Lewis Hamilton says winning seven Formula 1 world championships is “unimaginable” to fathom as he broke down with emotions after crossing the line in Turkey.
Hamilton had, for the most part, remained exceptionally calm over the team radio across the duration of the race. Glimpses of panic and frustrating did set in when he was given team messages to make a second pitstop late in the race which conflicted with his own opinions. Though there was little evidence that Hamilton knew he was on the brink of history.
However, the 35-year-old was then heard breaking down with tears of jubilation after capturing his record-matching seventh world crown because “it was too much.”
“Very rarely do I ever lose control of my emotions,” said Hamilton.
“I didn’t want the visor to come up and people to see tears flowing and all that stuff.
“I kind of had always said that I would never let you see me cry. I’ve been watching other drivers in the past crying, and I was like, I’m not going to do that.
“But it was too much.”
After an inauspicious start where he fell over a pitstop behind the race leaders, Hamilton demonstrated his wet weather prowess to make 40-plus lap old intermediate tyres continue to work in unpredictable conditions.
But he revealed that it became increasingly harder to concentrate in the final few laps as the realisation of another world championship inched nearer.
“I could feel it was getting closer,” he said. “And knowing that if I finish where I’m finishing right now, I’ve got this championship.
“All these emotions were running through me, and I was trying to stop it. Because I was thinking about my whole career, from when I was five, when I drove a go-kart, from when we won that first British championship driving home with my dad singing ‘We Are The Champions’ and dreaming of being here.
“And it’s right there, minutes away. And that was a lot to take in.
“When I came across the line, I think it hit me and I just burst into tears I think that whole in lap and I just couldn’t get out of the car. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Hamilton now matches Michael Schumacher as sharing the greatest number of world championships – a feat that until recently had seemed unconquerable.
The Mercedes driver now stands aloft as the driver with the single-most pole positions, podiums, race wins and is equal with the great Schumacher on world champions. His name undoubtedly deserves to be tossed around with the likes of Senna, Clark and Fangio when arguing who is the greatest driver of all time.
“I know often I say ‘it’s beyond my wildest dreams’ but I think my whole life, secretly, I probably have dreamt as high as this, you know, but it felt so far-fetched,” added Hamilton.
“I remember watching Michael winning those championships, and you know we all here, all us drivers, are always doing the best job we can and just to get one, two or even three [titles], you know it’s so hard to get.
“Seven is kind of unimaginable. When you work with such a great group of people and you really communicate and trust one another and listen to one another, there was just no end to what we could do together, me and this team and I’m so proud of the work that was done and them trusting me today, you know. That comes with experience.”
Hamilton added amid his flood of title-winning emotions that he felt that he is still in the peak form of his career.
It could be that the world is now staring down the barrel of the first driver to raise the bar to unchartered heights before finally walking away for good.