Lewis Hamilton talks to Mercedes AMG. It’s a feeling that will take some time to sink in: “Right now, it just doesn’t feel real. I feel like I’m going to wake up in a matter of moments.
“It’s been such a difficult year and such a great battle but a lot of work. I really worked hard to make sure I’ve had the right energy, the right balance in my life and this year, working on all these different aspects to enable myself to perform better.
“I think I had a great year last year and I was thinking to myself, ‘how can I raise the bar, how can I squeeze some more out of myself?’
“Honestly, you never know what the formula is, and there is no secret formula, but somehow I managed to find that balance and that flow and I’ve had some of my best races of my career, and I think that’s ultimately why I’m sitting here.”
While one title is now secured, there’s still another to win. “I still have work to do,” said Lewis. “I’ve still got to get back to the factory and rally the troops next week to figure out how we can come back and win these next races.
“We still have the Constructors’ Championship to win, which I know will mean even more to all the guys back at the factory. So that’s the focus.”
Over the course of the season, we’ve had to overcome a number of obstacles: “Even on weekends where we didn’t have the package and we were on the back foot, we’d come away with wins, even though we weren’t the quickest.
“It took some special laps, it took some special moments in the car, and I honestly could just relive those moments all the time. Some of those experiences I had in the car were really magical.
“I truly believed that we could win this Championship, but it has been the toughest battle that we’ve had collectively as a team.
“So much work has gone on in the background. These guys in the garage have just been flawless every single weekend, with our pit stops, with our decision-making, strategy and set-up. That’s been the key.
“I feel I can take the car to places that nobody else can. But to do that, you have to get the car in the right place and so that means, ultimately, you’ve got to work with the team, to help unleash what’s great within them so that you can unleash the greatness in yourself.”
Through the jubilation of wrapping up his fifth F1 title, Lewis is not forgetting his team-mate Valtteri: “He just came up to me now, and we have such a huge respect for each other. I see how hard he works, he sees how hard I work, we don’t play games in between to try to throw off the other guy. In fact, we work together.
“There are times where I’ve figured something out in my set-up and I’ll tell him, and there are times that I can talk to him and be open. It’s the greatest partnership in terms of respect and teamwork from drivers that I’m sure has ever existed in F1.
“This year, there have definitely been times when he has been fundamental to us winning races. He started out really strong, and then he had some really difficult races.”
“I think Baku, for example, was a huge hit for him. He deserved that win and then he got that tyre blow up.”
“I’m very, very grateful to him as a team-mate and for the help that he has given me in achieving this incredible dream, so a big, big thank you to him.”
For any sportsman or woman with multiple victories and titles, it’s tough to narrow down the most special and important one. Where does 2018 rank for Lewis?
“Winning the first world title in Brazil, and the last corner, I mean, that was something so special in its own way,” he said.
“They’ve all required different bits of input. They’ve all required different manoeuvrability, different agility, different approaches, so they’ve all been unique, and I’ve been faced with different things.
“I would say this year, for me, from memory, this feels the proudest. This is definitely the proudest moment, because there’s been a year when we’ve not had the fastest car at the majority of the races.
“And yet we’ve come away with more wins that I could have hoped for, more pole positions, and… ah jeez, I love driving and I’ve really enjoyed driving this year even more.
“I think each year, being that I’m getting older and I’m getting to really enjoy my work more, the things I do. I worry about things less. I’m able to let things go quicker and move forwards and grow faster. I think that just comes with being old.”
After winning his fifth World Championship title, Lewis now belongs to a select group of drivers who have won five or more World Championships. Inevitably, many fans and journalists wonder if he may even be the GOAT – Greatest Of All Time. Lewis takes a more modest view…
“Firstly, I could never ever personally classify myself as the best. Obviously, within myself, I know of my abilities and where I stand but ultimately… My Dad always told me, ‘do your talking on the track.’ So, I just try to let my results do the talking.
“Now I can strike out one of the things that I put on my list of the year. It’s always at the top: win the world title, do everything for that.”
With seven world titles and 91 wins, record Championship winner Michael Schumacher still reigns supreme at the top of the all-time leaderboard.
“Michael’s still quite far ahead in race wins, so you have to say he is still the GOAT,” says Lewis. “Fangio, I think, is the godfather and always will be, from a driver’s perspective. To do what he did at that time when everything was so dangerous… my respect is so high for him.
“I feel very honoured to have my name alongside his, that’s for sure and naturally just very proud to have the Hamilton name up there.”
The name ‘Lewis Hamilton’ has further cemented itself in the Formula One history books. But how are future generations to remember Lewis?
“The racing is at the core of everything that I do and naturally I am always going to be remembered as a racing driver, but this great sport and this great opportunity that I have had has created a great foundation and an opportunity for me to do other things.
“I’ve always been one to want to have some positive impact; I don’t want to be just taking, taking, taking. I want to be doing some positive things for the future.
“So, if I want to be remembered for anything it’s by… whether it’s helping some kids getting through school, getting through difficult times. Whether it’s building a school, whether it’s encouraging education, whether it’s just helping people get through difficult times.
“It’s kind of difficult to put it into words but naturally I don’t want my time on earth to mean nothing. I’m sure that you all feel that way. You all want to know that your time was spent well, and you didn’t squander it. And that’s my goal.”