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GP Week : Issue 36
> AWARDS> Formula 1: Lewis Hamilton HE’S the youngest Formula 1 World Champion of all time, and the sport’s fist black champion. But that’s not why he’s been voted the most impressive Formula 1 driver of 2008 by the combined fields of MotoGP and the WRC. Quite simply, Lewis Hamilton’s driving style really is the most impressive in Formula 1 today. His mixture of aggression and finesse are balanced perfectly on the edge of a mighty talent. His passion flows through every turn of the wheel such that his McLaren Mercedes at times in 2008 became a bold extension of himself. His driving in the wet, to record wins in Monaco and at his home race at Silverstone, were glorious to behold. There were many examples during the practice sessions in 2008 when a rival driver, feeling his car step out on him mid-corner, would back out and run wide over the run- off. The long quadruple apex Turn 8 at Istanbul was the best Will Buxton GPWeek Editor example of this. With great swathes of run-off, there was no risk for a driver in running wide. But Hamilton never once ducked out. Feeling the rear end step out, he’d correct, plant his foot, and powerslide through, losing little momentum as he did so. He’d do the same in the races, his car control simply phenomenal to behold. There were moments of weakness, of course. His use of tyres still causes him and his McLaren team concern. On more than one occasion in 2008 he simply overworked them, leading Bridgestone to admit in Turkey that they had asked McLaren to change Hamilton’s strategy because it was him, and him alone, who was experiencing issues with his tyres. His mental fragility was also called into question, and he received a pasting for his pit-lane faux pas in Canada when he took out Kimi Raikkonen on a red light. In wheel-to-wheel combat, however, he holds his own. His starts are lightning, and his defence of position resolute. For some battles, his movements seem nigh-on choreographed. For others, his sheer bloody-mindedness and determination shine through. But he has had moments in 2008 where his aggression has been judged to be too strong: his pass on Raikkonen at Spa, for which he would lose his win courtesy of the stewards … his pass on Glock in Italy … his start in Japan. It led to his fellow drivers turning on him and questioning his tactics and driving style. And yet it is perhaps because of these moves that he has been recognised for this award. For regardless of the criticism he faced from the media and his fellow F1 drivers, he stuck to his course. He raced as he had always raced, regardless of the stewarding decisions which he and many of his followers felt were wrong and regardless of the negative effect they could have served on his title ambitions. He rose above flickers of mental fragility, constantly finding new reserves of inspiration. It is perhaps this strength of character, coupled with his aggressive and yet smooth, considered and often beautiful racecraft, which has created a World Champion. In only his second year of competition, he managed to turn a single- point defeat in 2007 into a single-point victory in 2008, overcoming every obstacle thrown into a path he has not walked for long. And, in a season in which he came of age, his is a style which has won the plaudits and adulation of the combined grids of MotoGP and the WRC in voting him the most impressive Formula 1 Driver of 2008. I’ve had a fantastic season in 2008; experienced so much and learnt a great deal. As I go into the winter, my aim is to work even harder to make sure that I start next year feeling better prepared, physically fitter and mentally stronger. To receive this award as I begin my winter training programme is a real boost to me: it means a great deal to earn the support and respect of my peers in MotoGP and the WRC – both are fantastic series whose champions are excellent sportsmen. I wish them all well as we begin our preparations for next year. – LEWIS HAMILTON 27 opinion