Lewis Hamilton entered the Formula 1 stratosphere on Sunday, securing his sixth World Drivers’ Championship… with second in the United States Grand Prix. The Brit now in rarefied air.
Hamilton is just the second driver after Michael Schumacher to beat Juan Manuel Fangio’s record of five titles - and is just one away from equalling Schumi’s record of seven that has stood since 2006.
…which he will get a chance to do next season, with F1 remaining stable with its technical regulations before the big change in 2021.
2019’s sixth has no doubt been a hard-won crown for Hamilton - with his Mercedes’ W10 a sleek machine…
But, not the fastest in the field, especially in the second half of the season - which forced the Silver Arrows to get the best from its package, think on its feet, and capitalise on circumstances and its rivals’ mistakes.
SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON
6-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“We're always faced with these challenges [in Formula 1]. [It’s about] Understanding the technology, advancing it, and [then] utilising it to gain advantage on your competitors.”
Like in Mexico, where the squad one-stopped to the two stopping Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. Russia, where Hamilton again jumped Leclerc during the Virtual Safety Car.
Or Hungary, where he pitted surprisingly for a second time, to hunt down Red Bull’s Max Verstappen - and pass with four laps remaining.
Mercedes and Hamilton a formidable pairing with the Brit now the brand’s longest-serving racer…
…after passing Nico Rosberg in Mexico for total Silver Arrows starts, the German still considered to be Hamilton’s greatest-ever rival - who pulled out every stop to secure the 2016 crown and then quit the sport.
SOUNDBITE (English) NICO ROSBERG,
2016 F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Of course, for me, when I see how good he is [Hamilton] and all the records that he's breaking, it does make me think about it sometimes [winning the world title]. I'm like ‘okay I beat this guy', that makes me all the more happy. I knew he was good, but he's really proving to be the best of all time. So that's really cool, yeah.”
Hamilton has already eclipsed Schumacher - on poles, with 87 - 19 more than the German - front row starts - and Grands Prix led - which cements his place as a dominant figure in F1.
And while the 34-year-old has admitted he’s not concerned with rewriting the stats in the sport’s history books…
There’s no doubt he is on course to beat Schumacher’s total win record, and has a good chance to at least equal his seven title haul.
… which would make him the most statistically successful F1 driver of all-time. 2021, should he re-sign, a chance to become untouchable.
Until then, Hamilton knows he has to stay on top of his game with Ferrari and Red Bull Racing pushing Mercedes to its limits.
SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
6-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“There’s 21 Grands Prix, and each weekend - you can’t have an off weekend. You have to deliver every single weekend to win these championships. It’s now that competitive that it’s every weekend - you can’t have an ‘oh that was a difficult weekend for me’ - you need to deliver each weekend.”
For now, Hamilton can enjoy the champagne and soak up the rare feeling of being a six-time Formula 1 World Champion.
His legacy as one of the sport’s true greats now well beyond doubt.