SUZUKA, MIE PREF. – Lewis Hamilton said he was in no hurry to win a sixth world championship after the title battle was reduced to a two-horse Mercedes race at the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Formula One circus moves on to Mexico in two weeks’ time where Hamilton, enjoying a 64-point lead over Valtteri Bottas, can wrap up a third consecutive drivers’ crown if he outscores his teammate by 14 points or more.
More likely is that the battle will be concluded at the subsequent race at the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Bottas’s victory at Suzuka and Hamilton’s third place clinched a sixth consecutive constructors’ championship for Mercedes and left the Finn as the only driver who can catch Hamilton over the final four races of the campaign.
“I think for me it’s never been a case of always wanting to rush things,” Hamilton told reporters Sunday, adding that he expected a tough battle from his teammate over the final few races.
“Valtteri’s driven well all year long, he’s done a great job today and he will most likely do a very, very solid job these next races, so we still have a battle, the fight continues,” he added.
Hamilton is not expecting an easy time in the rarefied high-altitude air of Mexico which should suit Ferrari, which holds an obvious advantage in straight-line speed.
“I think Mexico is generally our worst race of the year because of the way our car is set up and it’s going to be a tough one for us,” said a downbeat Hamilton, who was quicker on fresher tyres than second-placed Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages at Suzuka but was unable to barge past.
“The last few (races) have been pretty shocking, even though we’ve won the title,” he said, after resurgent Ferrari won in three races out of four up to Japan and outqualified Mercedes comfortably at Suzuka.
“I’m hoping for a better weekend but I think it’s going to be very hard to beat the Ferraris with those long straights.
“We have no hope of getting by on those straights, that’s for sure but even if you look at the others, the McLarens are picking up some serious speeds on the straights, so are the Red Bulls so I think it will be a tricky one.
“I don’t anticipate (the title win) will be Mexico. I think we will be battling for a good few races.”
Bottas jumped from third to first with an electric start to win in Japan ahead of Vettel and Hamilton.
With only Bottas now able to overtake Hamilton in the standings, Mercedes clinched an unprecedented sixth successive world championship double of drivers and constructors titles.
Hamilton dedicated the achievement to the team’s former non-executive director Niki Lauda, who died in May.
“It definitely feels a little bit different,” Hamilton said of the three-time Formula One world champion.
“I wouldn’t say as happy as previously because naturally we lost Niki this year and it doesn’t feel the same without him.
“Every time I walk into the garage I see Niki’s headphones and his cap. I sat and I looked at it today.
“I think the whole team and the whole of Mercedes will probably dedicate this to Niki. I definitely do.”