Lewis calls 2019 his best sea­son even as tragedies leave a ma­jor mark on cham­pion

The National - News - - SPORT - THE NA­TIONAL

Lewis Hamil­ton said 2019 has been his “best sea­son” in For­mula One af­ter clinch­ing a sixth world driv­ers’ ti­tle, but re­flected on a year marked by tragedy too.

Hamil­ton se­cured his fifth ti­tle in six sea­sons at Mercedes with a sec­ond-place fin­ish be­hind team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas at the United States Grand Prix to move ahead of the great Juan Manuel Fan­gio as sta­tis­ti­cally the sec­ond great­est F1 driver of all time.

Only Michael Schu­macher has won more driv­ers’ cham­pi­onships than the Bri­ton, who has one-year re­main­ing on his £40 mil­lion-a-year (Dh190m) Mercedes deal.

“I def­i­nitely feel like this has been my best sea­son,” said Hamil­ton. “But it takes a long time to master a craft and while I feel like I am mas­ter­ing it, there is still more to master, there is more to add and more pieces of the puz­zle to com­plete.

“There are go­ing to be ups

and downs along the way but I feel like I have the best tools to deal with those. I am work­ing on a mas­ter­piece and I haven’t quite fin­ished it yet.”

With the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship in the bag for Mercedes and Hamil­ton seal­ing the driv­ers’ ti­tle with two races re­main­ing – in Brazil next week and the sea­son-end­ing Eti­had Air­ways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 1 – Hamil­ton could be for­given for be­ing in cel­e­bra­tory mood.

But the 34-year-old re­flected on a dif­fi­cult year in which he suf­fered per­sonal loss off the track fol­low­ing the death of close friend Niki Lauda, as well as the dan­gers of mo­tor­sport hit­ting home af­ter French driver An­thoine Hu­bert was trag­i­cally killed dur­ing an F2 race in Au­gust.

Hamil­ton said it had been a real strug­gle to come to terms with the death of Lauda, the three-time for­mer F1 cham­pion and team’s non-ex­ec­u­tive chair­man, who had been in­stru­men­tal in per­suad­ing him to join Mercedes fol­low­ing the Aus­trian’s pass­ing in April.

“I would say this year that los­ing Niki, I didn’t think that was go­ing to hit me as hard as it did,” said Hamil­ton. “It re­ally was up­set­ting and I miss him dearly to­day and I didn’t re­alise how much I loved the guy.”

Hu­bert, 22, suc­cumbed to in­juries fol­low­ing a high-speed crash dur­ing a For­mula Two race at the Bel­gian GP, with Hamil­ton ad­mit­ting he is still haunted by the im­ages and even left him ques­tion­ing his own fu­ture. He said: “We lost a young kid in Spa. Again, I saw it on the TV, I saw it hap­pen.

“When some­thing like that hap­pens it can put lots of doubts in your mind and think­ing, ‘OK, jeez, is it time to stop or shall I keep go­ing?’

Be­cause there’s lots of life af­ter­wards. I still want to spend time with my fam­ily, I still want to have a fam­ily one day, all these dif­fer­ent things.

“But I love do­ing what I do so much that I don’t think there’s a lot that can par­tic­u­larly stop me in that sense.”

Hamil­ton started from fifth on the grid in Austin, but, fol­low­ing the com­bi­na­tion of a fine start and a one-stop strat­egy, came within just four laps of se­cur­ing the cham­pi­onship in style by win­ning his 11th race of the year.

Valt­teri Bot­tas fought his way past Hamil­ton on the 52nd lap for vic­tory be­fore the Bri­tish driver man­aged to hold off Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen to take the che­quered flag as run­ner-up.

Af­ter re­mov­ing his hel­met, Hamil­ton, 34, took a mo­ment to com­pose him­self be­fore stand­ing on top of his Sil­ver Ar­rows and lap­ping up the adu­la­tion of the Austin crowd. He ran over to his Mercedes me­chan­ics and col­lected a Bri­tish flag. Hamil­ton’s fa­ther Anthony, step-mother Linda and mother Car­men were un­der­neath the podium as their son cel­e­brated an­other world crown.


Lewis Hamil­ton was crowned the F1 world cham­pion in Austin, Texas

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