Lewis Hamilton now looks poised to become Britain’s first Formula One world champion since Damon Hill in 1996 – and the country’s ninth title holder since Mike Hawthorn first took the crown 50 years ago.
Mathematically, the 23-year old can’t clinch the Championship this coming weekend at Fuji, but if he wins in Japan without arch-rival Felipe Massa scoring then he will go into the following Sunday’s Chinese GP at Shanghai 17 points ahead with just 20 points remaining up for grabs over the final two races of the year.
As things stand today, eight British drivers have accumulated 12 World Championships, making the UK the most successful country in this regard.
Mighty Brazil has only managed to create three Champions: Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Senna – a tally equalled by tiny Finland (Keke Rosberg, Hakkinen and Raikkonen). Italy, the USA and Austria have two Champions apiece with Argentina, France, South Africa, New Zealand and Germany having one each.
To be fair, though, a bloke called Michael Schumacher did the job for Germany and won seven World Championships. He was rather good.
Interestingly, and as statisticians can confirm, most of the British drivers’ World Championships have been clinched at the final race of the season concerned, so if Lewis manages to pull it off at Shanghai he will join Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Nigel Mansell in the elite club for those who have managed to get the job done before the final chequered flag of the season.
Of course, if it all goes wrong for Hamilton and Massa dodges through to snatch the Championship, it will give Brazil an extra World Champion. But even with four on the books, that will still only amount to half British tally.