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Hamilton Reflects On World Championship No. 5

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 31 2018

Lewis Hamilton clinched the 2018 Formula One world championship last weekend. He called the season his best.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Lewis Hamilton added his name and credentials to Formula One’s “Greatest of All Time” conversation Sunday, when the Mercedes AMG Petronas ace secured his fifth World Driving Championship in the Mexican Grand Prix.

Hamilton joined F1 icons Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina and Michael Schumacher of Germany after a fourth-place finish at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez closed-out archrival Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari with two races remaining on the FIA Formula One World Championship schedule.

“It’s a very strange feeling right now,” said Hamilton, who climbed the pit-lane fence following his team photo to celebrate with fans after securing his fourth title in five years. “I’ve been with Mercedes since I was 13; to complete this, when Fangio has done it with Mercedes, is an incredible feeling. It’s a bit surreal at the moment…”

Max Verstappen of Belgium scored his second straight Mexican Grand Prix win by a massive 17.316-seconds over Vettel, the four-time world champion from Germany. The win was the fifth of Verstappen’s F1 career and second this season. The Red Bull Racing driver became the first repeat winner at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez since Formula One’s return to the track in 2015. Nico Rosberg of Germany, Hamilton’s former Mercedes teammate and the 2016 world champion, won the inaugural event in 2015 and Hamilton was victorious in ‘16.

The winner of 71 grand prixs, Hamilton now is tied for second all-time in Formula One championships with Fangio. Schumacher _ with 91 wins and seven world championships _ remains F1’s gold standard. Hamilton also won F1 titles in 2008, 2014, 2015 and 2017.

“It’s definitely the best year,” said Hamilton, a 33-year-old native of Stevenage, United Kingdom. “Ultimately it was the goal. When I won the championship last year, I was like how am I going to improve? How can I be fitter? How can I be more focused? How can I manage my time better and how can I just be a better all-round driver, not just in the car, but also in my team, in the garage, with my engineers, back in the factory? Just in all areas.

“This year I have been able to lift them all up. I don’t know if that’s something that comes with age. But I’m sure the experience helps. I honestly feel like I’ve performed my best this year. So I’m very happy with how it’s gone.”

Hamilton earned his second consecutive championship at Mexico City, marking the fifth time the F1 title has been decided in the sprawling Mexican capital. In addition to Hamilton’s championship last year _ where a ninth-place finish secured the crown _ John Surtees of Great Britain took his sole title in Mexico in 1964 with Ferrari; Brabham’s Denny Hulme of New Zealand claimed his only championship in Mexico in 1967 and Graham Hill of Great Britain won his second Formula One crown with Team Lotus in 1968.

Vettel again emerged as Hamilton’s primary adversary with Ferrari, with the Scuderia chasing its first championship since 2008. But after being beaten by Vettel at Spa in Belgium in August, Hamilton reeled off four wins in five races to build a 70-point advantage heading into Mexico. Hamilton started the 71-lapper around the 2.674-mile/4.304-kilometer/17-turn layout only needing to finish in the top seven to clinch, regardless of where Vettel placed.

As it played out, Hamilton was beaten by Vettel for the first time since Spa. Sunday’s result also snapped a string of 10 consecutive podium finishes for the Brit, who finished off the podium for only the fourth time this season. Nevertheless, the outcome was similar to the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2008, when Hamilton clinched his first world championship with a fifth-place finish.

Hamilton, whose contract with Mercedes reportedly runs through at least the end of the 2020 season, graciously thanked his team and family for their support. “It’s something that of course I’ve dreamed of. But never in a million years thought I’d be standing here today as a five-time world champion,” Hamilton said. “I never knew it was going to happen.

“I’m just so grateful for everyone who has helped me be here _ the guys here at the garage, the guys at the factory who have helped me raise the bar and lift this cup. Without them I couldn’t have done it. My family as well, I mean my dad (Anthony) truly believed out-and-out that we had it above all the other drivers when we were younger.”

Asked if he ultimately could match Schumacher’s seven championships, Hamilton said, “Oh my god. Let me just realize first that I’ve won this one. I don’t know, but it’s very, very weird. I remember when I won a championship in Formula 3 years ago, a European championship, and even then it didn’t register. I hope that this kicks in soon. I definitely feel more excitement coming as I’m thinking about it more.”


American-owned Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean wrapped up the North American portion of the schedule by finishing 15th and 16th, respectively, after starting 16th and 19th.

The Haas teammates attempted to take advantage of varying tire strategies in their Ferrari-powered Haas VF-18 entries. But even with Magnussen rising to as high as ninth and Grosjean climbing to 11th, both fell to the back of the line after their respective pit stops on Laps 43 and 44, when they swapped the Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tires on which they started the race for Purple ultrasofts. The duo was the last of those still running at the checkered flag, as four of 20 drivers failed to finish.

“The only good thing about this weekend is that it ended,” said Guenther Steiner, team principal. “There’s nothing good to take away from here. We were just too slow and we couldn’t get the tires to work.”

Despite the poor result, the team founded by American businessman Gene Haas maintained fifth in the constructors’ standings. Nineteen rounds into the 21-race schedule, Haas F1 trails fourth-place Renault by 30 points and holds a 22-point advantage over sixth-place McLaren. Magnussen, of Denmark, is ninth in the driver’s championship with 53 points and Frenchman Grosjean is 13th with 31 points.

The 2018 season’s penultimate event is the Brazilian Grand Prix at Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo. Practice begins Nov. 9, qualifying takes place Nov. 10 and the race runs Nov. 11.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 31 2018
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