When Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth Formula One world title on Sunday there was an inevitability about it that detracted from the magnitude of his accomplishment.
Hamilton is the second most successful F1 driver ever and among a pantheon of elite British sportspeople yet he remains largely under-appreciated in the UK.
Undoubtedly he is admired – his record speaks for itself – but he is not widely loved.
Neither particularly was seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, but unlike Hamilton he wore the red of Ferrari and was accordingly adored by the team’s ardent fans.
Hamilton’s success is not dissimilar, but while his dominance is indisputable, there is a question of where he ranks among the greats.
Despite being second in a number of all-time lists, some observers rate Ayrton Senna, Jim Clark, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jackie Stewart and Sir Stirling Moss higher.
So why is one of the sport’s greats so readily disregarded?
Nostalgia is a factor, but when Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Lionel Messi are widely accepted as the greatest at their respective sports it is curious that Hamilton, even if he breaks Schumacher’s record, may not rank as such for some.
A victim of technology
One aspect of it is the cars’ improved reliability. F1 is more predictable than ever and the best car tends to win, as Mercedes have for six successive years and Red Bull did in the preceding four.
It means competition is scarce on the grid and, with all due respect to Valtteri Bottas, following the departure of Nico Rosberg, within the Mercedes team too.
The creation of a dynasty such as Senna’s is helped as much by a rival as formidable as Alain Prost as on the skill of the driver in question.
Without that, Hamilton has tended to coast toward titles without a media frenzy. But the ease with which he has won is also an indication of his quality, consistency and refusal to make mistakes.
The 34-year-old’s popularity has not been helped in some quarters by a perceived extravagant lifestyle and desire for celebrity status, but his pedigree as a driver is irrefutable.
The esteem his fellow drivers hold him in should tell us as much.
“He has to be considered the greatest ever now, surely,” says former Mercedes test driver, Sam Bird, currently of Envision Virgin Racing in Formula E.
“I’ve worked with him and seen what he can do data-wise, and there’s things he does – and I’ve never said it about any other driver – but you think, ‘I cannot do that, my skill level will just not allow me to do what he does’.”
Hamilton has won fewer BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards than Damon Hill and Nigel Mansell despite winning five more world titles than both, and has not made the Queen’s honours list since being awarded an MBE in 2009 after his maiden championship. Britons Andy Murray, Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins, meanwhile, have all been knighted.
It’s likely Hamilton will become the most successful motor racing driver ever and one of Britain’s greatest ever athletes. He may not be loved, but he deserves more recognition for his career and contribution to the country he represents around the world every other weekend.