Lewis Hamilton has said winning the Formula One drivers’ championship this year would mean more than his first title in 2008
The Canadian grand prix felt as though it belonged to prehistory yesterday as wind and rain drove through the comparatively deserted streets of this vibrant city.
At least the hangover after a memorable party in Sunday’s sunshine gave Formula One the chance to contemplate the feats of Lewis Hamilton, an astonishing driver who is now, at 25, approaching the peak of his considerable powers.
Hamilton himself was agreeable to the notion that his 13th career victory was the most complete of his career. “I think so,” he said, nodding thoughtfully. “There are races where you are just quick, pull out a lead and just control it from there.
“But this one was much different, where you had to manage the tyres, manage the gap, just enough to allow yourself a little bit more just in case you were attacked, staying out of trouble, getting through the traffic as quickly as possible, not making mistakes with people behind you. It was probably the biggest challenge of my career, my ultimate experience in Formula One.”
From the moment Hamilton pulled out that breathtaking final lap in qualifying on Saturday afternoon he was a class apart from his fellows at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. And this is the strongest, deepest pool of Formula One drivers most people can remember.
“I feel that I have as good a consistency as I have ever had before,” he said. “I feel I have had the consistency I had in those first few races in 2007. It’s a little bit better this year but it hasn’t shown as easily as it did then. In 2007 it was just Ferrari [to beat] so it was much easier to maintain that consistency. This year you have so many great drivers who are all at their best. There are a lot of guys. And all the good guys are driving good gear.
“And now strategies make such a big difference. Tyres and all these things have so much more of an influence than they had in the past. But I feel stronger than ever. The opportunities are coming and I am taking them with both hands.”
Winning the title this year, he feels, would mean more than it did in 2008. “It has more status, though winning your first world championship in your second year is still a huge feat.”
Hamilton has driven brilliantly all season but has been let down by some ordinary tactical thinking and, in Barcelona, by mechanical failure. “I don’t think there has been a low, low point. But I guess Australia and Barcelona were two unfortunate situations. I have been a little bit unlucky at some races but things are slowly progressing.”
Hamilton’s win here on Sunday means that he leads the world championship for the first time since he won the title in 2008. He is three points ahead of his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button with the Australian Mark Webber another three points behind.
Not since Graham Hill won the world championship in 1968, with Jackie Stewart runner-up, has Britain had a one-two in the Formula One title race but that is the mouth-watering prospect now with the British grand prix at Silverstone less than a month away.
“For the British grand prix we’ve got some good upgrades coming which are exciting and which will suit that type of circuit,” Button said. “I think, heading to the British grand prix it’s looking good.
“We should have a lot of fans at Silverstone. You’ve got two British drivers up there at the front. When was the last time we had British drivers first and second in the championship – and the previous two world champions – going into the British grand prix? So it’s not such a bad race for British fans.”
Before Silverstone, Hamilton and Button must race in Valencia. “The circuit is quite similar to this [Montreal],” Button said. “I think the Red Bulls will be strong – when they get everything right, they’re unbeatable – and so will Ferrari and Mercedes. But we’ve got the momentum. I think it’s a surprise that Red Bull are not at the front. They’ve been so quick at every race. But we’ve done a better job over the whole weekend, especially at the last two races.
“I’m really happy. The last two races I’ve felt very at home with the team. Qualifying was not so good for me. It’s an area I’ve got to work on closely with my engineers. I’m a little bit off Lewis at the moment. But Lewis has done a phenomenal job. You can’t take that away from him. He was so quick in qualifying. But it was nice to be on terms with him in the race. I tried to chase him down at the end but it wasn’t to be. You’ve got to congratulate Lewis for his job. He’s been great all weekend.”