Lewis Hamilton will make his 100th Grand Prix start when he lines up on the grid at Hockenheim on Sunday. An impressive statistic for the 27-year-old and one that means he has now competed in more races than Sirs Jackie Stewart and Stirling Moss.
Unfortunately, memories are short in Formula 1, and with Hamilton not performing up to his own high standards recently, it is easy to forget some of his legendary drives from the past five years.
So with that in mind, let’s hop into a flux-capacitor rigged Delorean and remind ourselves of how awesome the boy from Stevenage can be. And where better than at a wet and miserable British Grand Prix?
It’s probably no exaggeration to suggest that the 2008 British Grand Prix was a make or break event for Hamilton.
He turned up at his home race amid an ever increasing amount of negative media coverage following weeks of errors and controversies. The Raikkonen-shunt in Canada and a drive-through penalty in France resulted in two non-scores and saw him slipping back in the points, down to fourth in the championship, 10 off Felipe Massa.
To win the British Grand Prix would therefore have been a blessed relief from the dramas of the past month or so. But to do it in the devastating style that he did with his dazzling wet weather masterclass was simply stunning – and in a different league from his rivals.
Hamilton lined up on the second row of the grid after a mistake in qualifying saw him damage the underside of his car. His final run, with less than three minutes to go, was merely damage limitation. To qualify fourth was as good as it was going to get, and it would be a two laps lighter Heikki Kovalainen who would claim McLaren’s pole on home soil instead.
The track was absolutely saturated as the start of the race approached and intermediate tyres were the only sensible option. You didn’t need to be an expert to know that the opening few laps of the race were going to be difficult.
Kovalainen led from pole but Hamilton quickly moved from fourth to second by finding the best grip off the line, or as he would later put it: “it was the best wet start of my life.”
Into Copse he went, inching ever closer to his team-mate who wasn’t going to give away his advantage that easily. The two had a brief tap before things settled down for three laps, when eventually, Hamilton caught a two along the straight exiting Stowe and made a bold manoeuvre to overtake the Finn.
With the pace getting quicker and quicker with each passing lap, most of the early stoppers decided to keep their existing set of intermediates bolted onto their cars, expecting the circuit to become even drier as the race progressed.
Kimi Raikkonen was now beginning to carve into Hamilton’s lead by up to a second per lap as the both came in on lap 21.
In unison they arrived in their respective boxes in the pitlane, but while McLaren produced a fresh set of intermediates, Ferrari opted to send their Finnish racer back out on his used rubber that had already done more than a third of the race distance.
It worked out perfectly for Hamilton as the rain returned on their out laps, his fresh intermediate tyres cutting through the rain like a hot knife through butter. A nightmare for Raikkonen, however, who had difficulty trying to find grip on his now slick-like tyres. Over the next few laps it was if they were driving in different formulae, as in just nine laps Kimi dropped more than 50 seconds behind before he stopped for fresher tyres.
Hamilton’s main rival was now out of the picture, but his serene progress was almost derailed when heavy showers arrived on lap 35, shortly before his second stop of the day. While others changed to extreme wet tyres, McLaren gave Hamilton another set of inters and a splash of fuel to see him to the end.
He did an impressive job. Marginally slower than those on the extremes, but much quicker than anyone else on the intermediates. Hamilton secured the win around this stage of the race, despite a brief trip at Abbey on lap 36, right at the start of the heavy rain.
It was an impressive performance, one that –after Fuji 2007 and Monaco 2008 – confirmed Hamilton as one of the great wet weather specialists. He not only finished 68 seconds ahead of Nick Heidfeld, his closest rival, but he lapped everyone up to third place.
Both of those statistics are very unusual in the modern era of the sport, where the cars are so evenly matched and safety car periods often serve to bunch up the field.
Had it been dry on race day, the outcome probably would have been very different for Hamilton has never really found the Silverstone grove.
But in 2008 the home of British motorsport was the scene of a truly astonishing wet weather performance, which I am pleased to say I bore witness to. Soaked to the skin and risking hypothermia. Or was it hypochondria?