Far, far above cloud nine

Hamilton's 6th world title puts him on a high after year-long 'roller-coaster ride'

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton holding his arms aloft after the US Grand Prix in Austin, with his second-place finish sealing his sixth drivers' championship. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton holding his arms aloft after the US Grand Prix in Austin, with his second-place finish sealing his sixth drivers' championship. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

AUSTIN • In his moment of triumph on Sunday, an emotional Lewis Hamilton reflected on loss, demons and his own growth that led him to a sixth Formula One drivers' title.

As his Mercedes team celebrated a one-two finish at the United States Grand Prix, the Briton's comments after the race said as much about the man as the fierce competitiveness he showed in Austin.

While victory eluded him, he surrendered the lead only to teammate Valtteri Bottas in the dying laps and second place was still good enough for him to become the second F1 driver after Michael Schumacher to win six world championships.

His success was witnessed by his father, mother, step parents, and uncle and aunt who flew in from Trinidad, making him "feel more humble than ever".

"It's just pure happiness. Just looking at my dad's smile says it all," he said. "They worked so hard for me to be here today, so I wanted them to come out together."

On surpassing Argentinian great Juan Manuel Fangio's five titles, putting him just one behind Schumacher's record of seven, Hamilton called it "an honour to be up here with those greats".

"I'm filled with so much emotion," he said. "Cloud nine doesn't even get close to where I am, it's somewhere far above that."

But when asked where his championship ranked against his other five, Hamilton revealed this year had been particularly tough, having been "through a different roller-coaster ride of emotions".

The 34-year-old said: "Every journey is different. Every single one of us is struggling with something.

"I tried to show people that, from the outside, things always look great but it's not always the case. I'm also struggling with lots of different things and trying to make sure that I'm constantly growing."

The Briton, whose 83 wins from 248 races is only eight adrift of Schumacher's record of 91, revealed it had been a real struggle to come to terms with the death of three-time world champion Niki Lauda in May.

The then Mercedes' non-executive chairman had been instrumental in persuading him to link up and the former McLaren driver admitted he still "missed him dearly".




    One short of Michael Schumacher's record.



    Second behind Schumacher's 91.



    For those with at least 50 races, only Juan Manuel Fangio (47%; 24 wins in 51 races) and Jim Clark (34.7%; 25 in 72) have a higher rate than his 83 in 248. Schumacher's is 29.7%; 91 in 306.



    Second behind Schumacher's 155.



    From 2014 Italian GP to 2015 British GP. Second behind Schumacher's 19 (2001 United States GP to 2002 Japanese GP).



    Leads Schumacher's 68.



    Second behind Schumacher's 22.

The dangers of the job also hit home with the death of 22-year-old Frenchman Anthoine Hubert in a high-speed crash during an F2 race at the Belgian Grand Prix in August, making him think about the bigger picture and life outside racing.

"I would say this year losing Niki, I didn't think that was going to hit me as hard as it did," said Hamilton.

"It really was upsetting and I didn't realise how much I loved the guy."

The inevitable question now is whether he can catch Schumacher. But for now, there remains a job to be done with two races left.

He added: "I'm not really one that thinks of records. I believe that I have the ability to continue to grow and to do more with this team.

"The reflection comes at the end of the year."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2019, with the headline 'Far, far above cloud nine'. Print Edition | Subscribe