Hamilton overjoyed after matching Senna victory record in Japan
LEWIS HAMILTON said he was in dreamland after he matched his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna’s victory tally with an exhibition drive at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton appeared to have his work cut out after he qualified behind polesitter Nico Rosberg for the race at a sundrenched Suzuka.
But despite starting on the dirtier side of the track, Hamilton blasted out of his blocks and when he drew level with Rosberg heading into the long, sweeping, opening right-hander, there was only going to be one winner.
Hamilton muscled his way past the German, who ran out of room, fell off the track and slipped back to fourth. There was nothing wrong with Hamilton’s move and it summed up a season which the Briton, despite his setback in Singapore, has utterly dominated.
While Rosberg battled back to finish second, he trails Hamilton by 48 points in the drivers’ championship with only 125 left to race for.
Hamilton, it seems, is destined to join Senna, who won all three of his world titles here in Japan, Sir Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda in the pantheon of all-time Formula One greats with a hat-trick of championship triumphs.
After equalling Senna’s tally of 41 career victories, the Briton said: “I am so happy right now. For me to come to a race which I used to love watching Ayrton drive and to match his wins – I can’t really describe it. “It does not feel real at the moment. “I have struggled at this circuit through all the years that I have come here. When you go through the corners here it is flowing, it’s like sailing. I wish I could share the feeling with you.
“Knowing this would be the race when I would equal Ayrton, who won here and had quite an interesting time here, made for quite an emotional day. I am not a teary guy so I am just full of joy, happiness and light.”
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Hamilton could clinch his third world championship with races to spare. Rosberg did well to pass the Williams of Valtteri Bottas at the chicane and jump ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who completed the podium places, at the final round of pit stops.
But Rosberg, winner of just three races this year in comparison to Hamilton’s eight, knows this might have been his last opportunity.
The German said: “Lewis got a better start. It was good battle into turn one, he had the inside and he made it stick. I had to win today but it did not work out.”