Tomorrow morning on a swathe of scruffy, reclaimed grassland once known as Wandering Creek, Lewis Hamilton will stand ready to light his name in the Formula One firmament.

A fifth world title: it is a moment savoured by a driver only twice before, when Juan Manuel Fangio sliced through the field at the Nurburgring in 1957, and when Ferrari's Michael Schumacher emulated the Argentine at Magny-Cours 45 years later, with almost half a season to spare.

Now another rare and precious moment in the annals of sport awaits.

While glory could yet be deferred to Mexico City next weekend — Hamilton must beat Sebastian Vettel, his only challenger, by at least eight points to seize the prize here — his 67-point advantage in the standings looks all but impregnable, with only 100 still available.


Where Ferrari have collapsed like a concertina, Hamilton, propelled by his ever-reliable Mercedes, has streaked into the sunset once more.

So, how has he done it? How has he turned the past five years into a dynasty to rival that of Schumacher, the man whose character he once played in childhood video games?

For answers, it pays to study the team around him. Indeed when Hamilton shocked F1 by announcing he was leaving McLaren for Mercedes at the end of 2012, many scoffed.

"History relates," said one seasoned observer, "that you do not leave a winning team, unless it is to go to another proven winner."

Hamilton would expose such history as bunkum.

While Mercedes have gathered up every drivers' and constructors' title since the V6 turbo era began in 2014, McLaren have failed to win a single race.

Some argue that Hamilton owes his supremacy purely to the technology beneath him, but this ignores the market knowledge that has become an essential part of the greatest drivers' armoury.

Just ask Fernando Alonso. For all his peerless race-craft, the Spaniard has chosen his moves poorly, joining Ferrari after the dominance of the Schumacher era had ebbed away, and embarking on a second stint at McLaren when their cars had all the verve of combine harvesters. Thus does he find himself, in his final F1 campaign, with a mere two titles to Hamilton's likely five.

Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the second practice session. Photo / AP
Lewis Hamilton steers his car during the second practice session. Photo / AP

Alonso regards that gulf in the record books with grace, bracketing Hamilton among his all-time top five, alongside Fangio, Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. "It's a great achievement," he said, of his former teammate's imminent anointment as a quintuple champion.


"If one person had to do it in our generation, I'm happy that it's Lewis. From day one, he showed the commitment. When the car was dominating, he delivered. And when the car was not good enough, he still put in performances to show his talent. That's difficult to see in our days."

On the surface, the marriage of Hamilton and Mercedes is a curious one. A driver with a penchant for dating supermodels hardly appears a natural fit for a German automotive brand perceived, until recently, as deeply conservative, even sedate.

But as team principal Toto Wolff has acknowledged, the relationship is symbiotic: where Hamilton has brought a rock-and-roll edge to the Silver Arrows, the team have furnished him with a car capable of fulfilling his boyhood dreams.

In the taming of Hamilton's more mercurial impulses, much credit is owed to Wolff himself who has been a precious guiding hand.

Wolff has afforded Hamilton a degree of personal freedom unthinkable under the aegis of Ron Dennis at McLaren.

Ahead of last month's Singapore Grand Prix, Hamilton racked up 25,000 air miles in a week, attending fashion shows in New York and Shanghai, not to mention a best friend's wedding.

And still he produced a pole lap for the ages. Somehow, he finds a way to keep his day job and extramural interests in proportion. Not that this happens by accident: Hamilton has Angela Cullen, a Kiwi who works for Finnish performance experts Hintsa, on hand as his physiotherapist and general girl Friday, scheduling his every waking and sleeping hour.

Crucially, Mercedes have also removed the antagonistic dynamic that existed between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. In 2016, Rosberg beat Hamilton as a teammate, and the upshot was a situation that Wolff described as close to "anarchy".

But in Valtteri Bottas, the team have found a faithful understudy.

In Sochi last month, the Finn, having taken pole, was under orders to pull aside and allow Hamilton the victory. While Bottas is patently not Hamilton's equal in pure driving ability, having yet to win a race all season, he performs a no less valuable function by keeping the peace.

The secret to happiness, Hamilton once said, lay in discovering a healthy balance, and one glance at his latest displays for Mercedes would suggest man and machine are at last in perfect harmony.

- Telegraph Group Ltd