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published time By Mithila Mehta published time 30 Oct, 2017 Share image 7 Shares

Lewis Hamilton won the 2017 Driver’s Championship title last evening – his fourth title ever - to join an elite set of highly successful racing car drivers. Hamilton’s team, Mercedes, had already clinched the Constructors title some weeks ago. As a visibly overwhelmed Hamilton emerged from his car triumphant, fans like me could not believe that the once-keenly fought 2017 battle between Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton had not gone down straight to the wire.

To know more about Lewis Hamilton, read my piece 'Lewis Hamilton is a Rockstar, Party Animal, Celebrity (and Racer)'

The records say it all – Lewis Hamilton is the most successful British drivers of all time (a statistic that’s considered to be important as F1 is believed to be a British sport) and one of the most legendary racers in modern motorsport. This year, he broke Michael Schumacher’s record for the most pole positions in addition to bagging other records like most grand slams in a single season (3, more than Schumacher and Senna), most poles at different circuits (24) and leads the list of the driver with the most championship points ever. Here's a closer look at the champion and what makes him such an icon:

Highly consistent: The best part about Lewis Hamilton’s record is his high level of consistency. He has won a race every single season since his debut (2007-2017) and has never finished lower than 5th in the World Drivers Championship. Hamilton has worked hard to progress every year onto bigger, better career goals. Even when the odds were against him, he would keep walking onwards relentlessly.

Individuality on point: Hamilton is a F1 driver who is unapologetically individualistic. Whether it is his quirky sense of fashion, his beliefs, the manner in which he approaches his sport, his unconventional behaviour – he is unlike any other driver on the grid, and fans love him for that. He is authentic and real, someone they can relate to and love.

Self belief: In what is a highly unusual move for a F1 driver, Hamilton chose to not have an expert training him, but manage his own training. Halfway through the season, it became known that Hamilton had opted to go vegan. Both these moves were met with much incredulity, ridicule and skepticism. However, the results are now out there for everyone to see.

A true gentleman: In Hungary earlier this this, Hamilton did a remarkably gentlemanly thing. He was running in P4, teammate Valteri Bottas was in P3 and Hamilton’s rival Vettel was running in P1. At this point, Hamilton was also trailing Vettel by 13 points in the overall standings. Hamilton requested Mercedes to let him get past Bottas (and switch back if he could not challenge for P2). Sure enough, Hamilton swapped back places with Bottas towards the end of the race, and lost three valuable points in the bargain. But he established himself as a man of his word, a true sportsman and iterated that he wanted to win the title “the right way.”

Work-life balance: Reminiscent of the older era of Formula 1 drivers whose off-track escapades were highly colourful, Hamilton is one of the few modern F1 drivers who has an interesting life off the grid. He regularly hobnobs with A-list celebrities (that includes everyone from Serena Williams to Rihanna and Justin Bieber) and pursues his passions of travel, fashion and music. Hamilton is known to regularly jet-set across the Atlantic to America just to party (now that’s some serious commitment to the party cause!) Check out the picture below of him partying with Will Smith in Miami.

Highly passionate: In an era when most other drivers seem to approach racing from a scientific, data-centric approach, only a few stand out as true-blooded racers – Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen – and of course, Lewis Hamilton. It is easy to see that Hamilton adores racing, he is a man of passion on and off the racetrack. This is in sharp contrast to Nico Rosberg, his nemesis, who never exuded the same love for motorsport.

The dream story: Hamilton’s story is the stuff legends are made of. From growing up in Stevenage on the wrong side of the tracks to making it big in Formula 1 – he has come a long way. This is even more credible because F1 is an extremely elitist sport that relies on networks, contacts and pitlane relationships. Many of the drivers on today’s grid found themselves there because of a racer father / personal wealth which meant that they could pay their way through. Last year, as Hamilton tried to beat his rival Nico Rosberg, he made an interesting observation – “I come from a not-so-great place in Stevenage and Nico grew up in Monaco with jets, hotels and boats and all these kinds of things. So the hunger is different.”

Never give up: Hamilton has a tattoo that reads “Still I Rise” (a reference to the iconic poem by Maya Angelou) and that is largely descriptive of his attitude to life and sport. Hamilton is one driver you can never write off – he knows how to bounce back. Earlier this season, he was trailing Vettel by 25 points after a disastrous Monaco Grand Prix qualifying session. Still, he managed to bounce back, stay focused and claw his way up. Hamilton displayed this same killer self confidence and belief even after being defeated last season by Nico Rosberg.

Lovers of the sport will be delighted to see a worthy champion crowned in a keenly fought season. I, on the other hand am just wondering how this sworn party animal is going to celebrate his victory!

Photo credits: The Guardian, The Telegraph, Formula 1 encourages you to drink responsibly.