Having wrapped up his fourth drivers’ championship last month, Lewis Hamilton is in the perfect mood to look back on his season and the success of his time at Mercedes, where he’s now won his third title in four years.
Hamilton’s triumph this season comes at the end of a gripping battle with a resurgent Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, and the happy ending to the campaign is a stark contrast to the way 2016 ended, with the Brit narrowly losing out to then-teammate Nico Rosberg in a title battle that was fought as much in the two drivers’ minds as it was on the track.
Losing to Rosberg may have stung, but Hamilton says in an interview with CNN that the loss wasn’t quite a learning experience, even if it motivated him.
“No. Zero,” Hamilton says on whether he learned anything from Rosberg’s triumph. “From all my teammates that I’ve raced with, I don’t generally take much from them. I’d say probably the only teammate I’ve ever really learned something from would have been Fernando [Alonso] — it was my first year in F1.
“After that, I would say I was able to have the experience, so I never felt I was taking anything from another driver. I was just always trying to enhance and unlock my own abilities.”
That being said, however, Hamilton did find a new level mentally, and he says that was crucial to beating Vettel this year.
“The mental side of things was key to this year. That really is the case for a lot of top athletes competing. It’s the smallest thing, we’re talking about small percentages. I think that’s really, for me, been the biggest difference between us.”
He also benefitted from having the best car in the paddock, even if Mercedes were given a huge fright by Ferrari and, later in the season, Red Bull. But Hamilton says he upped his game this season as well.
“I think I came to the team with a good energy but my work ethic is so much better today — so I would have applied that at the beginning. I probably would have five championships right now, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Losing the championship last year enabled me to be the driver and the man I am today.”
His relationship with his team has certainly improved, and both team and driver hope that leads to a contract extension. Hamilton’s current deal expires at the end of next season, but the 32-year-old says he’s not worried.
“Nope. Don’t have any doubts – just have to be very, very good at negotiating…”
Another thing that’s improved is Hamilton’s reputation among his peers. There was a time when he was considered a hothead, even if everyone recognized his talent, but now, as both a four-time champion and one of F1’s veterans, he’s earned a different status among F1’s drivers.
“It’s really come to light the respect I have received from certain drivers, and that’s something I really, really appreciate because naturally you want to be respected by your peers.
“I have that respect for other people that I race with. To hear that reflected and reciprocated, that’s a great feeling.”
The two-time champion, who was Hamilton’s team-mate at McLaren in 2007, told reporters ahead of this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix that he ranked the 32-year-old Briton above his peers.
“Lewis is one of the greatest drivers in our sport and he showed that, especially in McLaren times, when they were struggling,” said Alonso.
“For example, in 2009, that car wasn’t very good and he was still winning races. Those kind of performances put him at a very high level.
“The last three championships, obviously, the Mercedes has been the dominant car, so they were a little bit easier, but he deserves the success that he is having now because he showed that talent many, many times.
“When he battled with Nico Rosberg, (he won) two championships he really deserved. Last year Rosberg deserved the championship probably and this year Valtteri (Bottas) was a little bit less competition, so he was a very well deserved champion.
“Definitely you need the car, but I think Lewis deserves his success. He proved himself with his titles and his wins when he did not have the best car.”
Alonso’s positive comments followed a similarly generous assessment from Brazilian Massa who said that Hamilton deserved his place alongside other illustrious multiple champions like Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.
“He lacks nothing to Senna or Schumacher, or any name in the history of world motor sport,” said Massa, who will race in his final home Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend.
“He lacks nothing to them. He is undoubtedly one of the best drivers in F1 history.”
Hamilton wrapped up his fourth drivers’ title at the Mexican Grand Prix two weeks ago.
In the video, we look back at Hamilton’s legacy in numbers, the records he holds and the accomplishments the 32-year-old is still chasing.
With seemingly years still left behind the wheel in F1, the Mercedes driver looks to be in pole position to add to his quadruple haul of crowns.
How many world titles will Hamilton end up winning? Could he surpass Michael Schumacher’s record of seven?
Video produced by Niall McCague.