal Brazilian, with fans and critics riding every wave which has ensued.

    As F1’s ‘first black driver’, Hamilton was always going to attract attention, yet this novelty, in tandem with the personality cultivated over the subsequent years, has drawn interest from those outside the sport.

    It didn’t take long for the boy nurtured by McLaren from the age of thirteen to create waves, successfully dismantling Fernando Alonso fresh from successive titles, culminating in the latter’s hasty and acrimonious retreat, whilst Hamilton established himself as team leader.

    While he narrowly missed out on claiming the championship in his debut season amid the ‘Spygate’ controversy, infamously beaching his car on pit entry in the penultimate event at China, he wouldn’t have to wait long to make amends in equally spectacular fashion.

    Passing Timo Glock on the final lap of the 2008 finale at Brazil handed him the crown, in doing so becoming the youngest champion at that stage, and it’s since this point that Hamilton began to carve a unique identity which has never been far removed from the headlines.

    Separating from his father following the 2009 campaign was his first cry for independence, and a 2011 season blighted by collisions and provocative statements suggested his attention was elsewhere, yet it was the decision taken twelve months later which definitively set Hamilton on the road to his current status.

    The momentous call to depart McLaren following six seasons left many bewildered, with many considering both parties as inseparable, yet a rash of reliability issues which cost the Briton a second title convinced him to take a leap of faith which most were sceptical of at best.

    Coinciding with his ex-employer’s downturn, joining Mercedes in 2013 proved to be a masterstroke, as the German marque had fastidiously centred its efforts around the hybrid regulations taking effect the following season, and the outcome was unparalled domination.

    That the successes gleaned from 2014 through 2016 came at the detriment of his personal friendship with team-mate Nico Rosberg provided a spiteful backdrop to the glories which came in such abundance, evoking significant parallels to the Senna-Alain Prost rivalry from a quarter of a century earlier.

    57 victories, 67 pole positions, 110 podiums, 37 fastest laps and most pertinently, three titles, immediately place Hamilton in the echelon of all-time greats, and whether you love or loath him, there’s no denying his contribution to Formula One as a true once in a generation individual. Who knows what the stat sheet will ultimately read when he finally hangs up his helmet.