Hamilton – working out the flaws



Mother Nature gave us a hard time in Austin this weekend, but Formula 1 answered back in style and gave the fans – who’d been asked to stay away for much of the weekend for their own safety – one of the best races we’ve seen for years.

There was concern that the race wouldn’t go ahead at all and, with freight needing to leave the US the next day to get to Mexico on time for this weekend’s grand prix, there wasn’t even the option of a Monday race.

Lewis Hamilton is the crowd’s favourite in Austin so to clinch his third title in a country which he admits feels like home – and in front of those loyal and mostly drenched, cold fans – was a fitting end to an incredible race.

He was buzzing, excited and thrilled, but not as emotional as after his previous championship-winning races. For much of this season he knew it was a question of when rather than if, so he was ready for it this time. There were no tears of joy in his interviews, just considered answers, grateful to everyone who has helped him and appreciative for the efforts of his team.

Lewis Hamilton could get into almost any club in the world through money or reputation, but one that you can’t buy your way into is that of the triple world champion. He’s in now, though, and has his eyes on joining Sebastian Vettel in the even more exclusive four-time champions’ room.

I spent a lot of time with Sir Jackie Stewart this weekend and obviously his thoughts were very much on when he completed his hat trick. The circumstances were different – surrounded by tragic events and the emotions of winning his third title while knowing it would be his last year in the sport – but certain aspects carry across time. He was meant to leave before the end of the race, but he cancelled his flight so he could stay and congratulate Lewis on joining him as a three-time champion, becoming the only other Brit to do so.

1996: Stewart with a youthful Gary Paffett and Hamilton

JYS did the same after Alain Prost won his third, staying after that race to welcome the Frenchman into the club, and they enjoyed a glass of champagne together. The most successful drivers in the world recognise these achievements – the sport might change, but the enormity of the feat does not.

Lewis has worked on becoming the complete package. If he had a weakness last year it was qualifying, but from the very first race of the 2015 season he showed that he had eradicated that deficiency. Over half a second split Hamilton and Rosberg at Albert Park and, although we didn’t know it then, it has become a pattern over the year.

Lewis is instinctive as a driver, but since his first championship in 2008 there’s been much to learn. He now deals with his mistakes, handles adversity with grace, understands his weaknesses and works on them. He knows who he is and is now being himself, like it or not, and that seems to empower him even more.

He arrived in F1 with such promise, setting records in his first year and winning the title in his second, so while it might not be a huge shock that he’s a three-time champion, it is an incredible achievement. So many drivers don’t put themselves in a position to win a championship, whether it be in the right team, the right part of the track or the right mental space. Lewis Hamilton has made the right decisions and made the opportunities presented to him count.

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