Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton reflects on multiple topics after sealing his sixth F1 world championship after finishing second to Valtteri Bottas in US GP.
Only a retirement would have helped Bottas to extend the 2019 F1 championship fight into Brazil GP but Hamilton had his intentions clear as the British racer got it done in US GP itself despite finishing second to the Finn at the Circuit of the Americas.
Hamilton is only the second driver after Michael Schumacher to win six F1 titles as he bettered Juan Manuel Fangio to create history. Post the championship, Hamilton was in a reflective mood as he recalled as many people and moments in his life for the success.
Here’s the different topics Hamilton spoke about:
– Where does he rates the sixth title compare to the five others?
Hamilton: “No way has it been the easiest. It’s been the hardest year for us as a team. We lost Niki this year. A crucial member and a real pivotal member of our team and the emotional rollercoaster that we’ve been on with losing him, and a race where I didn’t have Bono here, outside of the car, just trying to remain focussed throughout the year. That is the toughest, and only really other athletes who are at the top of their game can really, probably related to it, probably because it’s just: arrive: week-in, week-out, can’t drop the ball. And this car has not been easy, not been easy for us. It’s not been easy for us.
“We started the season honestly going off to Melbourne thinking that we were going to be behind. Mid-point of the season we were behind, and it’s been a real challenge, this second half of the season. It’s been the toughest second half of the season that I think we’ve had as a team, fighting against Ferrari and Red Bull, which is great, we welcome that. But, I don’t know, every journey is different. Every year you go through a different rollercoaster ride of emotions to get to where you’re going.
“I wrote something in my post this morning, that each and every single one of us is struggling with something in life. Whatever it may be: small, big. I tried to show people that, from the outside, things always look great but it’s not always the case. And I am also struggling with lots of different things and battling certain demons and trying to make sure that I’m constantly growing as a person.”
– Ferrari’s challenge and how much it is car and how much driver?
Hamilton: “On the performance side, no I’m not surprised. You saw that advantage they had through the season, and even last year. They had a huge amount of power, but more so this year, out of nowhere, had a tonne of power and I really just think, at will, whenever they wanted they seemed to have more. As for winning world titles, there’s not a single driver in the past that’s won a title without having a great team around him. There’s not a single world tennis player that’s won a title without having a great team around him.
“It’s part of the game and it’s how you navigate, and how you utilise those tools that are around you and those people around you to shape the future of the journey that you guys are on. And I’m just a chink the chain with this team but I feel very, very privileged and feel very… I feel really happy with my contribution.
“That I’ve been able to help steer the team in the right direction with the development, with the way the car needs to get quicker. And, more often than not have delivered performances for them when we’ve had a car that’s quicker than the others and also when the car has not been as quick as the others. Particularly that last year, they were just too quick for us to beat but we out-willed them, we had to out-think them and we did that collectively as a team.”
– Best season from driving point of view?
Hamilton: “I think so. I definitely think so. I think last year was a year of just continuous growth and I think this year has also been continuous growth but I tried to make sure that I’ve started the season as I finished last year. And I think that’s just stayed through the season. If you looked, I’ve been very consistent in qualifying.
“I’ve not had particularly spectacular pole positions that perhaps I did last year – but it’s been, first, second row the majority of the time, except for this weekend. And apart from Hockenheim – but I’ll give myself a pass for that weekend because I wasn’t really 100 per cent. Otherwise I think it’s been the best performing year and I think I’m working on a masterpiece and I haven’t quite finished it yet.
“It takes a long time to master a craft and whilst I feel like I am mastering it, there’s still more to master. There’s still more to add to it. There’s still more pieces to the puzzle to add. There’s going to be more ups and downs along the way but I feel like I’ve got the best tools now, to this point at least, to be able to deal with those.
– Motivation for wins and titles and how he woke up on Sunday?
Hamilton: “I woke up this morning and I wasn’t really thinking of the championship. I think really I generally try to put that always at the back of my mind and during the season I’m generally not thinking about it, I’m taking it one race at a time. That’s worked for me in the past and so what ain’t broke don’t fix it. Each weekend there’s a different build-up to it, there’s a different journey.
“In the week or two gap that you have and you come across so many different people, different territories that you’re in and it’s a real roller coaster and each time you’ve got to arrive with positive energy, with the right fitness, the right mental attitude. It’s OK with bad qualifying because if it was all good and perfect there would be nothing to be excited about. I came here today in fifth, knowing that it’s going to be a very, very tough race.
“I watched all the starts from all the previous seasons that we’ve had here, trying to figure out where I’m going to place the car at the beginning of the race and all I could see was first place. How do I get to the guy that’s right on first. When I was in third, I wasn’t even looking at the blue car that was ahead of me, I was looking at Valtteri and that’s how I’m built, I’m always looking.
“I was like, don’t give me the times of the car ahead of me, I want to know the times of the car ahead because that’s the one I’m trying to beat. So that’s how I’m wired and I was hopeful that potentially there was a long way to go on those hard tyres. So I tried not to doubt that we could make it. But Valtteri did a great job, so hats off to him and I’m really genuinely pleased for him and he’s done a fantastic job this year.
“He’s taken a real step in performance and I tell you what’s really hard: when you’re in the team, you help each other sharpen your tools so when I work with an engineer, I like to think that through our collaboration, I think he’s now probably the greatest he’s ever been as an engineer and the same for me as a driver.
“And when you work with those people closely and then your number two goes over to the person in the other car and then starts to utilise what you’ve experienced for all those years to give advantage to the other driver, that makes it really hard, so this is why it’s probably been even more of a challenge, particularly from within the team to work with the first year new guy in Marcus, who’s done a fantastic job but it wasn’t so easy at the beginning.
“And then all my cards have been shown on the other side so creating new strategies, creating new thought processes, trying to really be innovative when it comes to my driving style, having to try and keep an ace in the pocket. Where the hell do you find that used time, so you’re constantly recreating the way you go about driving and try not to show everything, you know, and I think this year, as I said, I think he’s done a fantastic job but I’ve just managed to keep that edge which gave us this championship.”
– Talk about the demons and so on with sixth title in the bag?
Hamilton: “To each and every one of us is personal, what we all challenge when you look in the mirror each day, when you feel good or you feel bad for whatever reason. There’s always the darker side that’s always trying to pull you down and you’re constantly having to wake up. I look in the mirror and I’m trying to lift myself up and say ‘yes, you can do it. Yes, you are great. Yes you can be fit if you go and put that time in. Yes, you can win this race if you do the right steps and you continue to believe in yourself, and no one else is going to do it for you.’
“So it’s just encouraging yourself always and I’m just trying to show a side that I didn’t understand that we’re all similar in many ways. I would say this year that losing Niki, I didn’t think that was going to hit me as hard as it did. It really was upsetting and I miss him dearly and I didn’t realise how much I loved the guy, from the moment that he was calling me, when I was back home, asking me to come to the team, to when we sat together in the hotel in Singapore, the weekend my gearbox broke at McLaren, to him always taking his hat off so our negotiations to all sorts.
“Great conversations about his planes, that was a tough pivot point for us in the end and also we lost a young kid in Spa. Again, I saw it on the TV, I saw it happen. That again, when something like that happens, can put lots of doubts in your mind and batting that off and thinking OK, jeez, is it time to stop or shall I keep going, because there’s lots of life afterwards. I still want to spend time with my family, I still want to have a family one day, all these different things, but I’m so charged to do… and I love doing what I do so much that I don’t think there’s a lot that can particularly stop me in that sense.”
– Being the greatest ever British athlete?
Hamilton: “How am I supposed to feel? I was just saying out there in the scrum that I remember watching this sport when I was younger, waking up, come downstairs, my stepmum, Linda, she would make me a bacon sandwich and me and my dad would sit there together and watch the Grands Prix. It’s odd to watch it and see someone in the TV set and now to be the person that’s in the TV set and be doing something like the great that I saw in Ayrton and the great that I saw in Michael.
“It’s beyond surreal to think that this journey, my life journey has brought me to this point in winning a sixth title. But I don’t really know how I’m supposed to feel right now. I don’t believe in the whole cloud nine thing, I’m flying super high right now and I’ve got my family with me. I don’t remember the last time my stepdad and my stepmum, my dad and my mum were in the same Grand Prix.
“I don’t think I’ve had them at a World Championship race before so again, to experience that and share that with them, people who have ultimately been at the core of who I am and sacrificed everything they had for me to have the life that I have, to have this opportunity to do this, so I was really proud to see them all smiling and share it with them.”
– Reflection on it?
Hamilton: “Usually the reflection comes at the end of the year when work finishes and you can just take a load off and just sit back and have a beer. I will be with my dogs, with my feet up and just only then you can have a moment to grasp how great a year it has been. In my mind, I’m just too competitive, so I’m thinking OK, we’ve got two more races to go, how am I going to do a better job, how am I going to improve in qualifying.
“There’s two more qualifyings to try and get pole, how am I going to see if I can potentially pull out a lap like I did in Singapore last year. How am I going to work it that I can be at the front of both of those. I’m always just looking to improve and I really love being in this sport. I’m so grateful to this sport for giving me a life and giving my life purpose.
“Also, with social media, we have this platform where you can also have a work and have an impact on people so I’m grateful for the position I’m in and as I said, I really like the idea of trying to create a masterpiece. I think we all should be challenging ourselves to create our own masterpiece in some way, shape or form, and mine’s not finished.”
– Next step is Schumacher’s record?
Hamilton: “It’s all about how you position your thought process. I’ve always said to you that reaching Michael’s was never a target for me. I’m not really one that really thinks of records and those kind of things. I definitely had thought that getting anywhere near Michael was just so far-fetched and I remember having my one for a long period of time, then getting a second one. It was so far away and now yet it seems so close yet it is so far away that I still can’t really even comprehend.
“The challenges that we’ll face in these next coming months, the next season. You look at these other teams that have really been putting some astonishing performances in in the second half of the season. It’s going to take another load of incredible performance and work from myself and all the people who are around me and I really don’t want to have to think about it right now.
“And also, I don’t want to build up the idea of trying to get to get to seven because at the moment, I’ve got enjoy right now. Tomorrow’s not a given, I don’t know what’s going to happen over these next days or months but what I have to do and what we all really should try to make sure you enjoy each day because one day you’re here and one day you’re not.
“So not trying to think of what’s going to happen potentially at the end of next year or 2021. I believe that I have the ability to continue to grow and to do more with this team and within Formula One and so that would be the target but time will tell. Right now I just focus on trying to be as fit and healthy as I can be and smile as much as I can and enjoy this beautiful journey we call life.”
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