Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton and Rory McIlroy both had brilliant years

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In one of the most hotly debated contests in years, Lewis Hamilton was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year this past Sunday beating golfer Rory McIlroy.

The win was the Formula 1 world champion's first after two consecutive second place finishes at the prestigious annual awards show in 2007 and 2008. He was also the first F1 driver to claim the famous trophy after nearly 20 years with Damon Hill the last in 1996.

After Hamilton had scooped up the honour, the debate only grew louder with fans of both sports either applauding or criticising the public's choice with the Mercedes driver winning by a 14 percent margin over the four-time major winner.

A year of massive success

For Hamilton it was without doubt his finest season in F1, 11 wins and a winning margin of 67 points over team-mate Nico Rosberg, albeit a gap flattered by the events of the final race in Abu Dhabi, saw the return of the driver we all thought the man from Stevenage could become when he stormed onto the scene seven years ago.

As for McIlroy he too enjoyed incredible success claiming successive majors at the US Open at Pinehurst followed by the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool as well as the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational. This was en route to cementing his place as world No.1 and creating a sense of invincibility over his rivals only surpassed by Tiger Woods at the height of his career to date.

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Indeed whenever both men either stepped inside the cockpit or onto the first tee, providing they hadn't made errors the day before, anything other than being on top by the end of the day was a surprise.

Team dominance vs. individual excellence

For Hamilton, however, much of his success can be put down to a dominant Mercedes car that was in a league of its own from lights out in Australia to the chequered flag at Yas Marina, whereas for McIlroy his success was very much self created and he also faced stiffer opposition as guys like Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson stepped up their games.

You could potentially argue that Hamilton still had to overcome a feisty battle with team-mate Nico Rosberg while Rory maybe didn't have the threat from players like Adam Scott and certainly Woods who were unable to keep their form or fitness from a year or two ago. But, on the whole, the sustained form and continued success for McIlroy was more impressive over the year than Hamilton's six wins in the final seven races.

F1 or golf, which is tougher?

Then there is the debate about what it takes comparatively at either sport to be at the top, for sure driving at 200mph is more dangerous than knocking a little white ball around a golf course, but the skills required to succeed at both sports make those who do it the envy of those who watch on.

I might have been a five-handicap golfer when I was playing four times a week and I can still break 80 pretty easily when I play once or twice a month now, but I still could never see myself being good enough to shoot the sort of scores the likes of McIlroy and Co. achieve on much harder courses than the one I play.

At the same time I wouldn't consider myself a terrible go-kart driver but watching the likes of Hamilton hurling 800 brake horsepower beasts around the streets of Monte Carlo mean you have to remind yourselves 'these guys are human'.

Different sports, different skills

Maybe the skill of racing has gone a little with DRS and a few gimmicks here and there have maybe made everything more artificial, but then the same has to be said for modern golfers with the 460cc titanium drivers and balls way more complex than any jigsaw puzzle.

It may take more bravery to be a F1 driver but there's a greater mental challenge playing golf as several broken shafts down the years can testify.

Overall then picking a winner because of their own sport is very tricky because the demands of either sport are very different.

Other contenders

Of course while Hamilton and McIlroy went in the clear favourites for the honour, it was not just those two men who brought the British sports fans to their feet in 2014.

Gareth Bale has enjoyed a phenomenal year at Real Madrid finally settling himself in alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, the Welshman scored 22 goals and played a key part in the Spanish giant's late comeback to win the Champions League for the 10th time in their history.

Third in the voting was long distance runner Jo Pavey who claimed Commonwealth gold in the 5,000m in Glasgow before following it up with world gold in Zurich at the 10,000m.

A final personal mention from me to a man who wasn't included in the final vote is snooker star Ronnie O'Sullivan. 'The Rocket' continues to be overlooked for the BBC award despite another appearance in the World Championship final at the Crucible, where he lost out to Mark Selby but wins in Wales and the recent UK Championship see him remain the world No.3.

Who achieved more?

Ulitmately, however, it did come down to Lewis Hamilton and Rory McIlroy for the gong and after looking at all the earlier factors, the decision had to come down to one thing; just how grand are their achievements when placed side by side.

Four wins including the three high profile events mentioned as well as contributing three points to the victorious European Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles back in September make for one of the most memorable year's golf seen in some time.

But 11 Grand Prix wins and 16 podiums from 16 finishes cannot be overlooked, one of the most successful F1 season's in history and a world title that could easily become the trigger for another prolonged period of driver and team dominance.

Therefore while I suspect the greater popularity of F1 and the Mercedes driver was another key contributor to his margin of victory at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, I have to agree that in 2014 no British sportsman deserved the accolade more than the now double F1 champion Lewis Hamilton.

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