Formula One: 'Mature' Hamilton draws on his past

Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.
Lewis Hamilton celebrates on the podium during the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. PHOTO: AFP

C'ship leader all set for Mexico coronation, is humbled to be mentioned alongside Senna

MEXICO CITY • Lewis Hamilton is enjoying his battle for the world championship more this year than he did in 2008, when he won his first title.

That is because, while he still has the same natural talent, the 32-year-old is more mature and has more experience. He also says he is a "lot more comfortable in my own skin, so that's really helped".

The Briton has certainly appeared relaxed in the days after his US Grand Prix win, even though he has spent that time working.

While he changed his plans on Sunday night to stay in Austin, Texas, to celebrate Mercedes winning the constructors' championship by taking "a lot of shots to people, got a lot of people drunk", he was in Los Angeles for meetings for two days before flying to Mexico for sponsor and media duties.

Now he is back to the matter at hand - winning his fourth title.

"In 2008, I was a kid. I'd had all the natural talent I have today, but I didn't have the knowledge, experience," he said. "I'm now fighting a championship-winning team in Ferrari and a champion driver (Sebastian Vettel), but I'm much better equipped. It's actually been more enjoyable this year being in the position I am."

MORE STRINGS TO HIS BOW

In 2008, I was a kid. I'd had all the natural talent I have today, but I didn't have the knowledge... I'm much better equipped.

LEWIS HAMILTON, Mercedes driver, on having become a far more rounded racer since his first championship win in 2008 for McLaren.

He is better equipped with points too. In 2008, the contest went down to the final race and he needed to finish fifth to win the title. Now, he has a 66-point lead over his title rival Vettel with, again, fifth place enough to secure his fourth title.

Only this time, he has the cushion of two more races if he does not complete the job at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City tomorrow.

That gives him plenty of time to consider his career, from his karting days which, he feels, might have made him miss out on his childhood, to now standing on the cusp of becoming the most successful British motor racing world champion by surpassing Jackie Stewart's three titles.

That maturity which he speaks of came to him in his late 20s or even when he turned 30.

"When you are 18, you think you know everything, but you don't know s***," he said.

His childhood hero, Ayrton Senna, had three world titles and, even though Hamilton will probably go beyond that tomorrow, he still does not consider himself to be better than the Brazilian, who died after an accident in the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.

"Ayrton's life was cut short and I think, had he had the opportunity to continue and race in safe conditions, he would have continued to win more championships," he said.

"I don't look upon him and think that I am better because I have more wins and championships and poles, but I feel very proud for my name to be mentioned alongside his name."

THE TIMES, LONDON

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2017, with the headline ''Mature' Hamilton draws on his past'. Print Edition | Subscribe