Sao Paulo (AFP) – Lewis Hamilton hailed his Mercedes team as legends on Monday and described his championship-clinching victory in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix as the best moment in five triumphant seasons.
His dramatic success confirmed Mercedes’ record-equalling fifth consecutive double of drivers’ and teams’ championships.
It was his 10th victory this season, signalling that he has won 60 per cent of the team’s points, the 72nd of his career and his 50th in the 99 races held in the V6 turbo hybrid era since 2014.
“It was an emotional afternoon,” he said.
“And, I think, that might be the best moment I’ve had with this team… I’ve never seen the guys so happy.
“We’ve been together a long time and the guys are usually happy, but reserved about it. So I was hoping that when I got back the guys could feel what I was feeling. I saw it and I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life.”
The 33-year-old Briton, who plans to celebrate with the team back at their Brackley base on Tuesday, added: “It’s hard to contemplate what’s happened in these last six years. It’s been such an incredible journey and by no means has it been easy for anybody.
“It’s just the greatest team effort that I can remember. It’s really awesome.”
In a show of emotional gratitude in the garage after Sunday’s victory, he told the race team: “It’s an incredible honour to work with all of you… Seeing you guys after the race, seeing that energy that you guys all had, that happiness can fill a lifetime.
“I really want you to remember that moment and hold on to it because that’s what’s going to power us to many more championships. Never let that energy drop… I tell you, that propels me.
“These past six years have been epic and iconic. We are now legends. Just remember that. When you go home, when you look in the mirror, when you wake up, say ‘I’m a legend’. You’ve got to say that to yourself… ‘I’m a legend’.”
By common consent, Hamilton has also become a legend of F1 with an error-free season providing the foundations for the team’s double success.
Technical director James Allison pin-pointed him as the key factor in Mercedes’ victory in both championships after a fiercely-fought duel with rivals Ferrari.
“You’ve got to say that Lewis this year has just made the difference for us,” he said. “He keeps putting it on pole. And whenever its wet, he’s always at the front. In the races, we can make mistakes and he’ll recover it by doing something unlikely on the track that no-one sees coming.
“And he spends a whole year not making mistakes. He’s just the consummate racing driver.”
Amid the celebrations, team chief Toto Wolff reminded of their need to avoid complacency and next season bid for an outright record sixth title double, moving them clear of Ferrari.
“The job is going to get more difficult every year. We are setting the benchmark at the moment and our competition will get more energised and motivated by us…
“All points start at zero next year. We will have forgotten about the five and will fight hard to be in contention for the sixth. Whether we achieve it or not, we will see next year.”