His victory in the United States Grand Prix put him level with Sir Jackie Stewart as Britain’s most successful driver, with three world titles – but outside the car he appears more inspired by James Hunt, the playboy F1 star of the 70s.
Three hours after winning his 10th race of the season, in the dark dampness of the paddock of the Circuit of the Americas, Hamilton discussed a jet-set lifestyle which, combined with his astonishing success, must be the despair of those hectoring moralists who warn us that epicurean indulgence can ruin a career.
Hamilton, it seems, is a lotus-eater in more ways than one. When asked if he could now enjoy the three remaining races a little more, with the title already collected, his stare was an expression of incredulity.
“I don’t think I could be enjoying it any more,” he said. “I’ve been enjoying this year like – if only you knew. I’ve been enjoying this year like it was my last. It has been unbelievable.
“I was in Miami last weekend and had so much fun. It’s just work hard, play hard. I’ve struck a really nice balance. At some points I think, ‘This is on the limit’, and then I get in the car and drive the way I do. I don’t know if it’s James Hunt – it’s a different thing.”
Another inquisitor wanted to know if he was “shagged out”. He smiled and rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “I’m a bit tired sometimes, then I turn up, I get energy from the fans, I get energy from the team, I get in the car and I feel great. I don’t see any reason to change. It’s a really positive lifestyle. I travel like crazy, which I like.”
He went on: “Up until last year I didn’t really drink a lot. That’s changed a lot this year. You would be really proud if you knew how much I consumed. I’ll definitely be having a drink tonight. The next couple of months is party time. I’ve got my mum’s 60th coming up, I’ve got friends’ events coming up, I’ve got more races to win, we’ve got the team end-of-year party, we’ve got Stars and Cars, jeez man. I’ve got to get some good sleep because there’s going to be a lot of partying as far as I’m concerned.”
Hamilton has a young fit body, which can be very forgiving. He is 30 and trains hard but, for those who struggle to burn the candle at even one end, he is something of a wonder. Poor Nico Rosberg, his vanquished Mercedes team-mate, a married man and a father this year leads a much quieter lifestyle. He is also known to be one of the hardest workers in Formula One but he still cannot lay a driving glove on Hamilton.
Rosberg let his frustration spill over twice in Sunday’s grand prix, first when he criticised Hamilton for being too aggressive on the first corner and again, after the race, when he flung back a cap thrown into his lap by the British driver.
Hamilton appeared to have sympathy for Rosberg when he said: “It’s the worst thing being my team-mate. It’s not good. I can understand how it is.”
Referring to his overtaking move on Rosberg at the start of the race, he said: “I’ve just watched the replay. We went into the turn and we touched but I don’t feel I was aggressive. I was on the inside, so it was my line.”
Talking about the cap incident, he said: “I gave Nico the cap and said: ‘There you go mate.’ And then it came back at me. He was disappointed with himself for his mistake. The emotions are sometimes unbearable. I don’t take anything from it. I’ve seen Nico in lots of different lights over the years. So when the hat came past me, I was like ‘no problem!’ I was completely oblivious to it.”
Hours after the race Hamilton’s eyes still danced with delight as he stroked his dog, Roscoe. “This has been a mighty year,” he said. “It’s been the strongest year. Last year was strong but this year has really, really been strong. And we’ve still got three races to go.”
What particularly pleased him in Austin was that he was not at his best but still found a way to win. “Being at the front and leading to the end of the race is one thing. But to really have to fight through … It was a really tough race today. But I never gave up. I kept believing that I could win it.”
For Rosberg there may be only one thing for it: he must adopt a more bacchanalian lifestyle.
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