When he joined Mercedes in 2013, they were a long way from the dominance they would soon show. Hamilton won a race; team-mate Nico Rosberg did not.
From 2014 to 2016, as Mercedes dominated, Hamilton out-scored Rosberg at a rate of two victories to one. And he lost the title in 2016 only because of much worse reliability than his team-mate.
In 2017 and 2018, Ferrari had the best car for the first two-thirds of each season, and yet through the quality and consistency of his performances Hamilton kept himself in the game, until Ferrari and Vettel imploded under the pressure.
And, of course, there is not only one Mercedes. Since he joined the team in 2013, Hamilton has won 62 grands prix; his team-mates have won 30. Out of the 30 wins he has had since Valtteri Bottas joined the team in 2017, the Finn has not been second in 16 of those races, only three of which were because of reliability issues.
“In terms of performance, there is a lot put on the car and less concerned with the driver,” Hamilton says. “Some of the races we come to, there are two of my cars and sometimes there is a car in between us, or maybe more than one. So it is not necessarily who has the fastest car.
“Some races in the past, I have been able to do more with the car than it has particularly wanted to and that’s what I enjoy. So I just approach it the same, trying to out-drive the car if and when I can and put it in close range of the car that is fastest.”
The likeability question
Does the way Hamilton sometimes comes across affect the way people view his abilities as an athlete? It would appear to.
He has developed a reputation as a divisive character: people either love him or they hate him.
In recent times, Hamilton has gone vegan and taken to talking about the threat of the climate crisis. But to his detractors, being lectured on green issues is a bit rich from a guy who drives an F1 car and flies around the world for a living.
Some resent the fact that he lives as a tax exile in Monaco (although for some reason seem less bothered about all the other sports stars who do the same). Some feel he seems like he doesn’t know who he is – coming across one moment like a perfectly normal person brought up in the home counties, and the next like a globetrotting superstar. (The fact he is both might have something to do with this.)
Back in the 1970s, some people didn’t like the fact that Jackie Stewart had long hair. Now, in the early 21st century, some don’t like Hamilton’s hairstyle, or his tattoos, or his occasionally mid-Atlantic accent, or his ‘blingy’ taste in jewellery.