After chalking up a record-equalling fifth Grand Prix victory in the United States, Lewis Hamilton became the third driver in Formula 1 history to achieve 50 career wins.
The Englishman – who ties with Michael Schumacher with five wins in the United States – now sits one race victory shy of drawing level with four-time World Champion Alain Prost’s tally of 51 visits to the top step of the podium.
More important was the fact that, in beating teammate Nico Rosberg, he has closed to within 26 points of the German in their battle for the Drivers’ Championship title.
Reflecting on ending a winless drought that stretched back to the German Grand Prix, Hamilton admitted to being “haunted” by the recent run of bad luck that has dogged him in the second half of the championship season and allowed Rosberg to stretch his points lead.
“All I could think about was the car making it to the end – nothing else. It was the longest afternoon I could remember in my whole career,” he admitted after the race.
“You are feeling all the vibrations. I was trying to do less gear shifts to make the gearbox go longer than perhaps it wants to. [It was the] same with the engine – I wasn’t doing 100 per cent throttle down the straight – I was pulling it back to 90%, trying not to stretch it. For whatever reason [a failure] is more likely to happen on my car, so I was just trying to do everything to nurse it home.
“I was haunted by Malaysia and dreading that would happen so I am so grateful that it didn’t. It wasn’t until I got over the line that I was like ‘Thank you!’ I am so happy, rubbing the cockpit – thank you for getting me there.”
While the points deficit may have closed to Rosberg, Hamilton needs some bad luck to swing his teammate’s way over the next three Grands Prix in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi in the hope of taking the fight to the wire.
Hamilton admitted that such circumstances were out of his control and his focus remains on what he can do to maximise his chances on the track
“So far it has been 100 per cent reliable on [Nico’s] side. But often in seasons there can be 100 per cent reliability on a car. Will that be the case on Nico’s? Only time will tell. I can’t get fixated on that.
“I have got to focus on mine, and I am hoping I will have 100 per cent reliability – that would be a breath of fresh air. I will try and utlisie that opportunity with driving like I did today.”
Hamilton’s situation has drawn comparisons with that of Kimi Räikkönen who, in 2007, sneaked through to claim a ‘come from behind’ championship title by one point over Hamilton and his then-McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso at the season finale in Brazil.
“I don’t try to compare [my situation] to other times,” he answered, when asked if he drew any comfort from the Ferrari driver’s title win.
“History has shown lots of ups and downs and changes. And if you look at history there have been times where it is dead certain already, and there have been times where it has flipped.
“So, that is exactly why I have got to keep my head down and keep trying to do the job I did this weekend which I seriously believe I can do. I can’t control what is going to happen behind to this point. It has already been set. All we can do is when I leave this season is know that I did everything with a full heart.
“I still continue to keep a positive frame of mind. I’ve got to; anything is possible. The moment you give up is when you lose. I’ve never given up in my life and I don’t plan on doing so now.
“I’ve battled through thick and thin through my whole career. It’s nothing new to me. I don’t have the championship [three times] and 50 wins through luck. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication, from lots of other people but also from me. Keeping my cool, doing my work. I feel great about the work we did collectively this weekend and I’ll continue to do that.”
When asked how his fiftieth career Grand Prix victory compared with the others in his Formula 1 career, Hamilton refused to be drawn in highlighting a favourite.
“They’re all special. Every Sunday, every weekend feels different,” he replied.
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team