Lewis Hamilton admitted he was haunted by memories of his engine failure in Malaysia as he drove to victory in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, beating team-mate and current championship leader Nico Rosberg into second place.
Hamilton broke down with only 15 laps to go at the Sepang International Circuit. Speaking after his win in Austin, he said: “I was concerned the car was not going to make it for the whole race. Right up until the line I was just in fear of the same thing, the same feeling I had, the sound I heard in Malaysia. So I was grateful the car made it across the line.”
The 31-year-old spoke about his “surreal” feelings after becoming only the third Formula One driver to win 50 races, following Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost. “It’s been a long time coming,” he said after his first win since July. “I’ve been here 10 years. I’ve had lots of ups and downs and had some great opportunities from gifted people who helped me get here today.
“It’s a very surreal feeling. I can’t believe it. Hopefully it will bring on bigger and better things.”
He added: “I’ve been relaxed all weekend. It’s been great work by the guys and it worked perfect today. That’s the first time in the whole year that I didn’t spin the wheels.”
Even if Hamilton wins the final three races of the season it may not be enough to stop Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg taking the title. “All I can do is my best, Nico has been driving fantastically well, so the battle will continue. I will be going for it,” said Hamilton, the world champion.
Reflecting on this race Rosberg, who now leads the championship by 26 points, said: “I lost out a bit at the start but gave everything to come back. I was going for it flat out until the end.”
There were smiles all round in the Mercedes garage afterwards and Toto Wolff, the team’s head of motorsport, said: “It was not so stressful, but we have seen so much drama this season and that is why I’m never relaxed during a race. Nico has to be careful to not risk a DNF [non-finish] and that is why he may have been a bit conservative up to turn one. I hope it was not too boring for the spectators but it was just what Lewis Hamilton needed. It was an immaculate performance.”
There was disappointment for the third-placed Daniel Ricciardo, who felt he could have finished second but for the deployment of the virtual safety car when his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen ground to a halt with gearbox trouble.
“I was looking forward to the battle. I think we had good pace,” said the Australian. “It was frustrating at the time; as soon as the virtual safety car came out I got on the radio and said ‘this isn’t good for us, is it?’.
“Simon, my engineer, said ‘No, it’s going to have us over’. I was pretty upset, but that’s how it goes and I’m not going to get too disappointed. It’s just cool to be on the podium here.”
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