Lewis Hamilton has spoken passionately of his desire to have more difficult races like the Turkish GP so he can prove “I deserve my respect” and that his historic Formula 1 success is not just down to having the best car.
Hamilton clinched his record-equalling seventh F1 title with a sublime win in treacherous conditions from sixth in the grid at Istanbul Park, despite Mercedes’ rare, yet obvious, struggles through the weekend. Hamilton was five seconds off pole in qualifying while, further highlighting the Englishman’s masterclass, Valtteri Bottas finished the race in 14th and was lapped by his team-mate.
“If we’re honest, it wasn’t his race to win and he still won it,” said Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the four-time F1 champion who hailed Hamilton as the greatest driver of his era.
It is often said that excelling in the wet is more down to the driver than car – conditions Hamilton has always impressed in over the years – and he said he would relish more opportunities to show his class.
“I want more of these weekends – more tricky conditions like this,” insisted Hamilton in Sunday’s post-race press conference. “The more opportunities like this, the more I’m able to show what I’m able to do.
“And I think hopefully you can see today… I deserve my respect. I think I have that with my peers. I think they can see how hard… they will know how hard today is, particularly that it is not a car thing.
“I couldn’t have done this without that amazing group of people behind me – but there is another great driver who is alongside me [Bottas], who has the same car who obviously didn’t finish where I finished.”
Hamilton, who has won six of his seven F1 titles with Mercedes and 73 of his 94 races, added: “Of course you have to have a good team and of course you have to have a great car.
“There is no driver that’s ever won – really won – the championship in the past without it.
“But then it’s also what you do with it that really also counts – and hopefully you can see that today.”
Hamilton, who barely made a mistake while others struggled and spun on Sunday and eventually won by more than 30 seconds, also claimed many of his doubters are former F1 drivers – and vowed to encourage his peers when he retires.
“I do notice that there are these interesting comments from past drivers, particularly,” he said.
“I really, really promise you, and hope that I stand by my word, when I stop in 10, 20 years from now and look back, I want to be embracing and encouraging the next youngsters that are here, whether it’s Lando [Norris], whether it’s George [Russell], whoever it may be, whether it’s Max [Verstappen].
“I know how hard it is to do the job and I know how this world works.”
Hamilton reflects on karting and ‘rocket engines’
Pointing to a car being the main reason for a driver’s success isn’t new in F1, nor any form of motorsport, and Hamilton admitted there will always be a debate. But he hopes his prolonged dominance – he has rarely been beaten by a team-mate over an F1 season and has only missed out on one title at Mercedes – helps his reputation.
He also said the driver/car argument “goes back the same all the way down to karting” as he reminisced: “You’ve got to have the right equipment.
“I remember my first championship. I raced and the kid that won was on rocket engines, which Jenson Button’s dad had tuned. Those engines were real rockets. Compared to the cheap, ****py engine that I had which was, y’know, fifth hand, there was no way I could keep up with these kids, and I remember that one weekend he was moving on to… Kimbolton in 1992, 1993, and he was moving on to the next class, he was selling on these engines.
“I remember my dad had to re-mortgage the house to get this £2,000 engine – but what we did that day was me and this kid, who’d been winning everything, we put his other engine that I was going to buy, that we were looking to buy, in my car and I was ahead of him all the time on track.
“So, of course, you’ve got to have the equipment, of course you’ve got to have it and that’s something that will always be in this sport.”