HAMIL­TON THE DIFFERENTIATOR

Autosport (UK) - - INSIGHT - EDD STRAW

“HIS RACE­CRAFT HAS AL­WAYS BEEN ONE OF HIS STRENGTHS. BUT THIS YEAR IT WAS A KEY FAC­TOR”

FOR HALF OF THE 2018 SEA­SON, THE BAT­TLE FOR THE world cham­pi­onship swung back and forth be­tween

Lewis Hamil­ton and Se­bas­tian Vet­tel. But from his vic­tory in Septem­ber at Monza, which Hamil­ton him­self con­sid­ers the key turn­ing point that broke Fer­rari’s chal­lenge, the Mercedes driver marched im­pe­ri­ously to the ti­tle.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was in no doubt that Hamil­ton’s con­tin­u­ous ex­cel­lence made all the dif­fer­ence. “He has been the differentiator,” said Wolff af­ter Hamil­ton’s ti­tle vic­tory in Mex­ico. “Our car was the fastest at times, then not the fastest at other times.

“Keep­ing calm and hold­ing his nerve [is a strength]. We had times when the car was good enough to win and times when the car was not good enough to win, and he was very sta­ble. His race­craft is great and that is al­ways one of his strengths.

But this year that was def­i­nitely one of the key fac­tors.”

Wolff has Hamil­ton signed up un­til the end of the 2020 sea­son af­ter a new con­tract was fi­nally com­pleted mid-sea­son. If he wins both of those ti­tles, which is pos­si­ble, he will match Michael Schu­macher’s record of seven crowns. Wolff is fo­cused only on the now but, while Hamil­ton and the team con­tinue to per­form, he sees no rea­son why they shouldn’t keep go­ing.

“We said that one of his great char­ac­ter traits is that he con­cen­trates on the to­day, and be­fore match­ing Michael he has to get a sixth one,“says Wolff. “We haven’t scored a sin­gle point for that one. So I think one step at a time. As long as we pro­vide a car that is com­pet­i­tive and can win cham­pi­onships and he con­tin­ues to drive like he does, this can be a re­la­tion­ship for­ever.”

Wolff cer­tainly be­lieves that Hamil­ton, who turns 34 in Jan­uary, is still get­ting bet­ter. That’s an omi­nous sign for any­one hop­ing to beat the reign­ing cham­pion in the com­ing sea­sons. “This is the best Lewis Hamil­ton I’ve seen in the last six years,” says Wolff. “He has driven bet­ter, he has been bet­ter out of the car. Very, very com­plete.”

Wolff says his driver just keeps get­ting bet­ter

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