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‘Bloody Nose’ Can’t Keep Hamilton From ’17 Crown

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 31 2017

Lewis Hamilton became a four-time F1 World Driving Champion last Sunday after the event in Mexico City. (Getty Images)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Lewis Hamilton backed into his fourth World Driving Championship during Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix, where the most successful British driver in Formula One history took a moment to reflect upon his experience as a reluctant fighter.

“I was going back to when my Dad put me in the boxing ring when I was young and this kid beat the crap out of me,” Hamilton, 32, said during a lengthy post-race news conference in Mexico City. “My nose was bleeding and I didn’t want to go back in, and it felt very, very similar to Turn 3 today.”

Having qualified third and placed directly behind track record-setting pole-sitter/championship rival Sebastian Vettel, Hamilton quickly was relegated to 20th and last after contact with Vettel’s Ferrari sliced the right rear tire of Lewis’ Mercedes. While Hamilton pitted for four Pirelli tires and Vettel dashed in for a new nose section, Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing was pulling away to his second victory of the season and third of his career.

Hamilton, who began the day with a 66-point lead over Vettel, needed only a fifth-place finish around Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez’s 2.674-mile/4.304 kilometer/17-turn layout to secure the title in Round 18 of 20 of the FIA Formula One World Championship. After qualifying third Saturday, Hamilton said his plan was same as it ever was _to win the race and the championship.

With Hamilton reduced to racing outside the top-five, Vettel still needed to win or finish second to prolong the championship chase. But Seb’s fourth-place result for Scuderia Ferrari and Hamilton’s ninth were enough to secure Lewis’ latest bit of history.

“I got the puncture,” said Hamilton, recalling the kid with the bloody nose. “Could have easily resorted to giving up, making mistakes. But I felt…I remembered that moment and I was like, ‘I’m not going to give up, I’m going to keep pushing, even if I’m 40-seconds behind, I’m still going to give it everything so that when I cross the line I can be proud of myself.’ And I definitely am.”

Hamilton’s 56-point lead in the drivers’ standings is unassailable with two races remaining. With his fourth world title, Hamilton joined an elite club of five drivers with four or more championships featuring Germany’s Vettel and Alain Prost (four) of France. Hamilton now trails only Juan Manuel Fangio (five) of Argentina and Germany’s Michael Schumacher (seven) for most all-time. Hamilton’s previous championships were scored in 2008 and 2014-15.

“Honestly it doesn’t feel real,” Hamilton said. “It was a horrible way to (clinch the title) to be honest, but what could I do? I wasn’t going to go easy at Turn 1 and I don’t think I was too aggressive or anything _ I placed my car in the perfect position.

“I did everything I could. I had a good start. I don’t really know what happened at Turn 3, but I gave him (Vettel) plenty of room. I tried my hardest to come back. Just a big thank you to my family, to my team _ Mercedes have been incredible for the past five years and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”

Verstappen led Valtteri Bottas, Hamliton’s  Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate, over the finish line by a massive 19.678-seconds, with 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari in third.

Yeah, I was cruising. It was great,” said Verstappen, who took a moment to salute Hamilton’s latest accomplishment. “Well, I think in general this year he has been the strongest and also the car was the most reliable between Ferrari and Mercedes, and if you combine those two things you can achieve great things and that’s of course a world championship.”

A disappointed Vettel nevertheless gave Hamilton his due. “He’s done a superb job all year round and deserves to win the title. So congratulations to him,” Vettel said. “It’s not about anyone else today, it’s about him. It’s his day.”

Vettel’s clash with Hamilton was the latest in a number of on-track confrontations between the two this season, which the German said he relished. “I don’t fear him,” Vettel said. “I like racing with him, but I would have liked a little bit more of that this season. But overall they (Mercedes) were the better bunch.”

Meanwhile, American-owned Haas F1 Team rallied to score a points-paying finish for the 11th time this season courtesy of an eighth-place drive by Kevin Magnussen. The Dane qualified his Ferrari-powered No. 20 Haas VF-17 a disappointing 18th but rose to 14th before the race started thanks to grid penalties incurred by others ahead of him. The aforementioned contact between Hamilton and Vettel allowed Magnussen and teammate Romain Grosjean to climb to 10th and 12th, respectively.

Magnussen advanced to as high as sixth by Lap 20 before dropping to eighth and completing 70 of 71 circuits. Grosjean finished 15th two laps down to Verstappen in the No. 8 car.

That was like a victory,” Magnussen said. “It was incredible, and a great way to reward everyone for their hard work. It was a perfect race. It couldn’t have gone better. We could easily have given up and just thrown the towel into the ring (Saturday) _ it was a very tough day for us all. Nobody gave up, and everyone knows we’re not the worst team, or meant to be on the last row. We’re meant to be in the points, fighting in the midfield and getting into the top-10. We pushed on and I’m very proud of the team for that.

“We’re going to continue to fight. It’s not going to be easy, we can see that, but we’ll continue to push in the constructors championship and have fun all the way to the end.”

American businessman Gene Haas’ second-year team remains eighth in the constructors standings with 47 points, just one point behind seventh-place Renault and six points behind sixth-place Toro Rosso. Haas F1 Team holds a 23-point advantage over ninth-place McLaren. Grosjean is 13th in the championship standings with 28 points and Magnussen is 14th with 19 points.

Next up is the penultimate Brazilian Grand Prix, set for Nov. 10-12, at Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo.

Hamilton described his climb through the field as “horrible” and quite unusual. “It was like being in no man’s land. You just have to think forwards to the future. I had no idea what was happening with the championship to be honest _ I was just thinking about getting further up and getting involved in the race. This is the worst track to follow, so trying to get past people was a disaster.”

Hamilton dutifully thanked the team working at the Mercedes factories in Brixworth and Brackley in Great Britain for their dedication and support. “Winning the constructors’ championships was already a huge feat, and helping me achieve this incredible accomplishment, I’m so grateful,” Hamilton said.

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff admitted that Hamilton’s drama initially left the team in a state of shock.“For Lewis, in the car, you don’t know what’s happening _ ‘Is Sebastian still in the race? Can he score points?’^” Wolff said. “I think after a while we explained the situation to him and then we were all focused and trying to make the best for him. You have a massive gap in points and people say it’s done, but it’s not _ it’s motor racing. You have this incident and Sebastian could have won, we could have DNFd and then what’s next?

“(The damage to Hamilton’s diffuser) cost quite some performance. It’s also an explanation why we struggled to make it through the traffic. We saw on the data that the car wasn’t in great shape. We were overheating on the brakes _ like everyone else, I guess _ but it was just about making it to the end.”

Once the checkered flag had fallen and with the championship in-hand, Hamilton said he began reminiscing about growing up in Stevenage _ “from nowhere” _ watching F1 on television and dreaming of one day driving for McLaren.

“Here we are, 25 years later or whatever it is and I’m four-time world champion,” Hamilton said. “I try to not leave any stone unturned _ and that’s the philosophy the whole team have had. As a driver I’m always trying to raise the bar.”

An edited version of Hamilton’s post-race presser follows:

QUESTION: You’ve had time to think about this championship. Does it mean more than the previous three, now that you are in an elite club of only five men to have achieved four or more titles?

LEWIS HAMILTON:  “You know, I never gave up and that’s really what’s important, what’s in my heart. I kept going right to the end. I’m grateful for today and I just want to lift it up to my family and to God and, as I said, my team.”

QUESTION: Lewis, just give us some of your emotions. What does this championship mean to you?

LEWIS HAMILTON:  “Well, firstly, everyone, thank you so much for the warm welcome. It’s been a long journey with all you (media) guys, these past 10 years. For the all the stories, positive or negative, I appreciate all the support from all of you.

“Yeah, it’s very difficult to come from a race, one which you, firstly, have not won, which was your target _ but I feel still great _ but then to be surrounded by so many people. Obviously there’s a lot of emotions. I would love to start by thanking my team. Mercedes signed me when I was 13, alongside McLaren and obviously I had exceptional years with McLaren. Very, very special time there, and will always have a special place in my heart. Meeting Ron (Dennis) when I was 10, telling him that one day I wanted to be a world champion in his car, and him giving me that opportunity, wherever he is today I hope he knows how grateful I am for that.

“And then moving to this team which was obviously such a…people through it was a big risk, and gamble, but I had every belief in my heart, 100 percent belief in my heart, that it was the right thing to do. Even if in the beginning it may have been difficult, I knew at some stage we would have this kind of success. It’s really weird how I had that. And then just to see the team grow. It’s trickled down from the top, with great bosses, great board members who support the team 100 percent. So to everyone back in Stuttgart, a big, big ‘thank you.’

“The guys back at Brackley and Brixworth, those guys. I mean, when you go there and see what’s happening, see all these great creative minds working day and night to do something firstly, that they love, that they’ve worked for years, obviously going through school and university, and then to see this beautiful piece of art come together in December and January, and I’m one of two people that get to go out and test drive it, it’s the greatest feeling in the world. I think the FIA and Formula One did such a great job this year with this car. Whilst it’s difficult to overtake, it’s still an awesome car to drive. Formula One cars should be faster than anything out there.

“And yeah, this week I’ve just been reminiscing a lot about where I came from, y’know? Growing up in Stevenage, dreaming of one day being in Formula One. And where I am now is way beyond my imagination. I think dream big is definitely something we should all do _ but to be four-time world champion…four definitely feels a lot better than three, and four is my number, obviously, so yeah. And I’ve got such great support all around the world and I want to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the fans. A lot of fans here in Mexico, some Brits, some Mexicans. I love coming out to Mexico, so to do this on Mexican soil, particularly to shine this kind of positive light on the country, since it’s going through a very difficult time over the past months. I hope this shines some positivity on everyone.

“Through the race I was just thinking to myself, ‘Still I Rise, just don’t give up.’ To never give up.”

QUESTION: Lewis, has this journey now come full-circle for you, given how you’ve come up and the personal history you’ve made?

LEWIS HAMILTON:  “Definitely. In life, in the heat of the moment, when you’re going through difficult times, or even good times, you wonder how much further to push. Do you stop, do you turn around, do you turn left or right and go a different direction? I think it’s just that when you eventually get there you realize it was all worth it.

“The way I’ve prepared this year, contrary to what people may think, training on your own, ‘No one can train on their own,’ that’s what people would say, travelling around the world the way I do, all these different things. But just doing it your own way and finding your own way I think, it’s a day like today, when you win a championship, in front of so many people, it just solidifies your belief in yourself and your family’s belief in you and what they stand for.

“So, I’m proud of all my family and it’s crazy to think that I’m continuing to stamp the Hamilton name in the history books. Beyond my time there will be kids that will know the name and that’s probably what I’m most proud of. My Dad did…I can’t even tell you what my Dad did to help me get where I am today. No matter how many wins I get, no matter how successful I am, I can never pay that back. I just try and grab it with both hands, the opportunity that they’ve provided me and know also that there’s a lot of kids, a lot of people around the world, that are watching me, whether it’s for inspiration or for guidance, and so I’m trying to be the brightest light I can to shine that in their direction.”

QUESTION: Lewis, you said four is your magic number. Does that mean there’s not a No. 5?

LEWIS HAMILTON:  “Actually, 44’s my magic number but I’d be here a long time to get 44 championships! Four is a part of it. I like four.

“Jeez…I wonder what the people at my school are thinking. When I was growing up, there’s a couple of teachers that said, ‘You’re never going to amount to anything,’ so I wonder what they’re thinking now when they watch me today? For sure, they’re probably watching. Or at least they’ll read the news tomorrow. I wonder what they’re thinking? I wonder if they’re thinking, ‘I helped that young lad,’ or are they thinking ‘You know what, I regret what I said and I’ve grown from it.’ I hope that’s really the case. I hope they’ve grown though it. I hope that whoever’s kids they are teaching today, they’re encouraging them, rather than pulling them down.

“But yeah, four is a great number. I want No. 5 now. I’m going to stick with four, enjoy No. 4 but I think, y’know, you just take one step at a time. It’s really about embracing, firstly what you love, the people that you work with, your family. It’s really about not listening to people who try to tell you what to do. It’s about you finding your center and your core. Because we’re all different and we’re all unique in our own way, we’re all bright stars. There’s no one in this room that’s not a star. If you feel that the person next to you is a brighter star, it doesn’t mean you can’t be as bright as them. If anything, you should use that as inspiration, to shine even brighter.

“I hope my winning the fourth time, world champion from Stevenage, I hope that’s a testimony to show that you really can do something from nowhere. I hope one day I’m able to help find the next me because he’s somewhere out there.”

QUESTION: Back to the race _ you said on the team radio, or you asked on the team radio, whether Sebastian had deliberately crashed into you. Do you think he did hit you on purpose? Do you think it was a bit of desperation from Seb, and would you like to speak to him about it?

LEWIS HAMILTON:  “I’m going to take the negativity, swing it back and send you positivity, dude. It doesn’t even matter what happened. Today ‘Still I Rise’ was on the top of my mind, and you get knocked down and you get back up and you keep pushing as hard as you can. Dude, I was 40-seconds behind today and I don’t know how it looked from outside. It didn’t feel great _ but I just never gave up, I just kept pushing. I knew that I couldn’t win the race, clearly, but I was, ‘You know what, I’m going to have the best race I can possibly have from wherever I am.’

“It took forever to catch one guy, and then eventually catch them and so hard to get past _ but I enjoyed every battle. I tried to use all my skill. Turn 1, I didn’t give up. You guys are always wondering if I’m going to take the step back and not push, and I think I was balanced with my aggression in Turns 1, 2 and 3. I don’t think I was too aggressive, didn’t lock-up, I didn’t make any mistakes and that is something I’m really happy with _ because naturally under the pressure, I could have done too much or too little.

“I was, of course, surprised to be hit and yeah, I left a lot of room so to wonder why the dude behind, that I was fighting, touched me, of course it was on top. Y’know, we’re great drivers, he’s a four-time world champion, it’s quite easy not to hit each other.  But in the midst of things it can also be quite easy to touch. So, I don’t really care and I don’t feel like analyzing it.

“I’ve enjoyed racing against Sebastian and to race against a four-time world champion, and even today, to have the battle with (double world champion) Fernando Alonso, I was like, ‘This is one tough mofo.’ Back and forth, back and forth, I’m like…’Formula One, just wait ‘til this guy gets a good engine,’ because the car was great through other sections and I really hope for McLaren, who I’ve already told you has a special place in my heart, I really hope next year is a better year for them. I hope they have a stronger engine, a stronger car and Fernando’s a tough bugger _ a tough cookie, I prefer that word _ and I enjoyed the little battle I had with him and I hope we get to have many more like that.”

QUESTION: Lewis, you’re now the most successful British F1 driver in history, you stand alone with four championships. Is that something you’re able to wrap your head around?

LEWIS HAMILTON:  “I think at the moment it’s too far out of reach. It’s like I’m in space. It just really doesn’t…it’s not registering at the moment. That often happens when you win a championship. Of course there’s all the energy from all the people around you and you’re riding on Cloud Nine but it’s really hard to…it takes a while for it to really, truly sink in.

“But when I think about everything that’s gone on this year, the past two years, and everything that’s had to be put in place to produce the results we have today…while I’m sitting here on my own, there’s over a thousand people who backed me up, who lift me up, who create the machine in which I’m able to exploit my talents, my abilities and for that I’m just so grateful.

“I wonder how many people in here thought it was the worst move to Mercedes? Of course it’s been years already before you’ve changed your opinion _ but isn’t it cool? Isn’t it cool to see someone take a risk like I did and it to come out the way it has? I’m really, really happy about it and proud of all the people that have helped me achieve it and looking forward to the future.”

QUESTION:  This battle was hard-fought against Scuderia Ferrari and your Mercedes was up and down. Sometimes you didn’t have the best car in the field. From a sporting point of view, would you say this was your most valuable championship? Did you have to give more than in the other three?

LEWIS HAMILTON: “I think every one has been difficult, different in its own way. Of course, if you look back to 2015, consistency was good and obviously it came in a different way. Still, I think individually, it felt challenging on a personal level _ but I think this year is a championship of which I’ve been hoping for, a little bit like 2008, where you’re fighting another team, fighting this historic team, which Michael (Schumacher) raced for and won championships in.

“Ferrari is…the red car _ red’s my favorite color so it’s such a beautiful car to see on the track _ but to fight it with a silver sword is, it’s like the master sword, you want to say. I’m really proud of that and to be able to battle someone else who is a four-time world champion, a proven world champion, who’s got great skill and a team also that knows how to win championships, to extract the most from my guys, to compete with that. That’s how every championship needs to be and I hope there’s more championships like this one where we have this tough battle.

“I think every single year there’s going to be things that are…reliability is always a challenge, which has been exceptional, thanks to the team but fighting the other teams is what we want to see. I think what Formula One wants to see. I remember growing up watching Formula One and that’s what I wanted to see. So I’m sorry if the last couple of years weren’t the greatest for you but I hope this year was more exciting.”

QUESTION: Toto Wolff told us you asked the team if there was any possibility of Sebastian arriving second, and the team told you there was not. From that moment, did you react in a different way? It looked like it was the moment you were trying to overtake Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen…

LEWIS HAMILTON: “I don’t know how it is for you guys watching this race. It’s a great race as a spectacle but it’s a very, very challenging race because obviously we’re very high so we’ve got maximum downforce, very small drag, so overtaking is very difficult.

“I could see the TV screens, I could see where I was and, damn, it sucked being 12th. It took forever to get 11th and I was seeing… he (Vettel) was not as unfortunate as I was to get a puncture and be 40-seconds behind, he was at least able to remain in the fight so he had a much better opportunity and obviously drove fantastically well in the race after Turn 3. But I could see he’s climbing and I’m thinking, ‘Jeez, I know he has to finish second, I knew that Max was 70-seconds up the road,’ so I don’t know.

“I just try to keep a gauge of what’s happening up ahead. I was thinking, ‘Do I have to get eighth to win it?’ But all I could think of was trying to get up as high as I could. I’d look back, I’d look at the laps and think, ‘Maybe I could have pushed a little harder here and there’ but at the time my soft tire had to go to the end and it wasn’t feeling good, so I was just trying to look after it initially, that’s why I didn’t have great pace.

“Then we had the pit stop and I still went in 26 seconds behind, came out 30 seconds behind and I’m like, ‘What the hell?’ But this is one of those things that are sent to test me and, as I said, that giving up factor is very, very easy to do. It’s always easy to take the easy route, just back off, turn the engine down, not push, hope for the best. But I kept racing and that’s what I live for. That’s what I started out karting, when I had a crap go-kart, when I first started, I started last and I made my way through and that’s what I tried to do today.”

QUESTION: Lewis, we journalists love a personal feud between drivers. We got one last year with you and your teammate, Nico Rosberg. This year, we were expecting fireworks between you and Seb. Instead, you two sit together in press conferences and really seem to like each other’s company, in spite of the fact that you’re constantly knocking bits off each other on the track. So tell us about Seb _ what’s so special and enjoyable about him?

LEWIS HAMILTON: “You sound pissed-off! You do sound upset. I’m kidding. Look, we’re not 20-year- olds, we’re grown men now so I think if you watch tennis, you watch the great players, the great golfers, great athletes in the world and the mind is everything. The mind is what is in control, not the things that surround it. Naturally you’re having a battle with the guy behind. There’s that famous saying, ‘In the art of war, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’

“I watch Sebastian, I know what he’s achieved in the past years, I know how consistent he’s been, I know where his strengths and weaknesses are. I know where the strengths and weaknesses of his car are. I do think it’s still very, very important…if you look at (Rafael) Nadal and the composure that they have through a game, and then also how they present themselves after a win or a loss. I think stars and athletes like that really set an example and I try to follow that, really, take a lot of inspiration from that.

“I think there’s times probably he (Vettel) hates me more than I have any of that feeling…but I try not to contain any negativity in my life, no matter what is written, no matter what people say, I’ve managed to build this kind of barrier to bounce off negativity because I think love conquers all and positivity conquers all. So whilst you do want that feud after Baku and all of that, and even today, which seems a little bit odd, at the beginning of the race, it doesn’t matter. I think what matters is…as I said, it’s how you get up.

“I do hope that many of you here, whether or not you’re British, obviously Mercedes is German, so hopefully some of the Germans can still feel grateful but I hope the Brits, I hope you guys…this is not just my win, it’s our win, for all of us, wherever. I’ve got a cap here, it’s got a US flag on it. I hope everyone can really enjoy this year and some of the great battles we’ve all had and I’m not going to try and give even more controversy next year. I hope that we just give you more raw racing, you know? That’s what the sport needs, that’s what we’re struggling towards.

“I hope today was exciting. The little battles I had…I had so much fun. The one with Fernando was…I was like, ‘Really, dude? Come on!’ It was cool. What’s a shame is that Formula One cars, in particular here, overtaking is so difficult and so there’s got to be some way of creating that battle without creating a deficit in engine power or something. There’s got to be some other way to have more fight back. We had this great race today and that’s the only battle I really remember that I’ve enjoyed as much.”

QUESTION: Throughout this year and possibly even moreso in the second half, you seem to have been able to get more out of what is quite a difficult car than your teammate, Valtteri Bottas. What have you found within yourself to do that, and why is it such a difficult car from which to extract performance?

LEWIS HAMILTON:  “It’s obviously got great qualities but generally the philosophy of how a car has been designed…over the years it’s got some of the same traits of the previous years but being this year bigger tires, longer car, it’s exaggerated some of those things and in a year when the losses are even greater than the previous year. I’m sure you’ve heard on the radio some of these things we’ve talked about and some of the things we’ve talked about in the car, and the loss of downforce which we don’t see on the other cars. It’s been a great year, of course, because we’ve really sat down in these debriefs, places like after Malaysia, when we sat down and had the longest debrief with the guys.

“What’s amazing is to have guys who really listen to every single thing _ feedback _ you give back about the car. They’re just wanting more information. These engineers, they love that stuff _ more numbers, more information the better. So me and Valtteri have really been working hard to give the best feedback. These guys come from Harvard and Cambridge and Oxford so they’re on another level to us drivers, so to be able to convey what you’re feeling is not the easiest. But I’m proud of its flaws because she’s not been perfect.

“Whilst people have written that we’ve had the best car, I don’t believe we’ve had the best car. I think we’ve been the best team, we’ve done the best job but there have been times when we’ve not had the best car, particularly on race weekends we’ve done a great job. And times when we’ve _ Singapore for example _ like we’re not going to do so well this weekend but we’ve come out with more than we had hoped for. And really that’s what it’s been about. I think next year _ hopefully it’s not too late _ but I hope we will improve on some of the fundamental issues we have on this year’s car, but then others will come out of the woodwork.

“I think on my side of things, the operational side, working with my engineers, I’ve had the same engineers for some time. Bono (Pete Bonnington) has been with me from the beginning and his and their commitment…you don’t get to see what happens back in the office but they’re constantly analyzing, just wanting to give the driver the best package. I couldn’t have done it without these guys. My guys in the garage, my mechanics, who take the car apart every single week and put the car back together. Do you know how many pieces there are for that car? There are so many components, they’re faultless in what they do. I have so much respect for that because I’ve taken things apart and put them back the wrong way. I’m sure some of you guys have.

“So it’s really exceptional to see people talented like that doing great things. And then when you get in the car, you know that you’ve got that belief in you and you deliver as they deliver. It’s the greatest feeling.”

QUESTION: You referenced that Seb is a four-time world champion and people often compare these drivers from different eras. But is there an added edge and enjoyment that the two of you are going head-to-head for a fourth, fifth and maybe more titles at this moment in time?

LEWIS HAMILTON: “Definitely. Definitely. It’s kind of cool to be in this battle with him. He got to 50 poles (Saturday) and I’m kind of like, I don’t want to give him any more poles because he gets closer to me. That’s inspiration to keep pushing it, you know? Then the same with wins, same with championships and so then I see him sign for another three years with Ferrari and I’m like, ‘Ferrari are not going to like me for the next couple of years.’ It’s OK, because we’re going to make it as hard as it can possibly be for them to win championships but I really am looking forward to that battle with them. They’ve been such a great team this year, it’s been great to see Ferrari back on form and as I said, I really hope others join that battle.

“Red Bull have been great today. Big congratulations to Max, he’s really the brightest young star that we’ve seen for some time and I was hoping today to have a bit of a battle with him but it wasn’t meant to be. But there will be many more to come and I hope that in his early era that I can be a good force and a good battle for him.”

QUESTION: You said you remembered Michael Schumacher racing in the red car and mentioned a couple of days ago that you’re not sure how much longer you want to be racing. You said a couple of years. In this emotional moment, if you listen to your inner voice or to your gut feeling, is there something that says you can catch those records he holds? You can get to 92 grand prix victories, seven or eight world championships? And do you want to do that?

LEWIS HAMILTON: “I think, first and foremost, we all know how exceptional Michael was and his records have lasted for so long and he will always…there’s one particular record which is going to be very hard for anyone to catch. Each year I don’t set a goal to make records. I have a goal of somehow improving certain areas where you feel you could be better. I love racing, I love the…I’m different. I love my different qualities, compared to the others. That doesn’t mean they’re better or worse, I’m grateful for the qualities and the abilities I have in the car.

“It is very, very crazy to think that I’ve matched certain records from people; weekend-in, weekend-out, someone tells me of a new record that I’ve crept up on, but there potentially are many, many more years to go. I do look at my life…I travel so much, there’s so much that I do, it’s a lot sacrifices. People talk about Michael’s single-mindedness about his job but to stand out in the world today, it’s a lot harder, I think, to stand out today in this world, because it’s all been done before. So to do something different as a Formula One driver, not only be the greatest you can be as a racing driver but also do other things, prepare your afterlife to be just as great, not as good because Formula One is just the pinnacle of the sport.

“You arrive on the biggest wave and afterwards there are going to be much smaller waves but that doesn’t mean you still can’t do great things. So doing something different that helps you stand out, that really highlights your individuality I think is really important and that’s really something I’m working on, so I’ll continue to race while I love it. As I’ve said, I’ve enjoyed it this year more than ever. I do think about Jeez, it would be so nice at some stage just to live in one place, a lot more socializing, walking your dogs every day or surfing, whatever it is. But staying in one place for a period of time. But then I’m thinking there’s a lot of life to live beyond 40, there’s a lot to go and so the balance is _ I can’t come back to Formula One, so there’s going to be a point in which OK, I’ve had enough.

“I’ve already been blessed and had such a wonderful time here in these 10 years. Hopefully I have my place here and I’m going to continue to _ whilst I’m at my best _ continue to try and…I want to go out on top so that’s my goal. Obviously each year, I could do the easy thing, like obviously Nico did, which is just stop and retreat with these four titles. But I think there’s more in me, I think there’s more to come, more of a challenge, as there’s harder times ahead and I like that. I love that. That’s challenging.”

QUESTION: If you can reflect on your career, how do you compare yourself with your idol, Ayrton Senna?

LEWIS HAMILTON:  “I don’t ever really compare myself to Ayrton. I think it’s very hard to compare oneself to previous eras, you know? The cars are always different. What I would say is that ultimately us racing drivers, what we’re great at is getting in a car and exploiting its strengths and weaknesses and putting it to the limit. All the drivers back to Fangio, no matter what vehicle you put them in, whether it’s a car, jet ski, whatever, we will take it to the limit because we have this certain sense of awareness and higher limits than others, I guess.

“I do feel very proud to be in and amongst those legendary drivers and we’re in a different era where safety is so much further ahead but technology also is, too. The challenge Ayrton would have faced in his time is a lot different today, mentally, maybe less physically challenged but mentally more with all the electronics that you have to control. It’s not one era that is more difficult than another, they’re just unique in their own way. I really do think that these great drivers, Ayrton would have continued to win more if he was fortunate enough to have more life to live. That bright life of his was cut short.

“I’ve always said it, since I got the first championship, I kind of liked the idea that I’m carrying a baton on and seeing how far we can push it. He inspired me as a kid, arrived at home on the weekend, he’d be the one I would be looking out for. And even when he was gone, I still came back and watched his videos like it was just yesterday he was racing.”

QUESTION: Can you compare your four mounts _ the McLaren, the W05, the W06 and the W08, and tell us which would be your favorite? You don’t name them like Sebastian does, but which would be your favorite among the four cars that have given you the title?

LEWIS HAMILTON:  “The reason I don’t name my car is because it’s not the same car you’re driving throughout the year. We have four, five, six chassis so it keeps changing, so you would have to have four, five different names and that’s a pain in the backside. So I don’t name the car. But you still obviously have a close connection with the car that you’re in, that keeps you safe. Each one is different.

“Obviously when I got to Formula One, 2006, so I don’t know what chassis that was, the MP4/22 is it, something like that? That was a different car. At the time I thought it was the most physically demanding thing that I had ever come across. And then obviously the body then becomes accustomed to it but then we had bigger wings, then we went to lesser downforce, the grip was poor, I think ’14, ’15, the car was still good but today I think is definitely the best all-around car in terms of its size, the tire size, it looks a lot like the olden days. When you watched the old legendary cars go round today the cool thing you see is the sound, the big tires that they have _ I love that and it’s a lot closer to what you dream Formula One being like.

“I think this, for me, is definitely the best car I’ve driven but I’ve had the privilege of driving different cars. I drove Ayrton’s car from 1989 which is cool because they had the stick shift, you know? I really wish we had that here. Imagine that battle I had with Fernando, having to take my hand off the steering wheel! That would have been awesome. It’s not meant to be in this world of technology but I hope Formula One grows from here and I hope to be in that period of time where hopefully it grows into a better series than it already is.”

QUESTION: Again back to the race, was there any time when you were 16th or 12th when you thought you’d have to wait until Brazil to win the world championship?

LEWIS HAMILTON:  “No, neither of those really ever come to mind. I honestly didn’t know that…I hadn’t calculated what I needed to or where Sebastian had…obviously at some stage they said that he had to finish second so then I’m like, ‘OK, I guess if I finish where I am that’s enough’ but for me that’s not enough. Backing off in a race is never fun, that’s why you see me battling Fernando at the end. I gave it everything, I took risks…a little bit more risk with him than I really needed to but hey man, it could be my last race so I was like I’m going to give it everything.

“I was pushing right to the finish line and that’s something I love. I had no tires left. So there was never a moment that I thought to myself we’ll wait to Brazil. I think there was a moment for sure when it did dawn upon me which I may have to…I was like, ‘We touched in Turn 3, it’s OK, I’ve got two more races and it’s not going to happen again.’ Because I’ll put myself on-pole and make sure I’m ahead, so it’s not close enough. But no, I just thought, keep going, keep giving it everything and keep rising.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, October 31 2017
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