Mexico City – Lewis Hamilton shrugged off any disappointment he felt at not clinching a sixth world title on Sunday by heaping praise on his Mercedes team after claiming their 100th victory with a flawless strategic triumph in the Mexican Grand Prix.
The 34-year-old Briton, who needed to outscore his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 14 points to be champion again, turned a one-stop strategy into a convincing win ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Bottas.
It was Hamilton’s second win in Mexico, his 10th this season and the 83rd of his career, moving him within eight of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91.
It was also one of his most unexpected.
“Firstly, we’re going to applaud this incredible crowd,” he said immediately after the race. “This is the best crowd we’ve ever seen.
“Today is an incredible result. I have to say a huge thanks to my team – the guys continue to work incredibly hard and stay focused.
“They came here on the back foot and we pulled through — we had a quite a bit of damage and the race was a struggle, but I kept my head down and it felt like a long second stint.”
He said his victory “was for Bono”, his regular race engineer Peter Bonnington who missed the race as he recovered at home in Britain after a minor surgery.
Bonnington’s replacement Marcus Dudley and the team’s strategist James Vowles did more than “step up to the plate”, as Hamilton said, they delivered a perfect strategic platform for his victory.
“We wanted to do it for Bono because he is here with us in spirit and Marcus did a great job.
“For us all, it is quite emotional. Bono knows how we feel. After all these years, he knows. I could not have done it without him or them, the team and I hope they are all as proud of me as I am of them.”
Hamilton said he did not mind not winning the title in Mexico as he had without a podium finish in 2017 and 2018.
“I don’t mind, I love racing and I take it one race at a time,” he said. “This is a race I’ve wanted to win for some time and it’s been a bit tricky for us.
“Today I had the opportunity and the car held together and the team executing the best strategy.”
Hamilton thrilled a massive crowd of more than 120,000 inside the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with a demonstration of ‘doughnut spins’ before he – and his car – celebrated on the podium.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff praised Hamilton for conjuring a victory out of the jaws of defeat with a disciplined drive.
“Who would have expected that result for us after we started P3 and P6 he said – to come out of it one and three?
“I guess it’s the right balance, with Lewis, between the aggression that you need to have on the out-lap, to undercut, but also then to switch and manage the tyres to the end of the race.
“And the communication with the engineer is very important because you are almost flying blind.”
He said Mercedes did not know that the tyres would last.
“We thought he could make it, but for him in the car it feels bizarre to make 47 laps on one tyre.”