Darren Gough: Why I'm such a fan of Lewis Hamilton

LOOKING at sport in 2018, you have got to say that one of the truly outstanding figures has been Lewis Hamilton.

On top of the world: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.
On top of the world: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

I do not know how anyone can call themselves a motor racing fan and not have enjoyed Hamilton’s success in becoming Formula 1 world champion for the fifth time to cement his place among the sport’s all-time legends.

Putting his achievement into context, he has become just the third F1 driver in the history of the sport to win five titles after Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio. He has to be up there with the greatest there is.

There are many arguments about who has the best cars and that if you have the best car you can be the greatest driver. But you have to earn that spot in the greatest car.

The guy who has been sat in the other car – fellow Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas – does not get anywhere near Hamilton race after race. It shows how dominant Lewis actually is.

He won 11 Grands Prix in the season and is up to 73 wins in his career, which is unbelievable.

I think it says a lot that he has signed with Mercedes for another two more years and extended his contract to include 2019 and 2020. Has he done that so that he can match Schumacher’s record of seven titles?

It just seems as though the contract seems to run out as he could be matching Schumacher, who holds the record for the most Grand Prix wins at 91.

In all weather conditions, Hamilton is excellent and good coming through the field. He is brave and also makes the right decisions. He is a born winner.

People talk about his private life and that he parties too much. Well, he does not look like he parties too much to me. He looks as fit as a fiddle.

Since he came back from the mid-summer break he was on fire. Nobody got near him.

This was a season when, up to the break, people said that Ferrari had the quicker car. Lewis just seemed to keep winning and won four races in a row after the break.

I am a massive fan of his. He has equalled Fangio’s five titles and is chasing down Schumacher.

As for the future, I do think it will be harder as I think Ferrari are getting closer to Mercedes. But Mercedes seem to have the money to take it to another level.

Renault are trying their hardest with their engines and have signed Daniel Ricciardo. Force-India have also been bought out by Lawrence Stroll and he will look after his son Lance, who has signed from Williams.

I do think the teams will get stronger and stronger and that can only be good for the sport. But Lewis is in the best and most reliable car at the moment.

Would you bet against him not equalling Schumacher’s record? I wouldn’t and it would take a very brave person to do that.

Onto cricket and Ben Stokes and Alex Hales are free to continue their England careers after the pair received backdated bans within the punishments for their involvement in last year’s fight in Bristol – and I am so relieved it is over for the two of them now.

They have both been through a lot. Yes, they made a huge mistake 15 months ago. To go through what they had to do over the past 15 months was the right process with the criminal case and then the disciplinary case.

But now they can get on with playing cricket.

I have got to say that, from what I saw during England’s recent tour of Sri Lanka, Ben is a really focused player who wants to be the best cricketer in the world.

Having watched him at close quarters I have never seen anyone train quite as hard and he grafted so much this winter. He will be a great player for England in the years to come and a hugely important one.

Good luck to Ben going forward now. He will regret what he did for a long, long time – probably the rest of his life.

But I do think that we will now see a better Ben Stokes and a top cricketer perform for England for many years. I am pleased it is all over and everyone can move on. The right decision was made.