Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton insists he cannot become “fixated” on the hope that his title rival Nico Rosberg will run into trouble as Formula One’s longest season reaches its conclusion.
Despite his impressive victory in the United States Grand Prix – the 50th of his career – the title battle remains out of Hamilton’s control.
Indeed with only three races remaining, and a possible 75 points on the table, Hamilton still trails Rosberg, who finished second on Sunday, by a margin of 26.
Rosberg could even seal the title as early as this weekend if he triumphs in Mexico and Hamilton fails to score.
While Hamilton has had a number of mechanical troubles this season, his Mercedes team-mate has enjoyed a relatively trouble-free campaign.
“So far it has been 100 per cent reliable on his side, but often in seasons there can be 100 per cent reliability,” Hamilton said. “Will that be the case on Nico’s? Only time will tell, but I can’t get fixated on that.
“I have got to focus on mine, and I am hoping I will have 100 per cent reliability – that would be a breath of fresh air – and I will try and utilise that opportunity with driving like I did here.”
Following an off-colour weekend – both on and off the track – in Japan a fortnight ago, Hamilton was back to his commanding best in Austin. The Briton secured pole position before leading virtually every lap to claim his fifth win on American soil.
And despite the daunting challenge facing him, Hamilton has not given up hope of recording what would surely be considered as one of the sport’s greatest comebacks.
“I still continue to keep a positive frame of mind – I’ve got to – and anything is possible,” Hamilton, 31, added. “The moment you give up is when you lose. I’ve never given up in my life and I don’t plan on doing so now. History has shown lots of ups and downs and changes. And if you look at history, there have been times where it is dead certain already and there have been times where it has flipped.
“So, that is exactly why I have got to keep my head down and keep trying to do the job I did this weekend, which I seriously believe I can do. All we can do is when I leave this season know that I did everything with a full heart.”
Such is the championship deficit, however, Rosberg can afford to finish second in two of the three remaining races, and third on one occasion, and clinch his maiden title. And while the German insists he is not adapting his style to fit such a scenario, his Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believed his conduct on the opening lap – where he refused to engage with Hamilton before conceding his position to Daniel Ricciardo – may suggest otherwise.
“You could probably see it in turn one,” said Wolff. “He’s in a difficult position. He needs to look at each weekend at a time, how he does. But he needs to make sure he does not DNF, which is the most important.
“Nico was very strong in Singapore but Lewis was very strong in Malaysia, Nico very strong in Suzuka and Lewis very strong in Austin. It keeps bouncing between the two, so I’m very curious as to how it’s going to go.”