Hamilton joins Britain’s F1 greats - Andrew Noakes - Motoring Writer

Lewis Hamilton finished on the podium in every one of his first nine Grands Prix, and he won two of them. He very nearly won the world championship at his first attempt, and made sure of the title in 2008. So phenomenal was that debut, the only surprise is that it took until 2014 for Hamilton to win the driver's title for the second time.

Hamilton aced the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix earlier today and beat Nico Rosberg to turn one, then set about extending his lead. Rosberg did all he could to chase, but ultimately the hybrid powertrain of his Mercedes F1 W05 failed him again.

Mercedes have been scrupulously fair in their dealings with both drivers, and even managed to apportion unreliability equally between the two of them: this was Rosberg's payback for reliability he enjoyed during the summer, while Hamilton struggled with a string of technical failures.

That left Hamilton to win as he pleased, with only a late charge from the Williams-Mercedes of Felipe Massa to give him even the slightest cause for concern. The race win gave Hamilton a clear points victory in the driver's championship, making him only the fourth British F1 driver to win two or more titles.

The last Brit to manage that feat won his final title more than 40 years ago - the first of them took his maiden win more than 50 years ago.

Jim Clark in the Lotus 49

Jim Clark should have won more than just the 1963 and 1965 titles. Ford

Jim Clark: the quiet champion

Britain's first double F1 driver's champion was Jim Clark, who won in Colin Chapman's Lotus-Climax cars in 1963 and 1965. He very nearly won in 1962 and 1964, too, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers ever seen in F1.

Clark went through a lean patch after his dominant performance in 1965 as the F1 formula changed and Lotus were without a suitable engine (though he managed to win a race using a BRM H16 engine, which is more than BRM ever did). But he won first time out with the Ford Cosworth DFV at the Dutch GP in 1967, and once the engine's teething troubles were ironed out it looked like he would be unbeatable in 1968.

It wasn't to be: Clark died in an insignificant Formula 2 race at Hockenheim in April that year, leaving team mate Graham Hill to rebuild the Lotus team's confidence.

It's a measure of Clark's unassuming nature that the stone marking his grave in Chirnside, in the Scottish borders, puts his occupation as a sheep farmer above the accolade of 'world champion motor racing driver'.

Graham Hill in the Lotus 49

Graham Hill won his world titles with BRM in 1962 and Lotus (above) in 1968. Ford

Graham Hill: guts and glory

Londoner Graham Hill was into rowing before he discovered motor racing, hence the distinctive London Rowing Club helmet colours. Hill worked as a mechanic to get close to the sport and eventually got his chance to prove his worth in the cockpit: he was soon a regular race winner. In 1962, driving for BRM, he narrowly beat Clark to the world championship, and he was runner-up in 1963-64-65.

In 1967 he moved to Lotus as Clark's team-mate - Clark insisted Hill was given the same salary as him. The new Cosworth engine Hill helped to develop was at first unreliable, and he was forced to retire from the lead five times that season. After Clark's death in 1968, it was Hill who kept the devastated team together and he won a second driver's championship.

In 1969 he broke both legs after a gruesome crash at Watkins Glen, but taught himself to walk again and - despite many predictions to the contrary - returned to driving. Latterly he founded his own F1 team, but both Hill and the future of his team perished in a plane crash in November 1975.

His son Damon would become F1 world champion in 1996, the first world champion son of a world champion father.

Jackie Stewart was World Champion in 1969 1971 and 1973

Jackie Stewart is the only Briton to win three world titles, in 1969, 1971 and 1973. Ford

Jackie Stewart: the ultimate professional

John Young 'Jackie' Stewart made his name in F1 as the precocious number two to Graham Hill in the BRM team, and when Hill left for Lotus Stewart got the chance to lead the team before joining Ken Tyrrell's new F1 outfit. He won three times in 1968, including a breathtaking drive at a sodden Nurburgring (a track he hated) where he was four minutes ahead of Hill's Lotus.

In 1969 he dominated the championship, winning six races and bringing a new professionalism and attention to detail to the art of Grand Prix racing. Technical failures prevented him from defending his title in 1970 but he won again in 1971, then suffered a stomach ulcer which compromised his 1972 season.

In 1973 he won five more races and was set to retire as champion at the end of the season after his 100th Grand Prix, but tragically his team mate and Tyrrell team heir Francois Cevert was killed in a practice accident at the season's final round at Watkins Glen, and 'JYS' chose not to start the race.

Stewart remained close to motorsport and the motor industry following his retirement, working for Goodyear and Ford and continuing the campaign for racing safety he had begun as a driver. In 1996 he founded Stewart Grand Prix, and Johnny Herbert won the team's only Grand Prix victory in the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in 1999.

The team was subsequently sold to Ford, and renamed Jaguar. After several disappointing seasons it was sold again, to Red Bull, as the basis of the team which won the F1 world championships for drivers and constructors in 2010-11-12-13.

Lewis Hamilton won his second world championship in 2014

Lewis Hamilton won his second world championship for Mercedes in 2014. Mercedes AMG F1

Lewis Hamilton: the racer's racer

Hamilton broke all sorts of records in his debut season for McLaren in 2007, and his maximum-attack attitude very nearly won him the world championship. But as the relationship between him and his double-world champion team mate Fernando Alonso deteriorated during the season the two McLaren drivers took points off each other and allowed Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen to come through to take the world title.

Alonso then jumped ship back to Renault, leaving Hamilton a clear shot at the title in 2008. He won, but only after a last-gasp move in the final corners of the final lap of the final Grand Prix of the season, at Interlagos. While Felipe Massa's family cheered his race win, apparently sealing the championship for the Brazilian, Hamilton passed Toyota's Timo Glock to take the fifth place he needed to clinch his first world title.

Hamilton continued to win races - uniquely among current F1 drivers he has won in every season he has competed - leaving McLaren at the end of 2012 to replace Michael Schumacher at Mercedes. He outpointed team mate Nico Rosberg in 2013 and won 11 races in 2014 to secure his second driver's championship. During the year he also beat Nigel Mansell's British record of Grand Prix victories and moved ahead of Fernando Alonso in the list of F1 race winners.

Hamilton's 2015 target will be to win back-to-back championships: something no British driver has ever done.

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