Lewis Hamilton is insisting his focus is on the short term so as not to become distracted by how close he is to the F1 title.
The 30-year-old returned from Russia to celebrate sealing the constructors’ championship with Mercedes with four races to go, and he has a strong chance of claiming his third drivers’ championship at the next grand prix in Austin after his win in Sochi.
“My mind is set on crossing the line in the last race and being ahead,” Hamilton said. “That’s what matters to me whether [the title] is before then or not is irrelevant. I’m just focused on trying to do as solid a job as I have been doing and not getting carried away with where I am at the moment.”
It is the same mantra that has given him nine wins this season to his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg’s three. It has served him well. His refusal to believe in a sense of momentum from success, or one of burden after setbacks, means he has attacked each race afresh with an urgency Rosberg has been unable to match.
Mercedes have always insisted there is no team leader and Hamilton has said he only ever requested the same opportunities as Rosberg, but he did acknowledge he held the upper hand. “We both lead the team,” he said. “I think it’s up to the opinion of individuals who they think is the leader. But my goal was to be at the front of the two of us and I have achieved that.”
Rosberg was unlucky to suffer a throttle failure in Sochi on Sunday that forced him to retire on lap seven. He had held the lead until that point and might well have gone on to win. But even had Hamilton been forced to accept second it would have made little difference beyond the mathematics of delaying the inevitable.
On the title being within his grasp Hamilton said: “I don’t think about it. You are either there or you’re not. I’m not there yet,” he said. “My dad would always say to me, when I said: ‘I nearly had it’ – ‘you either do or you don’t’, and I don’t at the moment.
“I am also aware there are still 100 points available. Provided things go to plan we should be in a good position but you can never say never. So I have to keep my head down and go and grab the rest of them.”
With Sebastian Vettel taking second in Sochi the Ferrari driver is second to Hamilton, ahead of Rosberg but still 66 points back. The permutations can become complex but put simply, after Austin there are a maximum of 75 points available. Hamilton would take the title on races won in event of a points tie so if he scores nine more than Vettel and two more than Rosberg in the US, he will be champion.
Or, even simpler, if Hamilton wins the race he will be champion if Vettel is anywhere but second.
This article was written by Giles Richards, for theguardian.com on Monday 12th October 2015 22.04 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010