Hamilton hits six in style
Hamilton was deflated on Saturday after uncharacteristically lacking the pace to challenge for the front row, especially as it was team-mate Valtteri Bottas who broke Ferrari’s recent stranglehold on pole position. In the circumstances, fifth on the grid was far from a disaster, but Hamilton isn’t wired to accept any weakness, either from his team and certainly not from himself. He was unsettled on Saturday night, but not because of fears about the world championship that was almost within his grasp. Pure and simply, an 84th GP victory had now become a tall order and that bugged him.
But Lewis addressed that shortfall of performance in the best possible fashion on race day, in a manner that stripped any real anxiety from the title-deciding occasion. Hamilton’s composure and determination to go for the win rather than settle for the bare minimum made sure of that.
As he said afterwards, he could have crashed at the first corner and lost all hope of closing out the title on this day. Instead, he calmly chose his line and duly demoted Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. Then his outside pass on a surprised Sebastian Vettel at Turn 8 was simply sublime.
The single-stop strategy was his pitch for victory and he so very nearly pulled it off. Lewis ran 24 laps on the medium Pirellis, which left him with 32 on the hard compound – and once Bottas had made his second stop, with a team-mate on fresher tyres homing in fast.
Did it really matter? In the context of that sixth world title, not at all. But try telling that to this pure racer. All he wanted in this moment was to win the grand prix. “Give me a target, Bonno,” he’d said to his race engineer Peter Bonnington. “Work with me, man.”
In the end, even Hamilton couldn’t work this miracle. Bottas pulled a DRS-assisted pass with just five laps to go and there was little Lewis could do about it. But now he had two-stopping Max Verstappen to think about as the Red Bull closed in. A yellow flag on the back straight for Kevin Magnussen’s beached Haas helped, and so Hamilton was able to deliver the Mercedes one-two – and only then could he think about the sixth title that moves him clear of Juan Manuel Fangio and just one short of Michael Schumacher’s seven.
Who would bet against him equalling the great man next year?