Lewis Hamilton has said he finds it difficult to comprehend being counted among the greats of Formula One after his win at the British Grand Prix on Sunday. His victory at Silverstone took him level with Jim Clark and Alain Prost on five wins at the race and his pole on Saturday put him two clear of Ayrton Senna and just one short of Michael Schumacher’s record.
“I couldn’t imagine having the poles I have, matching the likes of Jim Clark and Ayrton Senna and having the Hamilton name amongst those stars,” he said. “I’m really proud and I have to really take it back again to the incredible dedication from my family, my dad.”
He had also equalled Clark’s record of four consecutive British Grands Prix wins but believed it was still too early to consider his place in the pantheon. “Being thought of as a legend doesn’t resonate with me yet,” he added. “Maybe when I retire and time has gone by.”
Although the circuit has activated its option to stop hosting the race after 2019, the 139,000 fans who had yet again packed Silverstone were more than happy to show their appreciation for the three-times world champion who has now narrowed the deficit to the championship leader, Sebastian Vettel, to just one point. Hamilton in turn stressed how much the circuit, the race and the crowd’s support meant to him.
When asked why he was so good at Silverstone the beaming driver jokingly replied: “Because I own it.” But he was quite serious in his admiration for the classic track that might yet be lost to the F1 calendar.
“I have a lot of love for tracks but this is the favourite of the year,” he said. “It has the best combination of corners in the calendar. I love street circuits but this is a great circuit. They don’t build circuits like this anymore with character and history. I am good at this track but the energy I get from the fans – I don’t think any other driver gets that. It lifts you up. From the start I could see the crowd and every time I looked from the corner of my eye I could see everyone standing up cheering – every single lap, everyone standing and cheering. I feel that is them egging me on and you don’t see that anywhere else in the world.”
It was the positive response he had wanted after criticism following his failure to attend an F1 event in London last week. “Arriving with all the smoke and mirrors that was happening, so much negativity trying to pull the weekend down,” he said. “But obviously it had no effect, the fans were out-and-out loving and supporting all weekend.“
He was backed once again by the Mercedes executive director, Toto Wolff. “I think sometimes you just need the right impulse to extract maximum performance and that is an answer to the critics,” Wolff said. “I still don’t understand why the British hero is being beaten up before the grand prix and it probably made him even more determined to show his fans how he can drive – and he can drive.”
Vettel finished in seventh after a late puncture but he was insistent Ferrari would come back strong at the next round, in Hungary. “This race wasn’t good for us,” he said. “We didn’t get the result that we wanted, that we probably deserved, but that’s how it is. If things go different, we come out as the winner – you come out on top, everything looks peachy. If you don’t, like today, then people talk of a huge disappointment and a disaster. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but we’re not here to lose, I don’t like losing, I hate it, so we want to make sure we turn it around next time.”