Hamilton hails third World Championship as the most special

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AUSTIN, Texas – Lewis Hamilton is starting his World Championship-winning celebration tour in the immediate aftermath of winning today’s United States Grand Prix, the win enough to clinch his third championship with three races remaining.

Despite starting second, the Englishman came through to win the race, taking the lead from Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg with eight laps remaining after Rosberg ran wide at Turn 16, the entry into the triple-apex right-hander around the Circuit of The Americas Observation Tower.

It’s Hamilton third’s win at COTA in four years, and his fourth USGP win overall in five starts, having also won his U.S. debut in the final USGP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2007. A fourth place in 2013 was his only non-win here.

Understandably, Hamilton was at a loss for words upon his arrival to the podium, although he’d later elaborate further in a near half-hour post-race press conference.

“I feel amazing,” Hamilton told Sir Elton John, who conducted the podium interviews.

“I want to say thanks to the whole crowd, staying through the rain. I hope we put on a good show for you.”

Indeed they had – Hamilton leading a predictable podium of he, Rosberg and Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel – although it was far from a predictable race in changing weather conditions.

“I can’t find the right words this second,” Hamilton said. “I couldn’t have done it without this team. They’ve been here for me the last three years. Faultless. Thank you guys for everything you do for me.”

Asked by Sir Elton what his plans were for the evening, and with John to play a show here this evening, Hamilton more-or-less invited himself.

“You throwing a party? I’m gonna be there. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he said.

Prior to that of course, Hamilton led the top-three finishers into the press conference, draped with his British flag over his firesuit.

He began to reflect on the moment, and on the elements that defined his race.

“I hope if there is anything inspiring for today, it’s never give up,” Hamilton said.

“There were so many times I though I’d lost the race. Safety car, pitting when we did, for example. I never for one second gave up hope though.

“It’s a very humbling experience, to equal Ayrton Senna, who meant so much to me and still does today. I feel very, very blessed today.”

Hamilton noted the initial impressions of winning yet another World Championship; as noted, his third matches Senna, who he’s now two career race wins ahead of (43 to 41).

“This is the ultimate goal. You want to win in everything you compete in,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully be better than everyone else.

“Winning at least one World Championship signifies your greatness, but the people around you and the greatness of their partnership.

“I was so grateful for the first one. I told Ron (Dennis) when I was 10, someday I’d win a World Championship in one of your cars… then almost 10 years later I did.”

It’s also the first time in three titles won that Hamilton has clinched prior to the final race of the season. He’d won in Brazil and Abu Dhabi in the final race of the season.

“To be honest, the last year, last two times was really quite stressful,” he explained. “One was 17 seconds before the end of the race, something like that.

“Last year was amazing, but it took a lot out of us. It was double points and anything could have happened.

“This one feels just as special, if not more special. This one kind of tops last year for me, because it equals Ayrton. Which I never really thought I’d be able to win.

“I really didn’t think a few years ago I’d be sitting here… but I thought I’d win championships at this team. As a kid I just wanted to be World Champion. This is the greatest.”

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
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The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.