LEWIS Hamilton hopes he does not run into a brick wall over the closing stages of the Formula 1 season – after feeling he has clambered over enough to take command of the title race.
With just three grands prix remaining, a second championship is now looming on the horizon for Hamilton following a dramatic about-turn in fortunes for himself and Mercedes rival Nico Rosberg.
Qualifying incidents in Germany and Hungary before the summer break in August put Hamilton on the back foot in his personal battle with Rosberg.
When Hamilton was then hit by Rosberg at the next event in Belgium post holiday, an incident which led to the 29-year-old retiring for the third time this season, he must have felt like it was not going to be his year. With Rosberg runner-up at Spa, the gap widened to its largest margin of the campaign – 29 points.
Since then, however, Hamilton has reeled off four successive wins to claim the maximum of 100 points, with Rosberg runner-up in three of those races but, crucially, retiring in Singapore. Hamilton holds a 17-point cushion going into one of his favourite races of the year in Texas tomorrow.
With nine victories already this season – only Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have won more in a single campaign – Hamilton is confident of keeping the momentum going.
“I don’t see why not,” said Hamilton. “Nico’s obviously going to be strong this weekend, and he’s going to be pushing, but the tables could always turn. Nico has shown that this year, every race he bounces back, but I’ve been strong here in the past, and I’m hoping to be very strong here this weekend.
“The last few races I’ve really felt great, amazing. It was almost like there was a wall in front of me and I was trying to climb it but I couldn’t quite get over it. But I’ve got over it now and hopefully the remaining races are more like hurdles rather than big tall walls.”
Hamilton also stands just one victory away from becoming the most successful British driver in the sport’s history in terms of race wins.
That burst of four triumphs has brought him level with 1992 champion Nigel Mansell on 31 but Hamilton said: “I don’t really think about that one as much, just because I want to win the championship. Maybe at the end of the year I will be able to look back and really think about it, but I want to win the world championship more than having that record. That’s the most important thing for me.”
Not that Rosberg will be handing Hamilton such a feat on a plate. Despite his recent ‘slump’, he still has a strong chance of becoming champion himself, particularly with double points on offer in the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi on 23 November.
Rosberg is a temporary fan, of the new system, as opposed to Hamilton who has suggested it should be scrapped from next year. “Of course the double points are a bit artificial,” he said before then adding with a smile, “but I love them. It’s the best idea of the season!”
In first practice, Hamilton posted a lap of one minute 39.941seconds, with Rosberg 0.292secs adrift, followed closely by Jenson Button. The trio were clear of the rest of the field led by Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat, who was just under a second adrift.