David Coulthard column: Lewis Hamilton is now one of the greats

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Highlights: Hamilton's USA triumph

Lewis Hamilton has been fantastic this Formula 1 season. He is an incredible driver and he has had an incredible year.

Hamilton has shown many sides to himself over the years.

We have seen introvert Lewis, we've seen him win a race and look miserable, not win a race and look happy. At times, it has been a confusing backstory to get to this point.

But we have always known he has had a great talent and he has now delivered greatness and he absolutely deserves to be spoken about in the same breath as the true legends of his sport.

I just don't know how anyone cannot acknowledge that. Just look at his career.

Fernando Alonso is considered one of the great racing drivers of his time; Hamilton matched him in the same car in his first season in the sport.

Other than Alonso, he has dominated all of his team-mates. That's what the greats do.

Three titles is already an amazing achievement and of course he can go on to achieve more.

A new level

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Title win empowering - Hamilton

Talking to some key members of the Mercedes team, they acknowledge that Hamilton has been simply better this year than last.

He has raised his game from an already very high level and done something very few drivers have been able to do and win back-to-back titles.

Hamilton is an uncomplicated person. He lives, he races, he goes to events he enjoys being at and for the rest he keeps well away.

He has a pretty uncluttered life and I think he has found himself and does not try to be something he is not.

We have seen him grow up in public. He has found a team who allow him to be himself and all the stars are aligned to allow him to really deliver.

In the future, I'm sure we will look back on this time as the Hamilton era. We lived through the Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull era for four years but very quickly that has been overtaken by Hamilton and Mercedes and back-to-back world titles.

He has that quality to going racing that make you want to watch him, in the way that Ayrton Senna or Nigel Mansell had. You just know something is going to happen and that makes you pay attention.

There has been drama along the way and whether you like Hamilton or not, he is a star and this is his time.

A mountain for Rosberg to climb

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton on the podium at the United States Grand Prix
Rosberg, left, finished second behind Hamilton in Austin but was driven close by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel

With Hamilton, you just know he is never out of it until it's over. And the US Grand Prix was a perfect example.

At one stage in Austin, it looked like he was struggling but the safety car brought him back into play and he could put the pressure back on Rosberg.

Whenever he is behind, you know he is going to try to pull a pass. When he goes into qualifying, you pay attention.

Hamilton also has the hard edge that all great racing drivers need.

I can see why Rosberg was upset by what happened at the first corner. I have been in that position and been annoyed myself.

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US Grand Prix: Nico Rosberg throws cap at Lewis Hamilton

I actually don't think it was a deliberate act. I just think Hamilton was on the limit on the inside on a damp track.

But the stewards decide what is right and wrong and in that instance they did not feel there was anything to it. And to give Rosberg credit, he came back and drove a strong race until the error that gifted the win and the title to Hamilton.

Rosberg has done so much and handled himself superbly in the many disappointments he has suffered as Hamilton's team-mate.

But if you are not careful, you can undo all that good work very quickly and behaviour such as that he displayed after the race will do that.

There was obviously a misunderstanding over the hats in the pre-podium room and Rosberg looked very churlish on the podium.

Of course he was disappointed - and it will have been in himself as much as anything else for the mistake that he made.

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But although the reality that the championship was over will have been painful in its immediacy, he has known it was coming for a very long time.

I know how Rosberg feels. In my career, I was in a very similar situation when I was team-mate to Mika Hakkinen at McLaren and I know what it is like to win grands prix in a good car and be beaten by your team-mate more often than not.

You just have to keep working and keep waiting for your moment.

It might never come, but Rosberg has to learn from this year. Hamilton has learned something and gone faster, so Rosberg now has to do the same.

If he is able to do that, he can perhaps hope to beat Hamilton in the future but the history of their relationship so far is that Hamilton is simply the better driver and it will take quite a lot to change that.

David Coulthard was talking to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson.

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