Thursday 19 September 2019

Hamilton vows that third title is just the beginning


Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning his third world title
Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning his third world title

Daniel Johnson

The day Formula One fears does not seem on the horizon any time soon. His boyhood dream realised, the party will go on, and on, and on, Lewis Hamilton promises.

A call on Sunday night from his father, Anthony, took Hamilton back 20 years to the days of the slow, rusty old camper van and heavy trailer, of singing, "We are the Champions. . . of Great Britain" on the way back to the Stevenage council estate.

"Today we sing the real song," Anthony told his son, for a history-making third time. Now that he has equalled Ayrton Senna's tally of three titles, matching Jackie Stewart's British record in the process, there is no new target.

Four, five, six, seven titles - going beyond Michael Schumacher - there are no specific goals. A life's ambition has been realised at just 30.

Bernie Ecclestone and the rest of the sport will be praying Hamilton does not lose his appetite. The Formula One chief executive will be pleased to hear the sport's biggest star says the fire still burns deep.

"The motivation part is really easy, I was born with it," Hamilton said after winning a topsy-turvy United States Grand Prix. "It never goes away. Niki (Lauda, also a three-time champion) told me about the day he didn't enjoy it any more. Until that happens I'll keep going.

"While I've got this championship, I don't feel that's it. This is just the beginning."

Whatever people make of the Englishman's Hollywood lifestyle, in sporting terms we are in the Hamilton era now, something which always seemed close but not quite there in the first five or six years of his career.

Hamilton describes it as if "the first layer of cement has settled", but who knows how tall the house could end up. He already has three world titles, 43 wins - third in the all-time list - and 49 pole positions.

However, it is not just about statistics now. Hamilton now has a legacy to attend to. What the Briton admired most in Senna was his attitude, his philosophy, and how much of an icon he was outside Formula One. Back in Brazil, Senna was thought of as a potential president.


Hamilton has no political pretensions, but he wants to be remembered for transcending Formula One. There is a power in sport he struggles to fathom.

"There is a balance to be struck because I am going to live my life the way I live it, but this is a platform," he said. "I have met people along the way that has been crazy.

"There was a young kid going through chemotherapy. I met his dad and he asked me to call him on his deathbed, because he had been watching me at the races, so I spoke to him. Seven months later he was out of hospital and back at school. I don't understand it but there is a power in what we do.

"I am on a road where I have to continue to inspire kids. I hope by the time I finish I am more than just another quick driver that came along."

The balance of which Hamilton speaks in enjoying his lifestyle has taken a dramatic swing in the carefree direction this year. He is perpetually flying around the world on his red Bombardier jet.

Hamilton celebrated his second title in Abu Dhabi last November with a glass of watermelon juice, but he confesses to drinking much more this year, tequila being a favourite. He split with singer Nicole Scherzinger in January and claims to be revelling in life as a single man.

"I don't think I could be enjoying it any more. I've been enjoying this year like - if only you knew - like it was my last," he said.

"I guess there's less pressure in terms of the championship now, so I can go and win for fun. I've struck a really nice balance.

"At some points you think, 'this is on the limit', and then I get in the car and drive the way I do. I don't see any reason to change.

"I've got to get some good sleep because there's going to be a lot of partying (in the next few months) as far as I'm concerned."

It is all part of what makes Hamilton a divisive figure, the type of driver to whom the legends of the sport - Stewart, in particular - have not fully warmed.

The Scot made sure he approached Hamilton in the TV pen on Sunday night to offer his congratulations. The two are never going to truly see eye to eye - they are like chalk and cheese - but Hamilton appreciated the gesture.

"I'm always intrigued with the older generation of drivers - it's almost like they don't want to let go of it. It's like, 'shoot, he got the three! Dammit!' But it takes a bigger man to come over and congratulate me, so I appreciate him doing that," he said.

"At the end of the day, we represent the same country and, in his time, he was unbelievable. I did really appreciate it. He said he was really proud and happy for me."

It has taken 42 years but at last Great Britain has another triple champion. Hamilton now has the opportunity to take the record well out of reach. The Englishman can go as far as he likes, for as long as he has the motivation. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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