Lewis Hamilton believes his win at the Turkish Grand Prix, which sealed his seventh drivers’ world championship title, should earn him respect as it proves his success cannot be attributed to merely being in the fastest car.
After a stunning victory at Istanbul Park, Hamilton also gave a strong indication he would continue to race on with Mercedes next season but played down the increasing clamour for him to be knighted.
Victory in Turkey saw Hamilton equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles and with the British driver also leading the tally of race wins and poles he has become the most successful in the history of Formula One.
The 35-year-old won in treacherous wet conditions after starting from sixth place, showing great pace and superb judgment in staying out on his intermediate wet tyres to not only take the lead but open a huge gap to his rivals. Hamilton made the tyres last 50 laps, an extraordinary feat, and did so with an almost flawless performance while other drivers spun off.
He finished 31 seconds in front of second-placed Sergio Pérez, driving for Racing Point. In stark contrast, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas finished 14th, spun five times and was lapped by the champion. This season, Hamilton has won 10 races to Bottas’s two.
“I want more of these weekends, more tricky conditions like this. The more opportunities like this, the more I am able to show what I am able to do,” said Hamilton. “Today I deserve my respect. My peers will know how hard a day it is. They will know it is not a car thing. I couldn’t have done this without an amazing group of people behind me but there is another great driver alongside me who has the same car who didn’t finish where I finished.”
Hamilton had said after victory in Imola at the start of the month that he was giving serious consideration to quitting F1 at the end of the season, when his contract with Mercedes ends. The team line was that negotiations on a new deal would begin once a seventh drivers’ and constructors’ championship double had been secured. That has now been achieved and Hamilton, who is on a reported £40m deal, suggested after Sunday’s triumph he had backed himself to put in a series of dominant performances to ensure he was in the strongest possible negotiating position.
“There are days where you think: ‘What happens if you start making mistakes or you get worse? Does your bargaining power decrease and does your reputation go off a cliff?’” he said. “There are scenarios in life where you want to sign up quickly and secure your future. But I bet on myself to do the work. I know myself better than anyone, better than ever.
“I wanted to put the contract aside and wait until the job is done. We have got three races in the Middle East and they are races I want to win. But we will get the contract done, of that I am sure.”
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, acknowledged that Hamilton had made his value abundantly clear. “Lewis just got really more expensive,” he said. “His driving was impeccable. There was not one foot he put wrong in a car that was not the best out there. He has cemented his position among the all-time great sportsmen in the world.”
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In the wake of Hamilton’s achievement, vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary F1 group, Lord Hain, is to write to the prime minister recommending that Hamilton be knighted in the new year honours list. Hamilton was awarded an MBE after his first title in 2008.
Hamilton has always been staunchly proud of representing Britain around the world but felt other candidates were more deserving of recognition, “When I think about that honour of being knighted, I think about people like my grandad who served in the war,” he said. “Captain Tom [Moore] waited 100 years for that great honour, and then you have these doctors and nurses, who are saving lives during this hardest time ever.
“I think about those unsung heroes and I don’t look at myself as an unsung hero. I haven’t saved anybody. It is an incredible honour that a small number of people have bestowed on them.”