AUSTIN (Texas) • Lewis Hamilton will achieve the dream of a lifetime if he secures his third Formula One world championship in Austin today but he will then face a question as big as Texas: What next?
Like a mountaineer one step away from conquering the highest peak, the Mercedes driver knows he also stands on the edge of uncertainty as he goes into today's United States Grand Prix.
Without wanting to pre-empt anything, go into ifs or buts or even acknowledge that the weekend felt in any way out of the ordinary, he recognised that he would have to refocus his career ambitions.
"I could imagine that, for me, it would be like getting to the top of Mount Everest. I mean, what do you do next?" the Briton said of the prospect of matching the three titles of his boyhood hero, the late Brazilian Ayrton Senna.
The answer for most would simply be win more championships and races, but Senna's treble has a particular resonance for Hamilton. The 30-year-old, who has already overtaken the Brazilian's tally of race wins, has always wanted to win three. Not seven like Michael Schumacher, or four like Sebastian Vettel, but to do what Senna did.
As he said in Japan two weeks ago, he never aspired to be like any other driver.
"There's no higher mountain but there are equally tough challenges in maybe lower mountains. Things just change, so I really don't know," said the Briton, as he continued to ponder how he might react to becoming just the 10th driver to win three world titles.
"I am going to keep on wanting to win. That is never going to change in me. That competitiveness I have in me is just in my blood... I can't even fathom what's beyond it.
"I never thought beyond three (titles). I didn't even think I would have two."
Austin has been "drowned" by Hurricane Patricia, with second practice washed out on Friday.
It will be left to Nico Rosberg to try to rain on his team-mate Hamilton's parade. Hamilton needs to finish just two points better than Rosberg and nine ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari to wrap things up.
Vettel has done half the job by taking an engine penalty that will send him 10 places back on the grid.
But Rosberg refuses to believe his is a lost cause, saying: "I am fixed on winning until you tell me it's not possible any more."
It is so difficult to imagine anything - neither Rosberg nor Patricia - intruding on Hamilton's mood. "It doesn't feel like a special weekend," he said. "I am in a good position and I have set up my mind knowing I have these four races left. My goal is to cross the line in Abu Dhabi as champion."
For today, Hamilton only needs to look out for Rosberg - and Patricia.
REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON,
F1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX
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