Hamil­ton over­joyed af­ter match­ing Senna vic­tory record in Ja­pan

The Herald - Sport - - FINAL SAY - PHILIP DUN­CAN

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.”

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