He’s on the brink of winning his fifth Formula 1 world championship but Lewis Hamilton last night declared: “I’ve still got plenty more to do.”
The 33-year-old Mercedes star will embark on his second attempt at winning the F1 title this weekend, with a seventh-place finish at the Mexican Grand Prix tomorrow enough to seal the deal.
Ferrari’s under-fire Sebastian Vettel must win at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez to stand any chance of stopping Hamilton from taking the spoils. And the omens are not good: the German has never finished on the podium here in three attempts.
Hamilton’s extra-curricular activities away from the track are well known – only on Wednesday was he busy promoting his Tommy Hilfiger fashion collection in Mexico City – but the Briton insists his desire to race in Formula 1 remains greater than ever.
Set to match Juan Manuel Fangio’s collection of championships, only Michael Schumacher, who won the last of his seven titles aged 35, will then stand in Hamilton’s way.
Hamilton will be the same age as the German when his £40 million-a-year Mercedes deal expires at the end of 2020.
He started his championship ball rolling in 2008 with McLaren, before waiting six years to claim his second after upping sticks to Mercedes. Yet his expected fifth championship, will be Hamilton’s fourth in five remarkable seasons.
“I do feel like I have got quite a lot more to do,” he said.
“I waited a long time to win my second title, and I could have easily stayed at McLaren. I would be sitting here now with one championship. I probably wouldn’t be sitting here at all to be honest.
“The journey has been interesting, and the decisions I have taken at the different crossroads, but I am very grateful for the route I am on, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be in the position I am in.”
The thin air of the high-altitude track in Mexico City, sitting 2,200 metres above sea level, acts as an engine equaliser, and is likely to bring Red Bull, and last year’s winner, Max Verstappen, in to play.
The 800-yard charge to the opening corner is the longest of the season before the drivers slam on the anchors from 220mph and attempt to navigate the first three corners without collision.
That is likely to pose the biggest threat to Hamilton’s championship bid, and his coming together with Vettel at this venue last year may still be in the back of his mind.
But the Briton has cut a calm and collected figure both in Austin, Texas last weekend and here, too. The weight of history does not appear to be playing on his mind.
“This isn’t my first rodeo,” Hamilton, who won last year’s title in Mexico, added with a smile. “Being that I am older, I have got the experience and I know what I need to do to get into shape. I am enjoying racing. I am here to race, to win, and to deliver this championship for the team.”
Hamilton was only seventh fastest as Red Bull dominated a quirky second practice session last night. Max Verstappen – despite pulling off with a technical problem at the end of the main straight – was 0.153secs ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, while Renault’s Carlos Sainz was 1.233secs back in third. Hamilton was the fastest Mercedes driver, 1.380secs off the pace. And Vettel, the fastest Ferrari in fourth, was 1.234secs behind Verstappen.
Verstappen was also quickest in the first practice session, again from Ricciardo, and that time by 0.483secs.