Hamilton: Matching Senna’s win tally “doesn’t feel real”

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Lewis Hamilton made no secret of his pride after matching the win tally of three-time Formula 1 world champion Ayrton Senna in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton grew up idolizing Senna, who left an indelible mark on the sport with his on-track antics, especially at Suzuka where he clashed twice with fierce rival Alain Prost.

After missing the opportunity to match Senna’s tally of 41 grand prix victories in Singapore last weekend, Hamilton bounced back at Suzuka by claiming a dominant win.

The Briton jumped Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg off the line before leading the rest of the race, enjoying a buffer of almost 20 seconds at the finish.

Speaking on the podium after the race, Hamilton thanked his Mercedes team for bouncing back from his retirement in Singapore to win so comfortably at Suzuka, but admitted that matching Senna’s number of wins hadn’t really sunk in.

“I’m just so happy right now,” Hamilton said. “The team did a fantastic job this weekend. It’s great to be back up here as a team with a one-two.

“I had a great start. For me to come here to a race where I used to love watching Ayrton drive and to match his wins… I can’t really describe it. It doesn’t feel real at the moment.”

Hamilton felt that it was crucial for Mercedes to fight back from its defeat in Singapore and see off the threat of Ferrari in Japan, which it did with relative ease as Nico Rosberg completed a one-two finish.

“It definitely was important for us to strike back,” Hamilton said. “The Ferraris were incredibly quick in the last race. I guess we didn’t bring our A-game, so we really had to take a step back these last few days and make sure we brought it here.

“As I said, couldn’t have done it without this team, remarkable what they’ve done. The car was beautiful to drive today.”

Hamilton’s lead in the drivers’ championship now stands at 48 points with five rounds of the 2015 season remaining.