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Far above Cloud Nine

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“It’s just overwhelming, if I’m really honest,” Hamilton, who had started in fifth place, said before the podium celebrations”

An emotional Lewis Hamilton said he felt overwhelmed, honoured and “more humble than ever” after becoming the second Formula One driver after Michael Schumacher to win six world championships.

“Right now it’s hard to understand what I’m feeling,” the Mercedes driver told reporters after finishing second in the US Grand Prix in Austin to take an unassailable lead with two races to spare. “Cloud Nine doesn’t even get close to where I am. It’s somewhere far above that.”

The race was won by teammate Valtteri Bottas, the Briton’s only title rival who started on pole position and had to triumph and hope Hamilton finished out of the top eight.

Overwhelming

“It’s just overwhelming, if I’m really honest,” Hamilton, who had started in fifth place, said before the podium celebrations.

“It was such a tough race today. Yesterday was a really difficult day for us, Valtteri did a fantastic job so huge congratulations to him. Today I just really wanted to recover and deliver the one-two for the team.

“I was pushing as hard as I could, I was hopeful that I might be able to win (the race) today but didn’t have it in the tyres unfortunately.”

Hamilton’s success was witnessed by his father, mother, step parents, uncle and aunt who flew in from Trinidad.

“It’s naturally just pure happiness. I feel more humble than ever just looking at my dad’s smile says it all. He’s supported me from day one, as did (stepmother) Linda, as did my mum,” he said.

“They worked so hard for me to be here today so I wanted them to come out together.”

The sixth title left Hamilton one behind Schumacher’s all-time record of seven and ahead of the late five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina.

“I’m filled with so much emotion,” said the Briton.

“It’s an honour to be up here with those greats.”

Asked how far he could go now, in terms of titles and wins, Hamilton replied: “I don’t know about championships, but as an athlete I feel fresh as can be right now. I’m ready for the next race. These next races we won’t let up, we’ll keep pushing.”

Behind the wheel of his Mercedes, he has become the leading driver of his generation and a threat to the greatest records of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.

“You must not forget the performance behind it, both from his side and from Mercedes,” rival Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel said.

In the Hamilton era, Mercedes have won six consecutive constructors’ titles.

And F1 sports director Ross Brawn said: “Much of this success is down to Lewis Hamilton, an amazing driver who is rewriting the history of this sport in a manner all his own.”

But Hamilton is much more than a terrific F1 racer. His acting ambitions, revealed in an interview ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix, fit the picture of the restless fortune-hunter who is constantly striving for fulfilment away from the racetrack.

Hamilton has set up his own music studio and he designs fashion collections. And Hamilton, whose younger brother has also become a racing driver despite polio, is committed to supporting disabled and disadvantaged children. A veritable life in the fast lane.

For this, Hamilton has sometimes had to go the hard route. As a young karting driver, the son of an immigrant from Grenada, he was racially attacked.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said. “If this happens to an eight or 10-year-old it leaves scars that simply do not disappear.” Hamilton is still the only black Formula One racing driver.

Former world champion and fellow Briton Damon Hill says Hamilton does not always get the recognition he deserves.

“He is kind-hearted and generous, but for some, he is not what they want to see from a sportsman. Sometimes his comments are not well selected but, like Lewis said, we are all human,” Hill said.

His “crowning achievement” is breaking new ground for equality in a white-dominated sport.

“Lewis is knocking on that door of being the best ever in terms of victories, and championships, and his career needs to be recognised,” Hill said.

Reuters

(Additional reporting by dpa)