Monday 5 December 2016

Champion-elect Hamilton guards against complacency

Daniel Johnson

Published 13/10/2015 | 02:30

If Hamilton wins next time out in Austin, Texas, and Vettel does not finish second, he will be champion
If Hamilton wins next time out in Austin, Texas, and Vettel does not finish second, he will be champion

With the door to Formula One's hall of fame tantalisingly close, Lewis Hamilton was reminded of the advice his father Anthony - the man who first nurtured his talent - always used to give.

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"'You're not nearly there - you either have it, or you don't', he would say," Hamilton recalled last night. "I'm just trying to focus on doing a solid job as I have been doing and not getting carried away."

But it is only a matter of time until he wins a third world championship and becomes only the 10th man in the history of Formula One to manage such a feat.

After easing to victory in Sunday's Russian Grand Prix, a race in which his team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg retired with mechanical failure, Hamilton's lead is almost insurmountable. Sebastian Vettel trails by 66 points, while Rosberg is 73 points adrift with 100 available in the final four races.

Mercedes F1 chairman Niki Lauda said of Rosberg's chances: "Mathematically yes, but then Lewis has to retire now and go home. He will not."

If Hamilton wins next time out in Austin, Texas, and Vettel does not finish second, he will be champion.

Mercedes celebrated a second consecutive constructors' title, and it should only be another race or two before they are toasting Hamilton's third crown.

Hamilton knows he is almost there. History beckons, equalling Jackie Stewart's British record and his idol Ayrton Senna's tally.

"I can't believe that I have that many points and that gap," said the 30-year-old. "I've never had that, ever. But I'm still aware that there's a lot of points available. Provided things go to plan, I should be in a good position."

While there is sympathy for Rosberg after his second retirement in four races, he has not been on terms with Hamilton all year. Attention is shifting to a fresh narrative: the developing rivalry between Hamilton and Vettel.

If Ferrari can close the gap next year, it promises to be vintage stuff.

Toto Wolff, the Mercedes boss, believes that the Hamilton-Vettel duel could end up being one of the greatest in the history of the sport.

"They are both in very strong cars, and it could be one of the great rivalries in the sport - in different teams," Wolff said. "It is great for the sport and it is going to push us, as it is the team (Ferrari) you want to be battling with."

Hamilton added: "If I hung up my gloves and was just a fan, I would want to see the two of us up against each other," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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