Lewis Hamilton says fighting for records with Sebastian Vettel in the same era makes his world championship victory even sweeter after matching the German’s tally of four world titles.
Vettel secured four straight drivers’ championships from 2010-13 and was Hamilton’s main rival this year as Ferrari closed the gap to Mercedes under new regulations. However, Hamilton took his third title in four seasons with a ninth-place finish in the Mexican Grand Prix and he admits fighting with Vettel adds an extra element as the two most successful drivers currently on the grid.
Asked by RACER if there’s more enjoyment battling with Vettel for the title that drew him level on four each, Hamilton replied: “Definitely.
“It’s kind of cool to be in this battle. He got his 50th pole yesterday and I was thinking, ‘I don’t want to give him any more poles because he gets closer to me,’ so that’s my inspiration to keep pushing it. It’s the same with wins and the same with championships.
“Then I see that he’s signed for another three years with Ferrari and I think, ‘Ferrari are not going to like me for the next couple of years!’ but that’s OK because we’re going to make it as hard as it could possibly be for them to win the championship. I really am looking forward to that battle with them. They’ve been such a great team this year and it’s been great to see Ferrari back on form.”
With Vettel hitting Hamilton’s right-rear wheel at the start of the race in Mexico City, the new world champion played down the incident having originally asked Mercedes if the team felt it was a deliberate collision.
“It doesn’t even matter what happened. Today, ‘Still I Rise’ was at the top of my mind. You get knocked down and you just get back up and you keep pushing as hard as you can. I was 40 seconds behind, I think, and I don’t know how it looked from the outside, it didn’t feel great, but I just never gave up and kept pushing.
“I knew I couldn’t win the race, clearly, but I wanted to have the best race I could possibly have from where I am. It took forever to catch one guy and then when I eventually caught them it was so hard to get past. But I just really enjoyed the battle and tried to use all of my skills.
“In Turn 1 I didn’t give up. You guys were always wondering what I was going to do, if I would step back and not push, but I think I was balanced with my aggression in Turns 1, 2 and 3. I don’t think I was too aggressive – I didn’t lock up or make any mistakes and that’s something I can be happy with. Under the pressure I could have done too much or too little.
“I was of course surprised to be hit – I left a lot of room so I was wondering why the dude behind me touched me. We’re great drivers, he’s a four-time world champion and it’s quite easy not to hit each other, but in the midst of things can also be easy to touch. So I don’t really care; I don’t feel like analyzing it. I enjoy racing against Sebastian and to race against a four-time world champion.
“Even the battle I had with Fernando [Alonso], I was like, ‘This is one tough mo-fo.’ Formula 1 should just wait until this guy gets a good engine because the car was great through other sections. I really hope next year is a better year for McLaren and they have stronger engine and a stronger car. Fernando is a tough cookie and I enjoyed the little battle that I had with him. It would be good to have even more like that.”
With Max Verstappen taking the third victory of his career in Mexico, Hamilton added that he also wants to go wheel-to-wheel with F1’s youngest winner in the coming years.
“I really hope that others join that battle. Red Bull again today, big congratulations to Max. He’s really the brightest young star that we’ve seen for some time and I was hoping today to have a bit of a battle with him, but it wasn’t meant to be. I’m sure there will be many more to come and I hope that in his early era that I can be a good force and a good battle for him.”