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Hamilton set to join exclusive club of five-time F1 champs

AFP-JIJI

Lewis Hamilton stands on the verge of history this week. The British star needs to outscore rival Sebastian Vettel by eight points at the United States Grand Prix on Sunday to become only the third five-time Formula One world champion.

If he does, the 33-year-old Briton will join Juan Manuel Fangio, champion in 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957 and Michael Schumacher, the title-winner in 1994 and 1995 who delivered five more for Ferrari from 2000-2004, in an exclusive club.

Having won five of the previous six American races held at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, Hamilton is a hot favorite to win again and wrap up the title fight, but he is distancing himself from that narrative.

Instead, despite holding a 67-point lead after a streak of six wins in the last seven races, including the last four in a row, the Mercedes racer has done his utmost to ward off any sign of complacency.

“That part is easy for me because I’m very, very strict on not being complacent with our position and still there are 100 points available,” he said.

“I know we still have to continue doing the job we’re doing now right until the last flag. That’s the goal — knowing from past experience that so much can happen.

“I’ll focus on amendments I’d like them to focus on making for next year’s car, but also how we can also continue to extract from this car because there’s still areas we can improve.”

Hamilton can afford to be conservative in his racing and still take the title if Vettel and Ferrari are unable to beat him or win the race.

If he wins, the German must finish second to stay alive, albeit only mathematically. Finishing third would not be enough.

Aware it was Kimi Raikkonen, in a Ferrari, who took the 2007 title when Hamilton lost momentum late, and that the only other winner in Austin has been Vettel, with Red Bull in 2013, Hamilton knows he can’t relax.

“There’s still 100 points available and anything can happen,” he said.