Hamilton heads into this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix with 107 points, a 12-point lead over McLaren teammate and two-time defending champion Alonso. Hamilton will become the first rookie to clinch the title if he finishes ahead of Alonso in Shanghai, or maintains at least an 11-point margin with only the Brazilian Grand Prix to go.
Hamilton had to overcome adversity to get to this point. Not only was he a rookie toiling alongside Alonso, but his team was fined US$100 million (Ђ70 million) and was disqualified from the teams' title.
Relations with Alonso have been rocky. In Hungary in August, Alonso took extra time in a pit stop during Saturday qualifying, causing Hamilton to miss his final opportunity to beat Alonso's time.
In the aftermath, Alonso and team boss Ron Dennis had an argument in which the driver threatened to go to the sport's governing body, the FIA, with e-mails showing he knew about Ferrari technical data that was illegally obtained in an exchange between former Ferrari and McLaren employees.
Dennis called FIA President Max Mosley and the resulting new evidence led to a meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, the fine and loss of team points for the McLaren team. Both Hamilton and Alonso were spared penalties because they gave evidence.
After all that, Hamilton now has a chance to become the youngest winner of the world title at 22 years, nine months. Alonso was 24, two months when he first won in 2005 for Renault.
Alonso's first title came in his third full season in F1, while Schumacher needed four to win his first of seven in 1994. Prost won four titles but needed six years to claim his first.
Now Hamilton, the first black driver in Formula One, can beat them all.