Formula 1

Mercedes rivalry masking Lewis Hamilton's greatest F1 season

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In a championship battle full of twists and turns one thing has almost been forgotten, this is easily Lewis Hamilton's greatest F1 season.

The Briton has won nine races so far in 2014, tying him for fifth in the all-time list with 1992 champion Nigel Mansell and with only two men ahead of him.

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Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have scored more with both managing 13 and 11 wins en route to championships, however, in the form Hamilton is currently in, few would bet against him scoring two more wins and joining the Germans on 11 before this season is out.

A remarkable year

Of course much of Hamilton's success has been down to a dominant Mercedes car which has easily been the best since the first Grand Prix in Australia, but that shouldn't take away from what has been a remarkable year for the 29-year-old.

Of his nine victories, Bahrain was the most impressive in my opinion as he fought all race with team-mate Nico Rosberg getting ahead and then holding off his German rival despite being on the slower of the two tyre compounds in an amazing battle to the chequered flag.

For me, however, his tally of wins is only part of what has been a roller coaster story.

During the mid-season period Hamilton went through a stretch of seven races with only one win, coming in front of an ecstatic home crowd at Silverstone, to his name and a host of issues.

Retirement in Canada and qualifying problems both mechanically and self inflicted left him fighting for every result.

Yet the most remarkable part for me is that he has still scored a podium at every race he has reached the chequered flag.

In Germany and Hungary, Hamilton was forced to start from the back of the grid through no fault of his own and yet proved, not only how dominant the Mercedes is, but that he still has the overtaking prowess he was famous for in his first few seasons as he claimed what maybe championship defining third place finishes at both races.

Still in the balance

It is incredible to think that a driver can score nine wins and still be in a dogfight for the title but that is exactly where Hamilton is.

Following Sochi, he now has a 17-point lead, easily the highest gap he has had in his favour all year, but should the two Mercedes drivers share a win and finish one-two at the next two Grands Prix, then Hamilton would still need to finish second at the double points finale in Abu Dhabi to guarantee himself the title.

That mid-season dip I mentioned was part of the reason, but it has also been down to Nico Rosberg's incredible consistency.

For Hamilton's nine wins, Rosberg has nine second places and the German's 51 points tally at the three races Lewis has failed to finish has also kept him in play.

A different kind of dominance

Its also strange to think that after four years of Vettel dominance, a driver can score nine wins and not be given the same label that he had, yet Hamilton's nine wins have been out of sheer necessity.

Ever since Australia Hamilton was playing catch up and the four straight wins from Malaysia to Spain not only saw some great battles but was also the number of wins it took to close the 25-point gap Rosberg had after Melbourne.

It was the same story with his second run of quadruple wins, the longest streak of wins anyone has ever managed to do twice in one season, from Italy to Russia where in that time a gap of 29 points in Rosberg's favour became the current 17-point difference in Hamilton's.

Its also why it is quite hard to compare Hamilton's tally to those around him on the all-time list because for Schumacher and Vettel they clearly had the best car and a seemingly weaker team-mate who failed to offer much competition.

But because Rosberg has been so consistent and because of the way the pendulum has swung, Hamilton's achievements has almost gone much less noticed yet are probably more incredible.

Is it a surprise?

An interesting consideration is whether the fact Hamilton has scored more than double the number of wins than Rosberg in a year of Mercedes dominance is actually a surprise?

I mean for sure Rosberg has proven his worth in the years he was with Michael Schumacher at Mercedes and also how he has compared against Hamilton in their near two years as team-mates, but most have always believed that in a straight head-to-head between the two Hamilton would more often than not come out on top.

And looking at how the two drivers have stacked up this year it has gone to how most have expected it, Rosberg has been the more consistent but Hamilton mostly the faster.

Therefore with his nine wins and his advantage when things run smoothly, you would have to argue Hamilton is the more deserving to be crowned 2014 F1 world champion but with all the twists and turns and potential scenarios it could be that a driver can win a double digit number of races and still not be crowned champion.

Either way the achievements of Lewis Hamilton this year are such that they will go down as better than his championship winning year of 2008 and also one of the most successful season's for a driver in F1 history

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