F1 Russian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton hails ‘exceptional’ Mercedes

• Team-mate Nico Rosberg 48 points behind in title battle
• Mercedes hope to wrap up constructors’ championship in Sochi

Lewis Hamilton’s first retirement of the season in Singapore was promptly consigned to the dustbin of history when he followed it with a win at the last round in Japan, and he was buoyant and determined to continue his stranglehold on the drivers’ championship in Russia.

Hamilton won in Sochi last year at the circuit’s first grand prix, with a peerless run from pole to flag without surrendering the lead, a feat he has also achieved in the championship battle with his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, who trails him by 48 points with five races remaining.

Indeed, Rosberg would not take the title if he won all five – he needs Hamilton to suffer another DNF or to finish out of the points as well. Heavy rain largely made a washout of the second practice session on Friday and for Hamilton, with the chance of a third title tantalisingly close, not slipping up is key.

However, his natural confidence ever to the fore, he was also displaying the calmness allied to determination that has been one of his strengths over the past three years with Mercedes and insisted he would not be sitting back waiting for the title to come to him.

“I am going to keep pushing, I feel good about this weekend,” he said. “I feel positive, the last race was amazing, I went home buzzing. I flew home with Niki Lauda and couldn’t sleep on the flight and was just smiling the whole way. The race felt bloody awesome, one of my favourite feelings recently and I hope to have that this weekend.”

His team have a specific target for Sunday – wrapping up the constructors’ championship. If they outscore the second-placed Ferrari by three points the title is theirs for a second year in succession, at the same circuit where they finished the job last season. It is a race earlier than in 2014, a palpable illustration not only of their dominance but striking reliability. Hamilton’s aberration in Singapore is Mercedes’ only DNF from the 14 meetings this year.

The British driver acknowledged the team’s achievement since returning to the sport in 2009. “There are times when this team didn’t have much success,” he said. “It wasn’t down to [former Mercedes motorsport vice-president] Norbert Haug, not just Mercedes, it was just how it was moulded together and now it’s formed well.

“When we go to the track, this team’s set-up is so precision perfect, when you go into the garage, how it is detailed, the vision from the bosses has gone down throughout the group.”

Having won his first title with McLaren in 2008 after the CEO Ron Dennis had signed him to their young driver programme when he was 13, his switch to Mercedes for 2013 came as a surprise to many. But in Sochi he confirmed he found the set-up with his new team more to his liking and one into which he has grown comfortable. “Ron achieved an amazing amount of success for so many years,” he said. “They are just in a bad spell right now. We had exceptional years there, but it was never quite right.

“We have a really innovative group of guys here. My aerodynamics expert was one of my guys at McLaren. It’s not that they didn’t have great vision, but they have so much more freedom here to do the right thing. I’ve really seen that and that’s why our car is so bloody good because he is among that group to have that freedom.”

McLaren are struggling desperately with their power unit and Hamilton is looking at a second title with Mercedes, making his move look inspired but while he suggested that Dennis’s relationship with his team made for a different atmosphere, he insisted he still had great respect for his former boss.

“When I walked in the garage with McLaren I felt great with the boys. It was more a point when Ron walked in the room and the other guys were more cautious. Whereas here, Toto [Wolff, Mercedes’ head of motorsport] walks in and I know there is a relaxed environment,” said Hamilton.

However, he added: “Ron is an amazing guy and has been amazing to me. I would not be here if he hadn’t noticed me when I was 10 and actually taken notice. The majority if not all the other people just saw me as another kid that came along. The guy has unbelievable vision. Every day, whilst I am racing for this team, not a moment goes by that I am not grateful for what he has given me that has enabled me to have the life I have.”

It has been one containing some serene driving and tense battling but here Hamilton’s fight will be with his team-mate rather than his former team.


Giles Richards in Sochi

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Lewis Hamilton has ‘no confidence’ in Mercedes for Japanese Grand Prix
The F1 championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, is still waiting for engineers to explain why his Mercedes lost power in Singapore

Paul Weaver in Tokyo

22, Sep, 2015 @9:00 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton wins Russian Grand Prix to close in on F1 world title
The Mercedes driver sealed his ninth F1 win of the season in Russia while his team-mate Nico Rosberg retired from the race

Giles Richards in Sochi

11, Oct, 2015 @1:12 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg resume rivalry at Canadian F1 Grand Prix
Bernie Ecclestone considers Rosberg ‘not so good for my business’, but on the track there is still no clear winner in the battle between showman and shy man

Giles Richards in Montreal

05, Jun, 2015 @9:00 PM

Article image
Bahrain Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton revels in the form of his life
Lewis Hamilton said he is at the top of his game before Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix

Giles Richards in Bahrain

17, Apr, 2015 @9:30 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton comfortable with Mercedes amid Ferrari speculation
Lewis Hamilton said he feels more comfortable in this season’s Mercedes than he did in the F1 championship-winning car

Giles Richards in Bahrain

20, Apr, 2015 @9:30 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton saddened by fall of McLaren before F1 Italian Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton’s preparations for the Italian Grand Prix were marked by a lament over fall of McLaren, his former team, Jenson Button and Monza

Paul Weaver at Monza

04, Sep, 2015 @9:00 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton set for Belgian Grand Prix despite not liking Spa circuit
Lewis Hamilton was forced out of this race last year by his team-mate Nico Rosberg who suffered a puncture at ‘maximum speed’ in practice on Friday

Giles Richards at Spa

21, Aug, 2015 @9:00 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton wins third F1 world title with victory at US Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton became the first British driver to retain the F1 world title, taking his third championship overall, with victory in the US Grand Prix

Paul Weaver at the Circuit of the Americas

25, Oct, 2015 @9:03 PM

Article image
Nico Rosberg wins Brazilian Grand Prix with frustrated Hamilton second
Nico Rosberg led the Brazilian Grand Prix from start to finish to guarantee a second-place position in the championship ahead of Sebastian Vettel

Paul Weaver

15, Nov, 2015 @6:12 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes desire to please Rosberg cost him victory
Lewis Hamilton feels he was robbed of a possible victory in Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix by Mercedes’ desire to keep his team-mate, Nico Rosberg, happy

Paul Weaver in Mexico City

02, Nov, 2015 @10:30 PM