Lewis Hamilton won his fourth Formula 1 Drivers Championship in Mexico last weekend and in doing so cemented his place as statistically the greatest British driver since the sport began. He already holds the record for the most pole positions and has won 62 races, second only to Michael Schumacher on 91 wins and 11 clear of Alain Prost who is third.

He will now always included in the abstract discussion as to who is the greatest of all time. To me it allows him to be included in a significantly shorter list of drivers who have possessed magic. Hamilton has raced for more than a decade now against the very best.

Indeed for most of that time his teammate - and in Formula 1 the man it is most important to beat since they have the same car - has also been a world champion. Fernando Alonso, Jensen Button, and Nico Rosberg all rose to the top of the sport, yet overall Hamilton beat them all.

The two other drivers who could do what should have been impossible

He has an ability to drive a car more quickly than it should be able to be driven and that gift is one I have seen in only two other people, during the last forty years that I have been watching motor racing. The first was Gilles Villeneuve a Canadian that many believe to be the most gifted driver to have never won the World Championship. Gilles never really had the car to do it and he never raced tactically.

For him, it was flat out to win, and second was nothing. The second was Ayrton Senna. A three time world champion, he was regarded as almost a God in his native Brazil. Senna also raced to win or bust and sometimes crossed the fair play line. But along with Hamilton and Villeneuve, he found speed that others could not find and drove cars insanely quickly in situations where others could not.

Similarities between the three abound. They all excelled in qualifying because their greatest thrill was driving a car as quickly as humanly possible. Jensen Button in his recent biography admits that while in racing it was close between Hamilton and himself when they were team mates, in qualifying it was not. Hamilton produced speed from a place Button, nor any other driver, could find.

Additionally they all were incomparable with any of their contemporaries when driving in the wet. The intuitive ability to control a car meant they looked forward to situations others dreaded. The other similarity was that anyone who loved motor racing all drew in their breath when any of the three were about to race, because they may well have been about to witness the incredible. Senna had an award winning documentary made about him and to watch the driving close up was unbelievable.

Tragedy for Villeneuve and Senna

Tragedy caught up with Villeneuve and Senna eventually. Villeneuve had, in his view, a race win stolen from him by his own team mate, Didier Pironi who refused to follow team orders and passed Villeneuve to win a race, and this after Gilles had not challenged in a previous race in the same circumstances.

He went to the following race, the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982 and was reported to be in a strange, silent, angry mood, which included refusing to speak to his team mate. He suffered a fatal crash in practice. Senna was leading the field at Imola in 1994 when he crashed at the infamous Tamburello corner. He too was killed outright and his death shook racing to its foundations.

Both these incredible drivers were probably trying to prove the same point. Villeneuve that he could and should have won the previous race and that he was quicker than anyone and Senna, after a poor start to the season, when the new talent of Michael Schumacher was leading the championship, that he was quicker than anyone and should win every race.

It is to be hoped that Hamilton, who shares many of the characteristics of the other two, does not step over the same line. Cars can apparently be driven faster than they should go by these magicians, but only slightly faster. As always in this spectacular sport the very best dance at the edge of the void.

They drove so quickly they stopped time

Lewis Hamilton's statistics prove he is one of the very best of all time. They put him alongside Schumacher, Prost and his current rival Sebastian Vettel, who have the efficiency, race craft, speed and ruthlessness to relentlessly win races and championships. But perhaps more importantly to racing romantics, the ability at certain special times to do what should not be possible places him with Gilles Villeneuve and Ayrton Senna. They are the three drivers who have been able to make an entire audience hold their breaths and drive so quickly that they stop the clocks.